Catch up TV reviews: Homeland, My Son The Jihadi, Land of the Midnight Sun, Killing Kennedy
Ivan Radford | On 25, Oct 2015
Homeland: Season 5, Episode 2 (All 4)
New town. New job. New boyfriend. If you thought that the pieces were slowly being put into place for Carrie’s slide back into the world of espionage, Episode 2 of Season 5 flips the table immediately, as she accompanies her boss (the still-slippery Sebastian Koch as the head of “The Düring Foundation”) into Beirut for a photo-op during which he pledges $10m to help support the area. And meet with Hezbollah. Of course, things aren’t that simple.
The ensuing set piece, which mostly consists of Carrie bobbing up and down in a crowd, has a renewed tension without the backup of CIA nearby – damn it, Carrie, you may be nine months sober, but of course you’re going to stay behind on a lone wolf mission to find the people responsible – but the Americans are, in their new guise as pseudo-villains, looming over everything. They’re rifling through Laura’s belongings as she speaks out about surveillance on TV (a wonderful piece of wry humour), while Saul is just as swift to swing his power around the room when Allison (Miranda Otto) tries to challenge him. “What you would be doing if I was Carrie?” she demands. Between him and the ever-shady Dar Adal, the suspense lies in the fact that these days, we dread to think what both men are capable of doing.
Speaking of which, what exactly is Quinn writing in his notepad…?
Available until: 17th November
Killing Kennedy: The CIA Conspiracy (My5)
Did the CIA kill Robert Kennedy? That’s the hook for this Channel 5 special, so viewers might be surprised to tune in and find people discussing the death of TV presenter Jill Dando. But that’s because this hour-long documentary doesn’t have enough depth or nuance to explore a theory seriously – instead arguing that there have been so many other conspiracies involving high-profile deaths in the past 50 years that Bobby’s must have been a inside job. You can’t argue with logic like that. But just to hammer home the point, the show ends virtually every sentence with a gun shot or, worse, a trashy recreation of Dando being gunned down on her doorstep. All the while, a narrator drools over the whole thing. If the aim is to debunk or mock these theories, the show fails. If the aim is to suggest they might have some credibility, the show is tasteless. The recent Body Donors showed that Channel 5 was capable of producing sensible and sensitive factual programmes. This takes the channel’s reputation right back to zero.
Available until: 22nd October 2016
My Son the Jihadi (All 4)
Thomas Evans, raised in Buckinghamshire, died in Kenya fighting for al-Shabaab. What would drive a boy to do such a thing? Are the parents somehow responsible? Not at all, but the time we spend with heartbroken mum Sally Evans reveals just how hard it is to come to terms with not only her loss, but also her son’s recruitment to the fanatical movement. Sensitively told without exploiting or condemning, this is harrowing, moving and – in an age where child soldiers and radicalisation are a familiar presence in the news – essential television.
Available until: 21st November
Alexander Armstrong in the Land of the Midnight Sun (ITV Player)
Who should we send on a trip to Iceland and further north for an entertaining piece of light travel journalism? Alexander Armstrong wouldn’t be a pointless answer – and, judging by his excursion to the Land of the Midnight Sun, with good reason. The presenter, actor and comedian has always had a charming way about him, his unflappable deadpan putting him in good stead in the comfort of a TV studio or Have I Got News for You desk. This ITV series’ success lies in watching the Arctic Circle try to knock that wind out of him. Swimming in icy waters and dancing with Inuits, then spending the night in a room made of “snice” (somewhere between snow and ice), he remains every bit the chipper guy off the telly. With funny-person-out-of-water programmes on almost every channel these days, this offers a uniquely harsh environment met with a cool, professional enthusiasm.
Available until: 17th November (Episode 1)