Television Review – The Walking Dead -Episode 7.9 “Rock In The Road”

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Once I’d recovered from the horror of the opening episode of the latest season of The Walking Dead (as much as one can ever recover from that!), I admit to growing more and more frustrated with the rest of the episodes. Having to introduce so many different communities often left me feeling unsatisfied at the end of each week, with very little actually happening to move the overall story forward.

Rock In The Road was therefore a welcome return to form and a start that I hope signals the next half of the season is going to go from strength to strength. Crucially, this mid-season premiere picked up the pace, as we finally see Rick and the Alexandria gang preparing to make a stand against the Saviours. Clearly, this being The Walking Dead, this action is bound to end in death for some (please not Daryl or Michonne!), but it’s the only way forward for the characters and the series and I’m excited at what lies ahead.

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Gregory was not in the mood to join the rebellion. Photo source: AMC

It was fantastic to see Rick and the characters we’ve grown to know so well meet and interact with other communities (their reaction to the tiger was fun) and with Daryl in hiding at The Kingdom, hopefully we’ll see new alliances starting to form. It’s clearly not going to be easy for them to convince others to fight, with the threat of a close encounter with Lucille hanging over their heads and it will be interesting to see on which side of the fight these communities and indeed individuals within them will choose.

Charcter-wise, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes has always been one of the biggest assets to the series and was the reason I started watching in the first place. We’ve been through a lot with Rick and his period of resignation to Negan’s rule was beginning to grate, so thank god he’s getting back to being the leader he has always been. Tom Payne as Jesus is also fast becoming one of my favourites this year and I hope I’m not getting attached to someone with a short life expectancy! I had been hoping to see the original gang (especially Daryl) reunited with Carol this week, but hopefully this will happen as the season unfolds. It was also fascinating that Morgan hid from them that she isn’t actually that far away.

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Two cars + wire = mass Walker destruction! Photo source: AMC

As for set pieces, this episode treated us to one of the most visually impressive scenes in the series to date, as Rick and Michonne dispatched a multitude of Walkers all in one go, using just two cars and some wire. If only getting rid of Negan was that easy!

However the most intriguing part of the episode was what has motivated Gabriel to drain their supplies and run? He has always been weak, but it did seem out of character when he had finally started to step up recently. However, after rewinding the opening scene, I noticed that he wasn’t alone in the car as he drove away from Alexandria, so perhaps he is likely being controlled by others, possibly the group introduced in the final moments of the episode. I’ve never been a fan of Gabriel, so if this storyline gives him a bigger role and purpose, I’m all for it.

Thankfully, after the recent run of dull episodes, Rock in the Road suggests that perhaps the series is taking a turn for the better. I admit I’m dreading the inevitable losses that are to come, but I’m excited again about this series and look forward to seeing what the writers have in store!

The Walking Dead season 7 continues in the USA on Sundays on AMC and in the UK on Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX. You can watch the promo for the next episode “New Best Friends” here

 

Television Review – Suits – Episode 6.14 “Admission of Guilt”

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Another week, another fantastic episode of Suits, as episode 6.14 successfully moved the multiple strands currently running in this sixth season along, as we head ever nearer to the season finale.

The most striking thought I had after watching Admission of Guilt was how well balanced an episode it was. There were wonderfully light, fun moments, lovely emotionally meaningful moments and lots of drama and tension, so much so that I was biting my nails by the end! It was Suits at its best, reminding me of earlier seasons, as we watch the legal manoeuvrings ping back and forth as people’s true motives were revealed (let’s face it, wasn’t it obvious that man had more at stake than his marriage?).

The main focus was Harvey and Mike’s pursuit of a legitimate case against Velocity Data Solutions, in order to achieve their ulterior motive of getting Mike a hearing for admission to the Bar. It’s a storyline that enables us to enjoy all the aspects that made the series a hit. Harvey is back being the brilliant tactician he is, finding a way to bend the circumstances to his (and by default here, Mike’s) advantage. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, not to mention the fact he seems certain Mike will come back to the firm, while Mike seems committed to not doing so! Plus how will Mike react if Harvey no longer intends to take the lawsuit forward, if he really cares about those workers?

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Will Mike Ross get admitted to the Bar? Photo source: SpoilerTV/USA Network

There is also some wonderful interplay between Mike and Harvey, which reminded me how much I’ve missed the two of them together playing scenes like these. Their partnership has always been the cornerstone of Suits and it was great to see Gabriel Macht and Patrick J Adams delivering more of their characters’ banter.

