Line of Duty Finale

Line of Duty TV Review

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

[Contains spoilers!]

With over nine million viewers watching, last night’s Line of Duty finale was the most watched show in the U.K. this year. The incredible figure is expected to rise once catch up numbers are added up, with the total amount of viewers believed to be up to fourteen million. The biggest question on everyone’s lips was the identity of ‘H’, the mysterious figure believed to be the mastermind behind organised crime and corruption within the police force. Answers led to even more questions as Senior Legal Counsel Gill Biggeloe was proved to be the bent copper, with further examination of ‘Dot’ Cottan’s dying confession revealing that there are in fact four corrupt officers, which sets the scene for the next series.

To no surprise, Supt Ted “Mother Of God” Hastings was in fact framed, with previous scenes of his shady behaviour being heavily handed red herrings. After the opening episode’s twist, it wasn’t difficult to spot writer Jed Mercurio’s style again, yet it was still excellent drama as Adrian Dunbar put in an emotional performance in the tense interview scenes. Line of Duty’s signature interview scenes are always fantastic and much of the episode was played out in the interview room, yet was never short of thrills. Once the truth was revealed, the action ramped up a notch with DI Kate Fleming and DS Steve Arnott reacting quickly before Gill had an opportunity to escape and then almost be murdered herself. The scenes were gripping, although the show becomes at risk of bordering on the ridiculous.

Despite all the implausibilities, Line of Duty was BBC drama at its best. Its three leading characters of Ted, Steve and Kate are the heart and moral compass of the show, with their flaws making them more compelling and realistic characters. As the show came to a close last night, many loose ends were tied up, but many more questions and theories began. Who is the other H? Was DS John Corbett actually Ted’s son? Who ordered the hit on Gill? And will no one really not see through Corbett’s killer and new police recruit Ryan?!

So were you one of the nine million plus watching Line of Duty last night?What are your thoughts and theories?

Line of Duty S5:E01 Review

Line of Duty Series 5 Trailer

[Contains spoilers]

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

“There’s only one thing that’s worse than a bent copper and that’s a bent copper who pretends she isn’t.”

Line of Duty returned with a bang last night with a thrilling opening sequence that saw the return of the Balaclava Men in a dangerous heist involving the hijacking of a police consignment of drugs. The dramatic scenes involved the death of three police officers and PC Jane Cafferty’s life being spared by gang member Lisa McQueen, which ensured that AC-12 were quickly assigned to investigate the incident. Soon, it became apparent that a member of the OCG (Organised Crime Gang) was an undercover officer, but who? With all signs pointing to Lisa, the big twist was revealed in the final scenes and the UCO was actually gang leader John Corbett (played by Stephen Graham). The show also stayed true to its form of killing off cast members with the shock murder of corrupt PC Maneet Bindra.

In between all the dramatic events, the episode revealed how life had moved on for the AC-12 squad since Series 4. Superintendent Ted Hastings appears to be going through a divorce and staying in a hotel, where he is behind on paying his bill. DS Steve Arnott is slowly recovering from his accident in the previous series, but remains in physical pain. DI Kate Fleming appears to have reconciled with her family and yes, in a surprise twist, she is the officer who has been promoted to DI. With Steve having emerged as the likely candidate in Season 4, has the rise of the #metoo movement affected writer Jed Mercurio’s plans for Season 5? Or is it simply that Steve’s accident has derailed his career opportunities?

The unfolding of events throughout the episode raised a whole host of new questions. With no contact for months between the police and John Corbett, is the UCO really deep undercover or has he now gone rogue? Could Lisa McQueen still be another UCO? Could Ted Hastings really be a likely contender for the mysterious H? Who was he calling at the exact same time that Lisa McQueen’s phone rang? So many unanswered questions!

Last night’s episode has now become the most watched show of 2019, with 7.8 million viewers watching it live. Were you one of those viewers? What are your theories?

