I get stuck into the first episodes of TV shows Van Der Valk, The Good Fight, Gangs of London and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels to see what my next must-see will be
“Who else was masturbating into plants?!”
I’m of course far too young to remember the original Van Der Valk – had I seen it before though, I might well have saved myself this couple of hours. Importing a British cast to play Dutch detectives in a crime serial set in Amsterdam seems like such a retrograde move, I still can’t get my head around it, especially in this day and age when so much quality foreign-language drama is readily available. Written by Chris Murray, this revival sees Marc Warren head up the cast as a maverick detective with a team who aid and abet his behaviour – there’s not a smack of originality about it, nor any real interest sadly…great locations though. Am already dreaming of my return to the city, but not sure I’ll be revisiting this show.
Series 4 of The Good Fight kicks off in brilliant style though, with first episode ‘The Gang Deal with Alternate Reality’. Playing off of the cliffhanger ending of the last season, Christine Baranski’s ever-fabulous Diane Lockhart finds herself watching the results of the last US presidential election once again only to find Hillary Rodham Clinton the winner and from there, as the unexpected consequences of this alternative reality play out, can’t quite put her finger on what feels wrong. The show has a powerful ensemble but this episode is very much a Baranski special and is brilliant for it, especially as it turns into a real gut-punch towards the end. Can’t wait to see where this (Michael Sheen-less) series goes.
Who couldn’t love a show that has a family made up Lucian Msamati as the patriarch and Paapa Essiedu and Pippa Bennett-Warner. Sadly, Gangs of London isn’t solely about the Dumanis, it is about the Wallace crime family whose own head – Colm Meaney’s Finn – has been assassinated, leaving a power vacuum that his son mistakenly believes he can fill. It is hyper-violent but somehow not gratuitously so, creators Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery eschewing the hollow flashiness of many a London ganglife caper for something grimier, more desperate. It is often tough watching but the variety of factions and gangs portrayed here in this interdependent underworld is grimly compelling. I’m in for the long haul.
And last but not least, the spin-off no-one was expecting. I adored John Logan’s Victorian Gothic fancy Penny Dreadful, not least for giving the extraordinary Eva Green such a delicious lead role. But Penny Dreadful: City of Angels takes a definite left-turn as it shifts us to Los Angeles in 1938 and the heart of Mexican/American tensions there. I’m reserving (most of my) judgement as there’s a whole new set of world-building going on and a ton of characters to get a handle on, something this first episode doesn’t always necessarily get bang on. But Natalie Dormer looks good value for money as a shape-shifting demon, Nathan Lane is always fun to watch and Rory Kinnear is in the cast…I wonder if there are connected surprises in store there.