We were also treated to another successful partnership between Rachel and Katrina. These two characters have had a rocky history and yet they now respect each other and proved to be a strong team. In an episode focusing primarily on the case and Mike, it was lovely that there was time given to furthering Rachel’s personal journey too. She has always been determined to be a success in her own right and make her father proud of her. Seeing her reaction to someone telling her how much he admires her professionally was a lovely, emotional addition to the episode. Added to that, we also don’t seem to have to worry about Mike and Harvey’s actions jeopardising Rachel’s career now that she will be being admitted to the Bar.

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Katrina (Amanda Schull) & Rachel (Meghan Markle). Photo source: USA Network

Louis’s personal development also continued this week and the more he grows, the more I see him as the logical choice for Managing Partner. This week saw Harvey putting Mike ahead of the firm, letting Louis down and putting his career and reputation (and therefore that of his firm) at risk. In the meantime, Louis continued to try and keep the PSL ship steady. Yes, his plan failed, but he did try and was this another predictable show, it would have been a success. It will be fascinating to see whether he does end up heading the firm in the future.

His relationship with Tara continues to grow too, although I remain sceptical, and can’t help thinking she’ll ultimately break his heart. Their conversation about having more children was quite telling, as her cleverly worded response suggests to me that the topic of children may end yet another of Louis’s romances. Rick Hoffman has spoken about Louis either growing in season 6B or regressing and I genuinely hope I’m wrong that things won’t work out for him.

Then there was “The Donna.” I remain unconvinced by this storyline. I love the light relief it brings to the show, especially when the stakes are so high everywhere else and it did produce some fun moments this week, with Harvey being introduced to another Donna and Donna receiving a pep talk from her electronic self. However, it still feels rather superficial and to some extent trivialises the character of Donna and everything that makes her such a special part of the series. I know creator Aaron Korsh has spoken about Donna’s arc growing in to something that makes her think about what she wants from life, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be converted before the end of series and that this brilliant character isn’t let down.

What is already clear though, is that the writing staff are creating a hugely satisfying back six episodes to this season and I’m intrigued to see what lies ahead for the family of PSL. I’m always impressed how unpredictable a series Suits is. With two episodes left, we still cannot be sure what will happen. I’m starting to get a little concerned that something bad is brewing for them, but I love that the writers continue to twist and turn the storylines in order to keep us guessing! Is it next week yet?!

Favourite Lines this week:

  • Louis to Harvey: “Does that mean you’re never going to go mudding with me?” Harvey to Louis: “Yes Louis, that’s what it means.”
  • Harvey to Mike: “You were the least experienced dickhead I’ve ever met.”
  • Rachel to Katrina about her father’s comments: “It doesn’t make me feel bad. It makes me feel great.”
  • Benjamin to Donna: “This isn’t Westworld! I can’t make her human!”

 

My Top TV Couples!

I’ve recently been rewatching a few old television favourites and it’s become clear to me that the shows I tend to invest in usually have a strong couple at their heart. Some of these are friendships, some are more than that and others morph over time from one to the other. I’m still considering my list of ultimate TV friendships (watch this space), but in the spirit of it being Valentine’s Day, I’m starting with my favourite television couples.

Of course, everyone’s list will be personal, so I’m sure there will be couples I’ve missed who you would choose, so feel free to let me know your choices in the comments! It also goes without saying that this post will contain spoilers for the shows referenced.

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Fox Mulder & Dana Scully (The X-Files)

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To me, Mulder and Scully will always be the ultimate television couple. It was a relationship that grew from their strong friendship and over the years of the series I loved seeing how much respect and love these two amazing characters had for each other. It bubbled under the surface, but never detracted from the series itself and even 20 years later, the incredible chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson remains as powerful as ever. The magic the two of them share does not come around very often and as yet, has not been beaten. You can read more of my thoughts on these two here.

Harvey Specter & Donna Paulsen (Suits)

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I know some people may argue against the inclusion of Harvey and Donna in a couples list, but their relationship has developed so much recently, that I find it impossible not to see them as meant to be, even if they are not quite there yet! Over the last six seasons we have seen their deeply-rooted friendship grow. Yes, they’ve already been lovers once, but they share so much more than that. Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht have a chemistry that is rare on television and I’m sure their long-standing friendship has added to the fabric of Harvey and Donna’s relationship. These characters wouldn’t be so wonderful on screen were they portrayed by anyone else. As with Mulder and Scully, this is certainly a slow burn, but surely these two have to end up together?!

Josh Lyman & Donna Moss (The West Wing)

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I clearly enjoy the slow burn relationships don’t I, as here is yet another one! From the start of Aaron Sorkin’s political drama I always loved the banter between the Deputy Chief of Staff and his assistant and as the series progressed, their wonderful bond became more apparent. Thanks to Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney’s on screen connection, any other relationships each character had just never seemed quite as special as the one they shared together. Josh may have been the political player, but it became clear how much he relied on Donna and when she left to pursue her own ambitions, it gave him the push to pursue his new path and when they did finally get together it didn’t overshadow the series, as by then it was the logical and natural next step.