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Trailer

After the incredible success of the film adaptation of musical Mamma Mia!, the story continues in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again five years after the events of the original film. Two parallel timelines unfold during the film as the present day sees Sophie preparing for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna, which alternates between flashbacks of a young Donna and her adventures after graduating from Oxford University, which may include a certain three young men of significance…

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a fun romp that retains much of the formula of its predecessor, yet fails to serve any significance. Lily James gives a gusto performance as a young Meryl Streep, which is no easy task, yet because of the original film’s existence, the flashback scenes offer nothing new to the story and are ultimately redundant. With much of ABBA’s back catalogue of hits used in the first film, the film is forced to rely on lesser known songs this time around with the addition of a number of repetitions from the original film. The musical numbers are still a riot, with the cast gamely demonstrating their enthusiasm, despite a lack of singing prowess from some of the cast members.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again sees all the cast from the original movie return, yet one cast member is glaringly absent for much of the film, which sadly suffers as a result. It is evident that the cast are having the time of their lives on screen, but the lack of a story and number of plot holes result in a film that almost feels pointless.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is out on DVD today and although it has a number of issues, the film is still a fun form of escapism, especially now that the dark gloomy wintery evenings have arrived. For me, I had a more personal interest in the film as my sister’s boyfriend worked for a few days on the film during the Oxford scenes, so that was quite exciting and actually how I first found out that the sequel was being made!

Have you see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Are you a fan of musicals and sequels?

Killing Eve

Killing Eve Trailer

Rating: 5/5

“You should never tell a psychopath they’re a psychopath. It upsets them.”

Villanelle – a cold hearted and ruthless assassin.

Eve – the MI5 operative tasked with tracking her down.

As the cat and mouse game begins, a mutual obsession between the two women develops.

One that might cost them their lives…

Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer as the characters of Eve and Villanelle, both playing their parts to perfection. As the initially boring and bumbling Eve, Oh is world’s away from her spiky character Dr Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy and has proved she made the right decision to move on from the long running hit US drama. Here she displays a naïvety and innocence that is slowly shed as she comes to grips with her new world away from her desk bound job as she moves out into the field. Having become known for her role in Doctor Foster, Jodie Comer stars in a break out role as the chilling yet slightly eccentric Villanelle. Despite committing a string of truly appalling acts, Comer plays the part with such a delightful wickedness and relish that you can’t help rooting for her. The dark and often tongue-in-cheek humour ensures that Killing Eve is a spy drama like no other.

Killing Eve finished airing on BBC One on Saturday night and, in a clever move, the BBC made the show immediately available on iplayer from the very first episode’s screening. The show has proved to be a huge hit and has previously aired in the US to similar success. The show created history when Sandra Oh became the first Asian actress to be nominated for an Emmy in a leading role performance and the show has been praised for featuring two female actresses in the lead roles. With such a female driven cast, Killing Eve stands out from other action focused dramas and is one of the best shows of the year.

Did you watch Killing Eve? If so, did you watch it live each week or binge watch the whole series on iplayer? Have you read the original book series?

Killing Eve BBC Three Trailer

The Cry

The Cry Trailer

Rating:5/5

[Spoiler Free Review]

“Two faces, two Joannas.”

The Cry stars Jenna Coleman as new mother Joanna, who steps out into a media frenzy in the show’s opening scene. The question of why remains a mystery as the story gradually unfolds through its four episode arc. The first episode weaves through a whirl of multiple timelines, which is often jarring due to its lack of chronology, but is a clever narrative device used to gain a wider insight into the development of the relationship between Joanna and her partner Alistair.

