Sometimes it’s just great to step away from the movie world and immerse yourself into a TV series and I will have to admit, the two tonally different and contrasting shows I’m about to review have been outstanding and entertaining.
“Who do you trust? How do you know? By how they appear or what they say? What they do? How? We all have secrets. We all tell lies, just to keep them from each other and from ourselves. But sometimes, rarely, something can happen that leaves you no choice but to reveal it, to let the world see who you really are. Your secret self. But mostly, we tell lies. We hide our secrets from each other, from ourselves. And the easiest way to do this is not to even know that you are. So when you think about it like that, it’s a wonder we trust anyone at all.” – Nessa Stein (The Honourable Woman)
Ever heard of Hugo Blick? For those who don’t know, remember the 1989 version of Batman? That scene where Bruce Wayne remembers his death of this parents? The guy who played the younger version of The Joker…yep, that’s him. Nice fun fact for you there! To tell you the truth Hugo Blick has been around for a while from acting in Blackadder and Operation Good Guys to producing shows such as Marion & Jeff and Roger and Val Have Just Got In. But the first time I really took notice was back in 2011 when I watched The Shadow Line starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and I’ve never looked back since.
I think the BBC as of late are on a roll with their TV dramas, developing highly engaging and satisfying productions and I’m happy to say that The Honourable Woman, thanks to the tight writing and execution is one of them. Quite frankly it’s one of my favourite shows of the year along with the populist favourites such as Game of Thrones and True Detective.
A political thriller set against the turmoil of the Israel and Palestine conflict, Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Nessa Stein, a powerful businesswoman caught in between the conflict because of a secret she knows.
The Honourable Woman is slow burning but it always manages to hook you in without fail. It doesn’t matter if you don’t immediately get everything. It’s designed in that way. Just like his previous incarnation with The Shadow Line, Hugo Blick doesn’t shy away from tough, complex issues. He always has a unique spin with his story creations that naturally feels authentic. The scary part about The Honourable Woman is as it delves into covert deals and character motivations, it makes you wonder whether any of the scenarios are actually possible. Aired on the BBC coincidentally against further conflict between the two nations, suddenly watching the news takes on a whole new meaning and perspective.
The main strength of how powerful this drama is the stunning performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal. Smart, troubled, complex, funny – her character of Nessa Stein goes through every emotion you can think of in order to protect her secret. Now of course, there is no point of me revealing it but let just say that it’s a damaging ordeal that tortures her constantly. Her comfy bed is always pristine and never used, conditioned to sleep in her panic room cell in order to feel safe at night. She has to balance her professional reputation versus her personal sanity. She tries to do good, beneficial things in order to move forward and change her father’s past image but in the end, it’s the constant manipulation by others who felt she was part of their end game. At times Nessa appears weak and naïve and other times, defiant, excited and energetic but make no mistake, there is a strength within Nessa. Could you blame her for what happened or the things she had to go through? No but she had to painfully suffer the cards she was dealt with and as an audience member it’s not easy to take in. In the end, the conflict between the two nations felt so trivial to the actual reason as to why she suffered so much.
In terms of accents go, Maggie’s English accent was flawless, completely immersing herself as an anglophile in a challenging role.
Stephen Rea (an actor who could read the phonebook and make it sound exciting) is another key performer in bringing out the complexity within the whole series as his character investigates the connections between Nessa, her company and the death of a businessman.
Hugo Blick’s trademark wit is also on display, not afraid to inject humour even in dark circumstances. To write such a character like Nessa and bringing her to life in the most intricate and multifarious way deserves praise. There are some unanswered questions, however strong female characters don’t come round that often and it wouldn’t surprise me based on the strength of this show if this gets a nomination at the next TV BAFTA awards.
“I don’t have any friends.” – Jack Bauer (24: Live Another Day)
I’m not going to lie but this mini-series reminded me why I loved 24. My guilty pleasure came back to our screens for the first time in four years and it was worth every second of it.
With its Die Hard-esque title of 24: Live Another Day, all the familiar traits from the show were present – the ticking clock, Jack saying “damn it”, mole in government agency (seriously does no one do background check any more lol) and just the usual kick-ass and fast paced action.
Part of my enjoyment with 24: Live Another Day stems from three reasons.
The first reason – London. Seeing Jack Bauer running around my city, walking in pubs and riding the underground – best thing ever! But on a serious note, setting 24 outside of Los Angeles gives it a breath of fresh air, showing everyone that 24 is not restricted by it’s geography. As long as the reason is justified, 24 has more than enough potential to be in different parts of the world with Jack dealing with the terrorist threat.
Now before I move onto the next point, as much as it was great to see 24 set in London, there were a few hilarious misconceptions about the city.
- Travelling between Kennington and Waterloo Underground stations by car does not take five minutes! Not even on a good day does that happen lol.
- Jack is able to communicate to Chloe on his phone in the underground…Jack Bauer must have the best phone signal ever!
- Jack jumping ticket barriers on the London Underground – where’s your Oyster Card Jack? [Insert Chuck Norris style joke here]
- Since when Ealing has housing projects? HAHAHA – after Chelsea and Muswell Hill it’s like one of the poshest areas in London.
I mean these are small gripes but it was hilarious seeing the makers take liberties with actual facts about London life and it was also funny seeing British actors putting on American accents. But if there was one thing I think us Brits will celebrate is this – Stephen Fry, Prime Minister – already has my vote!
The second reason comes down to Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. His return to the role was seamless as if he had never left. I love the first episode where he doesn’t utter a word for the entire episode until the final few moments where he rescues Chloe (aka from The Girl with the Lisbeth Salander Tattoo). It was awesome waiting in anticipation and Kiefer’s performance just grew from strength to strength with each episode, showcasing the usual Jack Bauer trait of action hero whilst displaying the emotional scars and consequences from his past and current mission.
Third reason reason – shortened season with 12 episodes instead of 24. It actually benefited the show’s structure greatly. During its initial run, you could probably argue that 24 dragged towards the end, unable to keep the momentum going. To be fair, all long running shows suffer from that but by reducing the original format into a mini-series meant a tighter script and for the audience sake, better outcome and enjoyment.
Because of the shortened format did not stop 24’s ability to still surprise the audience, just like the good old days. Whether it was blowing up Wembley Stadium (a sequence depicting more action than the England football team), missing fingers to the death of major character are great reminders why the show was popular in the first place. There’s something incredibly nostalgic watching 24: Live Another Day. It’s like being reunited with an old friend and enjoying its company again. I didn’t care if there were plot holes or frequent convenient moments. 24 is what it is – action packed and filled with great drama.
After that cliffhanger at the end of the series, it most certainly needs to come back for another installment.
Damn it Jack, come back – the clock is still ticking.