Alicia Florrick & Will Gardner (The Good Wife)

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I still feel incredibly sad when I think about this ill-fated pair, but there was no way they wouldn’t feature on my list, as they are probably the hottest couple on TV. The attraction between Will and Alicia was clear from the very beginning (in no large part down to the chemistry between Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies) and along with many fans of the series, I had my fingers crossed for their future. They clearly loved one another and Alicia should probably have picked Will before she ever married her dreadful husband. The time they were together treated us to some of the steamiest scenes on television (here’s one for the uninitiated) as well as some of the most emotional, but sadly it wasn’t to be, with Will being tragically killed in series five (something I still wish the internet hadn’t ruined for me in advance). It was an event I never expected, which still makes me reach for the tissues. The fact their love was cut short in such an cruel way makes their whole story all the more powerful.

Temperance Brennan & Seeley Booth (Bones)

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Bones is a series I’ve missed over the last few years and I’m slowly playing catch up, but what was clear from day one was the chemistry between David Boreanaz’s Booth and Emily Deschanel’s Brennan. I have only reached series eight (the final season 12 is airing now), but what I enjoy most about this series is how the writers were able to transition the characters from friends, to lovers, to marriage and children. It has enabled fans to see their relationship grow in a more mature and realistic way, which is something other shows could learn from.

The Doctor & Rose Tyler (Doctor Who)

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Since it’s return in 2005 Doctor Who has seen some wonderful partnerships on board the TARDIS. However, there is one that touched the hearts of many fans of the series and that was the love between David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. Yes, nothing ever happened between them, but their bond was never in doubt and their heartbreaking farewell on Bad Wolf Bay was a classic moment that certainly made me shed some tears.

Kevin Walker & Scotty Wandell (Brothers & Sisters)

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There were many relationships within Brothers & Sisters, but for me the most heartfelt and believable one was that between Kevin and Scotty (played brilliantly by Matthew Rhys and Luke MacFarlane). Through all the Walker family turmoil, they were a breath of fresh air with their loving relationship. They weren’t free from problems (most notably Scotty’s affair), but loved each other enough not to throw their relationship away.

Buffy Summers & Spike (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

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Some may be surprised that the relationship on my list from Buffy is not the one between Buffy and Angel! Yes, theirs was one of the core elements of the series in the early years, but Buffy and Spike’s short-lived relationship was the one that has always interested me the most. When you think about it (and leave aside the undead aspect!), they were a far better match for each other. Perhaps it was the fact Buffy was older than the teenager who fell for Angel, but her connection with Spike came across as a more mature one. They knew each other’s faults and accepted them anyway and some of the scenes between James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Geller in those later episodes remain some of my favourites.

Doug Ross & Carol Hathaway (E.R)

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E.R remains my favourite medical series (more on that here) and although it had some lovely relationships during its 15 years, one always stood above the rest and that was the love affair between Doug and Carol. The fact it became so iconic in the 90s (and was the first big break for each of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies) is more impressive when you think that Carol wasn’t even meant to survive the pilot episode. They went through ups and downs, split up and got back together more than once, but you couldn’t help but root for them and the icing on the cake was Clooney’s surprise return for the last few moments of the episode which saw Carol leave Chicago behind for the love of her life.

Chuck Bass & Blaire Waldorf (Gossip Girl)

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Chuck and Blaire were the best schemers in Gossip Girl, manipulating situations and characters to their advantage and there were many times when I really couldn’t stand them! However, the writers created something very clever in their relationship. Despite their underhanded behaviour, they seemed to bring out the best in each other, which in turn changed my perception of them and thanks to the acting talents of Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester they became my favourite characters in the show. Had they not ended up together I’d have been thoroughly disappointed.

Carrie Bradshaw & Mr. Big (Sex And The City)

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The Mr.Big debate was a big one during Sex And The City’s run, with fans divided as to whether Carrie should end up with him or not. He may have been an idiot for the majority of the show, but I was always of the view that deep down they were soul mates. Despite all the pain and hurt, they always seemed to come back to one another and he would do anything for her. I also loved the fun they seemed to have and Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker sparkled in their scenes together.

Sydney Bristow & Michael Vaughn (Alias)

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J.J Abrams’s spy drama was a highlight of American television at the time of its original run and the will they won’t they dynamic of Sydney and Vaughn captured the hearts of its fans (including me). Yes, there were some utterly bonkers plot developments along the way, including Vaughn’s faked death, but Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan always ensured the relationship between Sydney and Vaughn was genuinely lovely to watch right until the end.