As the story unfolds through each episode, the circumstances surrounding Joanna are gradually revealed with more questions being raised as to what led to these events. Twists and turns are played out to shocking degrees, often with excruciating cliffhangers. With Joanna herself alluding to two sides of her personality in the opening episode, the viewer is kept guessing as to Joanna’s motives and all is not as it seems…

The Cry concluded on Sunday night in a gripping fashion and was full of shocks as the truth behind the story’s events were revealed. The show delivered a fantastic performance from Jenna Coleman, who initially had reservations about the role due to not being a mother herself. However she proved to be the perfect person for the part, displaying a fragile vulnerability as well as a mix of coldness, a sense of detachment from her surroundings and a complex range of emotions. The show must be praised for highlighting the difficulties and pressures of being a new mother and the scrutiny and judgement that they can face, painfully portrayed in a relatable airplane scene that everyone will have experienced to some degree, regardless of being a parent. The show also highlighted the intrusive nature of the press and the impact of media scrutiny and the online world on people’s lives and how destructive those outlets can be, at a time when excessive information can lead to a lack of impartiality.

The Cry is based on the novel by Helen Fitzgerald, which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. The book has now shot up the book charts as a result of the success of the show. While The Cry had the difficult task of replacing the phenomenally successful Bodyguard in the prime time Sunday night slot on BBC One, it proved to be another must see drama that gripped viewers in the U.K. yet again!

Did you watch The Cry? Did you guess all the twists and turns? Have you read the original novel?

A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born Trailer

Rating: 5/5

With Clint Eastwood previously attached to direct and Beyoncé set to star, the latest adaptation of A Star Is Born has been stuck in development hell for a number of years. After another setback, leading man Bradley Cooper took the helm as director, with Lady Gaga confirmed in the female leading role, and the film finally went into production.

A Star Is Born is a modern update of its previous incarnations and tells the story of waitress and aspiring singer Ally, whose path crosses with country music star Jackson Maine. As Jackson takes her under his wing, the two fall in love and soon Ally’s star is on the rise. But with Ally’s career flourishing and Jackson’s on the wane, his addictions and jealousy threaten to derail their relationship. Can love save them or will Jackson’s destructive behaviour tear them apart?

A Star Is Born is an incredible film that is in turns hilarious, shocking and heartbreaking, mainly due to the raw and immersive performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Cooper is almost unrecognisable as alcoholic Jackson and Lady Gaga is a revelation as rising star Ally. The chemistry between the two is electric and their portrayal of the romance between the unlikely pairing is so convincing and honest. In what are career-defining roles, the authenticity between the pair can be attributed to both stars co-writing much of the soundtrack, with the film clearly a labour of love from all involved. Cooper especially must be commended for his directorial debut and his co-writing of the script, which offers an emotional punch that is sure to leave even the most cynical viewer reeling.

The film offers a sharp and acute insight into the music industry, a world where women are often moulded to a certain image, with the story exploring the conflict of retaining an artist’s integrity over commercial success. The musical element of the story is enhanced by live vocal performances from Cooper and Gaga, who insisted on avoiding lip-synched performances. The film contains fantastic visual set pieces that include performances at festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella, as well as during Lady Gaga’s Joanne tour at The Tour Stop in Los Angeles, California on August 9th 2017.

As well as being a compelling love story, A Star Is Born highlights the tragic effects of addiction and mental health and explores whether love can ever be enough to save someone. It is a heart-breaking story that is painfully real yet also beautiful to watch, due to such incredible performances from Cooper and Gaga.

A Star Is Born is sure to sweep the board during film awards season in the months to come and its success will certainly be justified. The film is garnering glowing reviews and, with a fantastic soundtrack, it’s a strong contender for one of my favourite films this year.

Bodyguard

Bodyguard Trailer

5/5

[Review contains spoilers!]

After a slightly more subdued Episode 5, Bodyguard returned last night with an explosive finale as DS David Budd found himself being set up in the worst possible way. Forced to walk the streets of London in a suicide vest, he did everything he possibly could to prove his innocence in a tense and gripping extended 75 minute episode. The nail biting scenes were an example of British drama at its best and demonstrated just why over 11 million people tuned in live to watch the shocking events unfold. The figure is predicted to rise to over 13 million viewers once catch up viewing has been taken into consideration and the programme is now the most watched show on any British channel since 2011 and the most watched BBC drama since 2008.

