Catch up TV reviews: Homeland S8, Secret Life of the Zoo S9, Kevin McCloud’s Rough Guide to the Future, Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King, Endeavour S9
Ivan Radford | On 23, Feb 2020
Homeland: Season 8 (All 4)
Carrie Mathison is upset. Not for the first time, of course; Claire Danes’ CIA agent has become famous for her crying face over seven seasons of struggling with her mental health while also trying to defend US soul from threats foreign and domestic. As we enter the eighth and final season of Homeland, though, those tears have taken on a whole new quality, as they become something more personal than ever before.
We return to Homeland as Carrie Mathison is recovering from her confinement in a Russian gulag. She went there because she willingly let herself be a decoy to help a crucial asset escape in Season 7, leaving her wide open for arrest. After a lengthy period of torture, she has been released back home, but is she a hero or a spy? It’s a wonderfully neat role reversal of the Brady situation that began the season, and it keeps Homeland anchored on its best feature: the relationship between Saul (Mandy Potemkin, fantastic as ever) and Carrie, which remains one of the great screen double-acts of modern TV. He, of course, needs her in Afghanistan to help broker peace talks with the Taliban and aid the US plans to withdraw its presence. Is she safe to return to duty? Danes makes sure we can never be 100 per cent confident in Carrie’s judgement, but where her erratic behaviour has previously been something to broadly have faith in, Season 8 introduces very real stakes that throw it into new light – for the first time, Carrie is unsure of her own judgement, and it’s gripping and heart-wrenching to witness.
Secret Life of the Zoo: Season 9 (All 4)
Channel 4’s delightful series looking behind the scenes at Chester Zoo is now in its ninth season, and it’s lost none of its incredible access, with close-up, intimate and eye-opening footage of the animals inside the enclosures. The chance to see the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a zoo regularly fascinates, but there’s an added emotional pang in this season, as we pick things up after the fire at Chester zoo and pick apart the impact it has had upon the animals there. Has it stopped Chester’s hornbills from having chicks? The zoo keepers, as ever, are engagingly sincere and compassionate in their concern for the animals, trying to create an environment where the hornbills can feel comfortable enough to set up a nest. Add in some baby blues and political conflicts in the meerkat pen and you’ve got an hour of TV that’s catnip for animal lovers.
Kevin McCloud’s Rough Guide to the Future (All 4)
“We drive too much, fly far too much, eat too much, and shop insatiably.” That’s Kevin McCloud at the start of this new Channel 4 series that aims to look at how technology has not only changed the natural world and exacerbated the impacts of human society, but also explore how technology might help save us all. He recruits Phil Wang, who goes to China to try eating deep-fried spiders, while Alice Levine meets a man who has married a robot. In the middle of it all, Jon Richardson experiments with remote-controlled robot arms with haptic feedback that can be felt half the world away. McCloud is absent for all of this, linking up the segments with video instructions to his team, and it’s that device that highlights that bizarre lack of logic behind the whole endeavour – there’s no real theme tying all this together, and we don’t get a sense of what technology might do for the better. Instead, we get statements that it can help bring people together, interwoven with travelogue-style stunts more concerned with culture clashes. The Vodafone-branded credits give us a clue to the real purpose of the show, and while Richardson, Lang and Levine are entertaining to watch, it’s hard not to shake the suspicion that this is just an advert for the mobile phone company’s upcoming 5G network.
Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King (ITV Hub)
It’s easy to see this documentary series about Tyson Fury in the run-up to his fight against Deontay Wilder (which took place last night – we won’t spoil the result) as a merely commercial exercise to promote the upcoming bout. But the two-part series emerges as a surprisingly intimate, insightful and honest profile of the boxer, a man who has more hard-hitting depths to him than the surface suggests. “The Gypsy King”, as he’s known, has seen his career plagued by alcoholism, depression and more, and Tyson doesn’t hold back from talking about his battle to maintain his mental health as he prepares to reclaim his title of heavyweight champion of the world. He’s a disarmingly vulnerable and frank figure, powered by confidence but far from invincible. Boxing may not be your thing, but this is a portrait that’s universally human.
Endeavour: Season 7 (ITV Hub)
Crime dramas are two-a-penny these days, but after seven seasons, it’s hard not to admire ITV’s unlikely Morse spin-off, which takes us back to Endeavour’s younger days as a detective. Shaun Evans seamlessly inhabits the character we’d grown to love before as an older man, bringing a keen intellect to the screen and a suitably taciturn edge, while still being heartfelt enough to endear any viewer. Creator Russell Lewis has done a brilliant job of recreating 1960s Oxford, including the gorgeous colours and cars of the period, but the stylish surface is backed up by a surprisingly deep supporting cast, from Anton Lesser as Chief Superintendent Bright to – in a show-stealing turn – Roger Allam as Fred Thursday, who is starting to feel the weary pain of years of witnessing the horrible things people do to each other, and, worst of all, is aware of it. A scene in which he defends the idea of getting some chickens to his wife, filmed at a lingering distance from the kitchen hallway, is heartbreaking.