Ross Poldark & Demelza (Poldark)

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Yes, Aidan Turner’s torso has generated a great deal of attention since Poldark was brought back to our screens in 2015, but the best character in my view is the fiery Demelza, superbly played by Eleanor Tomlinson and their romance is what keeps me tuning in each week. They may be from different backgrounds, but they are undoubtably stronger together and do truly belong together. I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead in series three after the ups and downs of the last series.

Lizzie Bennet & Mr Darcy (BBC, Pride & Prejudice)

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Colin Firth may be a successful Oscar-winning actor, but he’ll always be best known for his iconic portrayal of Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. The British public fell under his spell and that of his counterpart Jennifer Ehle. In my opinion, they created the definitive Lizzie and Darcy and every scene they had together sparkled, making them one of the TV couples of the 90s in Britain.

Ianto Jones and Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood)

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The relationship between Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) in Torchwood was hugely important for British television and remains one of my favourites of recent years. What was lovely about the pairing was that they may have been very different personalities, but were in fact perfectly suited. They were playful, affectionate and stood by each other through all the crazy happenings in their lives and Ianto’s emotional death in Children Of Earth was heartbreaking for fans of the show. We felt his loss as much as Captain Jack. Heck, does any other fictional character have a shrine like Ianto’s in Cardiff?!

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So, those are my top fifteen television couples. I look forward to hearing about who you would choose!

Television Review – Suits – Episode 6.13 “Teeth, Nose, Teeth”

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After two character-driven episodes, although the latest chapter of Suits contained a good dose of character development (more on that later), it was a return to the show’s usual rhythm, as we see the characters navigating New York’s legal and business world, while handling a few personal challenges along the way. Overall, it was an enjoyable hour of television; however it wasn’t as satisfying in my view as the last two weeks have been.

There was lots to enjoy in 6.13, wittily titled Teeth, Nose, Teeth as a reference to Louis Litt and as Louis was my favourite character this week by a mile, I’ll start there. Last week was all about Harvey’s personal growth, but this week highlighted he isn’t the only member of PSL to be experiencing a period of personal change.

After Rachel turns to Louis with news that the legal and ethics committee of the Bar have refused her an interview, he doesn’t wade in, explode and make things ten times worse. Instead, he talks the situation through with his fellow named partner, Harvey, and they agree a strategy together! Louis accepting his and Harvey’s strengths was a stride forward for him. The fact he followed this up with asking for Harvey’s advice on his personal life and then actually handled that situation in a rational, mature and loving manner made me want to cheer!

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Louis Litt (Rick Hoffamn) – character of the week!

I do worry though that his relationship with Tara will not end well. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but she comes across as a woman using Louis’s generous nature to have a reliable support in her life. I’m not convinced she loves him and it’ll be a shame if, after this growth, we still don’t see him happy. In fact, with Louis changing for the better and Harvey yet again skirting around the law, perhaps Louis is becoming the man more suited to run PSL in the long-term and I never thought I’d say that!

As for Harvey, it was great to see him more relaxed this week than he’s been in a long time. He was able to actually work with Louis and even give him supportive advice about his complicated relationship. No longer is this type of conversation “not his area” and I hope we see much more of this side to him. It was also lovely to see Donna and him getting back to the witty banter of past years. Yes, I hope they end up together, but for the moment, I’m fine with the type of fun they used to have in earlier seasons coming back to the screen.

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Mike (Patrick J Adams) finds it hard to sit on the sidelines with Rachel (Meghan Markle)

As well as making peace with Harvey this week (and nailing the best line of the episode when discussing his upcoming wedding!), I was pleased to see Mike forging ahead with his desire to try and help people via his work at the legal clinic.  The fact it wasn’t easy due to his conviction made the story all the more plausible. We saw Mike as a man growing up and trying to do the right thing, even if it’s tough. It was disappointing for me therefore, that the episode ended with him and Harvey yet again looking towards the grey areas of the world to get what they want.

As much as I’d love to see Mike and Harvey working together again, how they handle this plot is crucial. From a reality perspective, if they do succeed in getting Mike a hearing to be considered for admission to the Bar (which is the equivalent of their professional body, not just an exam/committee), I hope they don’t just suddenly magic everything fixed, as that is not how it would work and although this is a television show, the solution they come up with has to be one that could happen in the real world for me to take it seriously. I suppose time with tell. I also hope it doesn’t jeopardise Rachel’s hearing, as that could ruin her relationship with Mike!

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Will Harvey (Gabriel Macht) get to hear some home truths from The Donna?!

We’d heard that this week also marked the start of Donna’s own arc. She’s always been integral to the series and on the few occasions we’ve focused more on her (series four’s Intent as an example), they have been some of the best episodes of the series. Yes, I think “The Donna” is fun, it’s lovely to see more of David Reale as Benjamin and there is potential for some highly entertaining moments by introducing it (picture Louis turning to it for advice and it putting him in his place, or Harvey not realising it’s on her desk when she’s no there and it giving him sass), but I was hoping for something with a bit more depth for her. I have faith in Aaron Korsh and Sarah Rafferty is always a joy, so fingers crossed this doesn’t simply turn in to a gimmicky storyline. Having said that, if Harvey ends up getting disbarred for what he’s about to do with Mike, he may need to live off Donna and her possible millions!