With such dramatic moments taking precedent in the final episode, the frenetic pace continued in its aftermath as most of the unanswered questions were resolved by the closing titles. The programme had red herrings galore throughout its six episodes, with the biggest one of all being where David Budd’s loyalty was really placed. The complex character proved to be the true hero of the story as he sought out the real culprits behind Julia Montague’s assassination. Sadly, it appeared that the Home Secretary really was dead after all and the biggest twists were instead revealed to be that the inside man was actually an inside woman in the shape of DS Budd’s boss Chief Superintendent Lorraine Craddock and the seemingly naive Nadia was a jihadi responsible for making all the bombs.

The adrenaline fuelled and heart racing pace of Bodyguard has gripped the nation in the U.K., ever since its incredible 20 minute pre-credits sequence in its first episode. The programme has proved that the water cooler moment and event tv is back with a bang, with Bodyguard theories being the hot topic of conversation up and down the country. With the programme being such an incredible hit, writer Jed Mercurio has hinted that the series will continue. In the meantime, the Bodyguard creator will be working on the fifth series of Line of Duty, which viewers were treated to a glimpse of after the credits of Bodyguard rolled last night. The anticipation is building!

Were you among the many watching the final last night?

The Girl Who Smiled Beads – Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

Rating: 5/5

Genocide – The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.

“The word genocide cannot tell you, cannot make you feel, the way I felt in Rwanda.

“The word genocide cannot articulate the one-person experience – the real experience of each of the millions it purports to describe.

“The word genocide cannot explain the never-ending pain, even if you live.

“The word genocide cannot help the civilians.

“The word genocide is clinical, overly general, bloodless, and dehumanising.”

What is described as the Rwandan genocide began on April 7th 1994 and lasted for 100 days after Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi were killed when their plane was shot down over the country’s capital Kigali on April 6th. An estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during this short period as extremist Hutus slaughtered about 70% of the minority Tutsi population, as well as thousands of Hutu moderates opposed to the killings.

The ethnic tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis can be traced back to the arrival of Belgian colonists in 1916, who issued identity cards to classify people according to their ethnicity, with the Belgians considering the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus. Although the Belgians would eventually concede power and grant Rwanda independence in 1962, the ethnic divide would remain, with the majority Hutus taking the place of the Belgians.

“Colonisation is built on the idea that we are not the same, that we don’t possess equal humanity.”

The mass killings in Rwanda finally ended when the Tutsi-controlled Rwandan Patriotic Front led by Paul Kagame seized control of the country. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has sentenced more than 60 people for their involvement and nearly 2,000,000 people have stood before Rwandan community court. A humanitarian crisis occurred as a result of the war, with an estimated 2,000,000 displaced Rwandans becoming refugees.

“The war had no logic, no direction, no discernible objective, no face. It was everything, everywhere, all at once, and it stood for nothing at all.”

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil is Wamariya’s memoir about surviving the Rwandan genocide and describes how she and her older sister spent six years travelling through seven African countries to find safety, before being granted refugee status in the US. The book captures the horrific effects of war, as well as its traumatic aftermath. Wamariya describes the barbaric behaviour of the extremists and the appalling conditions that people were forced to endure. As starvation and desperation became a way of life, the book highlights how easy it became for children and adults to be manipulated and depraved.

“You had to try to hang on to your name, though nobody cared about your name. You had to try to stay a person. You had to try not to become invisible. If you let go and fell back into the chaos you were gone, just a number in a unit, which also was a number. If you died, no one knew. If you got lost, no one knew. If you gave up and disintegrated inside, no one knew.”