So, overall, 6.13 provided some lovely character moments and although I’m not hugely satisfied with Mike’s decision or the start of Donna’s arc, it did what Suits is best at, which is keeping the audience guessing as to where exactly it’s headed. Will Mike get a hearing for admission to the Bar? Will these actions have consequences for Harvey? Will Mike and Rachel actually make it to their vows (for those of us rooting for the Best Man and Maid of Honour, they better do!)? You can watch the promo for the next episode at SpoilerTV here.

Favourite Lines this week:

  • Harvey mocking Mike: “She have a man purse?”
  • Mike mocking Harvey (and officially joining the #Darvey campaign): “We also need to make sure you don’t *cough* Donna at the wedding!”
  • Louis’s analysis of Tara’s ex: “He’s not just good looking, he’s a god damn Renaissance statue!”

Suits series 6 continues with episode 6.14 “Admission of Guilt” on USA Network next Wednesday in the States and with this episode 6.13 on Dave on Sunday at 10 p.m. in the UK.

Who’s Who? – My suggestions for the next Doctor!

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Peter Capaldi has announced that he will leave Doctor Who during this year’s Christmas special. Personally, I’m disappointed Capaldi isn’t staying for longer. He’s a great Doctor, but I think the episodes he’s had under Steven Moffat have been somewhat patchy and I would have liked to see his Doctor under Chris Chibnall’s new era. Sadly it’s not to be.

The announcement has unsurprisingly been followed by speculation as to who should replace him. I’ve seen some rather wacky suggestions over the last few days, including actors far too famous (and therefore expensive) to take the role and so it made me start to think about who I’d like to see. Yes, I agree some of the names flying around would be great (Ben Whishaw, Bill Nighy, Rory Kinnear etc.), but I just don’t think they are realistic and so I’ve tried to keep this list within the realms of possibility!

I’ll start with a disclaimer – Personally, I don’t see the Doctor as a woman. I know not everyone agrees with this and I respect that, but for me, the Doctor is a man and I don’t see myself as doing a disservice to my gender by saying that. My list therefore reflects my view.

  • Kris Marshall

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I’ve been a big fan of Kris Marshall for years and now he’s leaving Death In Paradise, having him become the next Doctor would keep him on my television screen! He’s quirky, capable of comedic and serious work and would bring a new sparkle of fun to the TARDIS. He’s therefore top of my wish list. He also left Death In Paradise to be nearer his family, so regular work in the UK would be perfect for him.

  • Bertie Carvel

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Bertie Carvel is a fantastic actor, whose stage work is always a joy and although he’s started to be seen more on television (most recently in Doctor Foster), he’s not too famous that having him join Doctor Who doesn’t seem farfetched. I could easily see him handling both light-hearted and darker stories and I can already picture him doing a kick-ass “I’m the Doctor” speech.

  • John Heffernen

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John Heffernen has been one of my favourite actors since I saw him on stage in 2010 in After The Dance. Why would he make a great Doctor? The answer is his versatility. I’ve seen him tackle all manner of roles on stage and each time he brings a new energy to his work. Although this would take him away from the stage, I’d be willing to accept it if he was swapping this for such a plum television role!

  • Rafe Spall

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I’ve included Rafe Spall on my list, but I already accept he may already be too famous to be in the position to be open to taking such a role. As his current role in the National Theatre’s Hedda Gabler proves yet again, he has a wonderful way of being able to pivot effortlessly from a playful to dark (and often chilling – did you see The Shadow Line?!) personality and he’s already proved he can take on strong roles in BBC drama.

  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

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I first came across Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Mr. Eko in Lost and loved the air of mystery he brought to that role. It’s that sense of being a bit of an enigma that I think he’d be able to bring to Doctor Who. With recent Hollywood films Concussion and Suicide Squad on his CV, as well as a brief spell in Game of Thrones, he’s not an unknown, but is still growing in exposure. He’s probably also a good age for the iconic Timelord.

  • Sacha Dhawan

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Sacha Dhawan is steadily building up a solid television career, which has included roles in a two of Mark Gatiss’s projects (the creepy The Tractate Middoth and the story behind Doctor Who, An Adventure in Time and Space), not to mention a role in the latest series of Sherlock, as well as Line of Duty and Mr Selfridge. He’s certainly an actor on the rise, but someone not too well known, meaning he could bring something fresh to the series, while at the same time building his own profile.

  • Stephen Mangan

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Stephen Mangan’s name has come up in connection with the role of the Doctor in the past and I have to admit, I quite like the idea. If the BBC are wanting a more established name, he provides that, while also bringing a solid career of work with him of roles that don’t just include comedy. He’s also suitably quirky (and his friendship with David Tennant could lure the latter back for the odd cameo)!

  • Jonjo O’Neill

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Another theatre favourite of mine is Jonjo O’Neill, who has impressed me on stage with some unforgettable performances. He is also building his television career, with roles in the last series of The Fall and even a small part in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who. Jonjo has an energy that not all actors possess (anyone who saw him as Mercutio for the Royal Shakespeare Company or in the recent Royal Court play Unreachable with Matt Smith, can attest to this). Anyone taking on the Doctor needs to have a strong screen presence and someone with the mesmerising quality he has would be an ideal choice.

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So, those are my top choices to be the next inhabitant of the TARDIS. What do you think? It’s certainly going to be an interesting time for Doctor Who fans as we await a new series this Spring, as well as any information on what Chris Chibnall has in mind (will he have a writer’s room and who will he pick for it? will he turn to some directors from RTD’s era of the series?).

One thing is certain, it’s Doctor Who’s ability to constantly refresh itself with each new Doctor that makes it so fun to watch!

Television Review – Suits- Episode 6.12 “The Painting”

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Last week’s mid-season premiere, saw the family of Pearson Specter Litt coming to terms with the departure of Jessica Pearson (we miss you already Gina Torres) and Donna approaching a usually off-limits subject with Harvey – his complex relationship with his mother and its impact on him as a person. The fact he even allowed her to discuss the matter demonstrates the steps he’s already made following therapy in series five, but the prospect of him finally confronting his past demons has been highly anticipated by fans of the series.

The great news is that episode 6.12, entitled “The Painting” not only tackles this emotional subject with sensitivity, but proves to be one of the strongest episodes Suits has ever had. The fact that six seasons in, the writers are still producing stories of this quality is a testament to the series as a whole.

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Donna (Sarah Rafferty) providing support as always to Harvey (Gabriel Macht)

The episode has two strands, one focussing on Mike and his pursuit of a fresh start following his release from prison and subsequent decision not to return to PSL and the other following Harvey, as he travels to Boston to try and reconcile with his mother, after 20 years of pain and anger.

After he receives an offer of work at a legal clinic from out of the blue, it’s great to see Mike getting his teeth back in to the law, with work that will truly make a difference to the lives of his clients. He said during his trial that it was these types of cases that made him want to be a lawyer, so hopefully this new path will help him to rebuild his life after prison. I assume his position there will at some point lead to conflict with his former firm, but I guess time will tell. It will also be interesting to see if Mike will ever be able to be a real lawyer, which would be a much steeper hurdle to overcome (although not impossible in the state of NY). In the meantime, this episode allows Mike to start again, with a clean and honest slate. It also lets him be the teacher in the same way Harvey was to him, which is fun to see.

We also potentially see a more mature Louis Litt in this hour, as he puts his anger towards Harvey aside for the sake of the firm and steps up to the reality of Specter and Litt being a team. I really hope this lasts and that the rest of the series sees more teamwork between these two.

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Brothers reunited – Billy Miller & Gabriel Macht

The heart of this story, however, is Harvey and we see more character development here than we have to date. Those that view him as an arrogant, cocky, detached individual haven’t been paying attention to the facets of his character, which we have gradually seen since the series began. Hiring Mike helped give Harvey someone to protect and care about, having Donna in his life helps give him perspective, but even with such influences, Harvey’s emotional limitations have always remained and these were a direct result of his childhood and subsequent relationship with his mother as an adult.

I’ve seen some comments online about him having a childish reaction to his mother’s behaviour, but that’s too simplistic a view. It wasn’t simply the fact that his mother repeatedly cheated on the father that he adored (although had you understood that you’d caught your mum cheating from as young as he was the first time, then it would be bound to affect you). The real damage was due to his mother asking him to cover for her and putting responsibility for any fallout if he told the truth on him. He may have been a young man then, but the pain and mistrust and indeed guilt that would cause a person cannot be underestimated.

If you watch episode 5.10 before this one, it reminds you of just what past difficulties the Specter family had and when you combine this with the flashbacks here to his father’s funeral, you see what a mountain there is to climb to heal their wounds.

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A step towards forgiveness – Lily Specter (Brynn Thayer) & her son move forward

What the writers do wonderfully is show the past pain immediately before the current reality. It adds to the tension, as we know how much is at stake. Having the scene at his father’s wake directly before the dinner with his mother, really heightens how big a step this trip is for Harvey. A couple of years ago he would never have boarded the plane. It’s made all the more emotional and sad when we learn how he’d tried to make peace seven years ago, before coming face to face with Bobby.

Brynn Thayer is fantastic as Lily Specter and we see how she is similar to him in some respects, as they are both stubborn individuals; had she considered her son seven years ago, she perhaps could have foreseen what Bobby’s presence at his father’s funeral would do to Harvey. True, he could have handled it better, but had Bobby not been there, the last seven years may have been so different. Crucially their relationship and therefore the pain they each hold, feels very real and believable.

A new chapter for Harvey & Donna?


There is also a strong performance from Billy Miller as Harvey’s brother Marcus, who has always been in the middle of this broken family and has perhaps suffered more than anyone. He lost his happy family, which resulted in his later problems and then had to accept he could never have his whole family together. We’ve always been aware that his brother meant a great deal to Harvey and its his revelation that he didn’t bother to tell him he was seriously ill, which has the biggest effect. Harvey can no longer deny the pain his continued anger is causing to more than just himself.

Gabriel Macht is simply superb in this episode. He has always been able to display the many facets of Harvey’s character and I’m still irritated that his work during series 5 in particular wasn’t acknowledged at the awards. Yet, in this hour he manages to take his performance to another level, as we see both past and present Harvey and the pain they feel. However, its the raw vulnerability of the character that packs the biggest emotional punch. We’ve never seen Harvey this exposed and the final scene with Lily is truly heart-wrenching, as we see him forgive her as well as himself.


His journey then comes full circle; back to the office, back to Donna. She has been his strength and support all these years, gently helping to open him up to emotions and it’s lovely to see him acknowledge this, but also that he wants her by his side as he starts a new, more positive chapter in his life. Let’s face it, he could have put the picture up on his own, but he wanted her to share that moment with him. As someone rooting for these two, I’m excited to see how a more emotionally open and happy Harvey will choose to move forward, especially as we know that Donna’s life is going to change in some way over the next four episodes. Whether this leads them to one another, or if Aaron Korsh will hold this back until nearer the end of the show remains to be seen. However, no one can argue that Harvey has never been more ready than he is now to move forward with his life and allow himself to truly love someone.

After such a powerful, emotional episode, I understand next week’s is a more comedic affair, which I’m very much looking forward to. It may be season six of Suits, but the cast and creative talent behind this series is by no means slowing down and with a seventh season already confirmed, I’m excited to see what will unfold over the final four episodes of this year.

Suits season six continues its run on Wednesdays on USA Network in the States and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on Dave in the UK. For my more general thoughts on the show as a whole, feel free to read my series review. All comments very welcome!

 

Television Review – Are You Watching….? Suits

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At the end of January, one of my current favourite television series returned with the second half of its sixth season. In the run up to its return, I decided to go back to the beginning and was reminded just what a fantastic series it has always been. If you haven’t given Suits a try yet, now is the perfect time to dive in! Hopefully this post might just convince you.

The premise

Suits had a simple premise when it began in 2011. In episode one, hot shot lawyer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is forced by his mentor and his firm’s managing partner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) to hire an associate to work with him. This is not an appealing idea to Harvey; he works best alone. Under duress, he holds interviews with one dull character after another, until he meets Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), whose dream to go to law school was derailed and yet despite not finishing college, let alone going to law school, he is the most promising candidate by a mile and Harvey hires him regardless!

17-suits-w529-h352Yes, it would never happen in reality (I hope not anyway!), but it’s a clever basis for a legal drama, as we watch the relationship develop between Harvey, known for his confident, selfish, detached attitude and his young protege. Indeed, the more we watch, the more it becomes clear that it isn’t just Mike who is benefitting from his new life, as he is clearly good for Harvey too.

The characters

The biggest strength of Suits and the reason it has become one of my favourite shows, has always been its core set of characters, whose lives and relationships we follow throughout the series. As well as Harvey, Mike and Jessica, there is fellow partner Louis Litt (the brilliant Rick Hoffman), whose frequent clashes with Harvey provide comic relief, but also more dramatic moments too along the way and paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), a young woman determined to be a lawyer herself and to whom Mike is attracted immediately.

Finally, there is the awesome Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty). Although she is Harvey’s secretary, she is so much more than that and it often seems that she is the backbone of the firm, providing both professional and personal support to all of the others at one point or another over the years. That the three female characters in Suits are all strong, confident women is another factor that makes the series stand out and television today.

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Creator Aaron Korsh and the team of writers have always been able to strike the right balance between serious drama and comedy, something that differentiates Suits from other modern legal dramas such as The Good Wife. In an episode, you can have moments of serious conflict between characters, while a much lighter story (usually revolving around the glorious Louis Litt) runs in parallel and yet both work because of the quality of the writing and acting.

I don’t want to say anything that gives significant plot points away, but despite the series now being in its sixth year, it is constantly finding a way to be refreshed by the writers. Indeed, there have been storylines that have happened, more than once, which have shifted the entire balance of the series, giving it a new lease of life and direction. This certainly hasn’t remained simply a show about a guy pretending to be a lawyer and one of the most exciting aspects of being a fan of Suits is wondering what road the characters will find themselves taking next.

 

The relationships

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Jessica (Gina Torres) & Harvey (Gabriel Macht) (Photo by: Ian Watson/USA Network)

The individual cases (and sometime story arcs) are important of course, but the series is driven by the characters and their relationships with one another. You’ll find yourself liking all of the core six for different reasons.

Donna is witty, strong, intelligent and loyal to the end, able to read Harvey (and indeed Louis) like a book and I’d go as far as to say she is one of the most well-rounded female characters on television at the moment. Louis will drive you crazy, but you’ll still have a soft spot for him as the show goes on. Jessica is the strong, feisty, boss. I love that it is a woman in this position of power in the world of corporate law and how she is able to keep everyone else in line. She also has an utterly spectacular wardrobe! Rachel is the woman determined to be a success in her own right (not because of her successful lawyer father), but who also has a kind and generous heart, especially with Louis, as well as having great chemistry with Mike Ross and Donna.

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Rachel (Meghan Markle) & Mike (Patrick J Adams)

Patrick J Adams does a superb job making Mike a genuinely decent guy. Yes, he is being dishonest by pretending to be a lawyer, but it’s clear he could have been one. He has the intelligence and indeed the talent and despite the lie that starts him on this journey, he is one of the most moral characters in Suits. If the audience didn’t like Mike, I don’t think the series would work.

The other crucial success of the show is the character of Harvey Specter and his relationship with Mike. Gabriel Macht continues to do a fantastic job of bringing quite a complicated man to life on screen. Those who say Harvey is simply an arrogant, flashy, corporate hot shot haven’t been paying attention. Yes, he is an excellent lawyer and he knows it (and wants everyone else to know it too); yes, he looks great in a tailored suit and has a to-die-for penthouse home, but there’s much more to this man and peeling back those layers is one of the most fascinating elements of the show.

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Brotherly bond – Mike (Patrick J Adams) & Harvey (Gabriel Macht) (Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)

Over the series, you learn about the issues in his past that drive him and only an actor as good as Macht could so subtly over time develop him. You may not even realise just how much he changes until you go back to episode one and that change all begins with his decision to hire a fraud. As Donna says later, it gives him someone he needs to protect and Harvey and Mike’s brotherly relationship is the foundation of the series.

The other relationship I have a huge soft spot for is that between Harvey and Donna. Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty have a fantastic chemistry on screen (no doubt helped but the fact they have been good friends for over 20 years) and the result is one of the best partnerships on television. They remind me a lot of the dynamic I loved between Mulder and Scully and just like I did 20 years ago with them, I can’t watch Suits now without hoping that Harvey and Donna ultimately end up together! It’s a relationship of trust, respect, support and indeed love and I know I’m not the only one who thinks they belong together.

Anything else?

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Destined to be? Donna (Sarah Rafferty) & Harvey (Gabriel Macht)

I’ve touched on the writing of the show already. Aaron Korsh has around him a fantastic writing team, who six years on, are still delivering a show that is interesting, fun and full of development. Indeed the latest episode (which airs tonight in the UK on Dave) is packed full of character development, which will only help shape the future storylines. When Suits started, I imagined the likely final endgame – would Mike get caught or not? It’s thanks to the writers that the series has become so much more than that and full of possibility!

Visually, it looks great too. It’s always fabulously lit, is jam packed with incredible fashion (they all look fantastic in Suits, it’s so annoying!) and I’m constantly impressed with how well Toronto doubles for New York. Then there’s the music, which is a mix of original score by Christopher Tyng and individual songs, which always perfectly match the emotional moment on screen. I have Suits to thank for so many new artists now on my playlist!

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Donna (Sarah Rafferty) & Louis (Rick Hoffman)

Where to catch up – what are you waiting for?

So, have I peaked your interest? It is, after all, still winter time, when staying in with a good television series is hardly a bad thing! Plus, if you are new to Suits you have plenty of material to keep you going, with 88 episodes waiting for you!

I know that here in the UK Netflix has seasons 1 – 4 and all of the series is on Amazon Video (albeit not all of it on the free Prime service), or there’s always iTunes or DVDs for seasons 1-5. If you catch up quickly enough, the remaining five episodes of series 6 will continue on Dave on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. I’m planning to review the remaining episodes, so look out for those here over the next month.

If you do start watching, I’d love to hear what you think, or if you already watch, feel free to give your own thoughts on the show in the comments.

As for me, I think I’m off for another rewatch!

 

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