As well as being a painful account of being a refugee, Wamariya is frankly honest about her feelings towards her family, particularly her sister and mother. The book opens with Clemantine and her sister being reunited with their family on The Oprah Winfrey Show and depicts the reality when the fairy tale moment on television is over. She and her family don’t have a happy-ever-after ending and instead her family are flown back to Rwanda just days later. A slow process then begins to get their family back to the US to live as immigrants before the family try to adapt and find a way to integrate into each other’s lives again.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a terrifying and horrific account of one of the greatest war crimes against humanity. It is a book about identity, survival and hope. It is a powerful read with an important message about equality and it is one that I will never forget.

“Survival, true survival of the body and soul, requires creativity, freedom of thought, collaboration…We need each other. We need to say: I honour the things that you respect and I value the things you cherish. I am not better than you. You are not better than me. Nobody is better than anybody else. Nobody is who you think they are at first glance. We need to see beyond the projections we cast onto each other. Each of us is so much grander, more nuanced, and more extraordinary than anybody thinks, including ourselves.”

After being granted asylum in the US, Clemantine went on to receive a BA in Comparative Literature from Yale University and became the youngest ever person to serve on the United States Holocaust Museum’s Memorial Council, appointed by President Barack Obama. Now thirty, she is a member of the Board of Directors at Women for Women International and is an experienced speaker, storyteller and human rights advocate.

How Saints Die – Carmen Marcus

“If you take life from the sea you offer your own life in exchange. She can take you. Any time she wants. She’ll call you to her and you’ll go like it’s home and not struggle.”

How Saints Die tells the story of ten year old Ellie, who lives with her fisherman father on the wild North Yorkshire coast. It is the 1980s, a time that means her mother’s breakdown is only discussed in whispers. As Ellie is guided by her father’s sea-myths, her mother’s memories of home across the water and her own fierce spirit, Ellie begins to learn who she is and what she can become. Soon her innocence has been shed, but at a great cost…

“Books had rescued me long before this moment but this was the first time I’d ever been prescribed one. So it was inevitable really that the way to finally understand that moment – that break where my childhood ended so abruptly – would involve a book.” – Carmen Marcus

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, How Saints Die is a book about mental illness, childhood friendship and the bonds between family. It is a book that resonated deeply with me for personal reasons. While the circumstances were completely different, the parallel of being that age during that time with a single father household was uncanny. I found myself empathising and identifying with Ellie, who was viewed as odd and an outsider, and becomes thrust into a world of adult responsibilities. Feeling so connected with the story and the central character completely elevated the book for me, particularly after reading the personal note from author Carmen Marcus at the end of the book.

“In reality, a child is powerless to change anything; decisions are made without consent, questions are met with silence and yet none of this insulates the child from the trauma. As with my own childhood, and now as a writer, it’s imagination that saves and compensates for Ellie’s inability to understand or control the adult world. In the real world, Ellie is suffocated by diagnostic labels like ‘damaged’ or ‘at risk’ and trapped by the official story recommending ‘intervention’. Imagination is Ellie’s only form of resistance and so I’ve made a world out-of-bounds where she can run with her own story.” – Carmen Marcus

I was recently part of a book tour for How Saints Die and I’m so grateful to Vintage Books for including me in the tour, as it’s a book that I may never have gotten to read otherwise. It’s a book that has lingered on my mind and will continue to stay with me. Carmen Marcus has a beautiful style of writing and really captures the character of Ellie in such a way that is both heart wrenching and immersive. The book has an ethereal magical element within the story and is evocative of classic fairy tales. It is a fantastic debut from Carmen Marcus and a unique book that tackles difficult topics, as well as being a compelling and haunting story.

Have you ever connected with a book, character or film in such a personal way?

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 – Episode 1: June

 

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Trailer

Rating: 5/5

“Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum”

In a world where fertility is rapidly declining, Offred is offered only one option by the new Republic of Gilead: to breed. If she refuses, the consequences are death or a sentencing to the radioactive Colonies. Serving as a handmaid for her Commander and his wife, her main function is to provide the childless couple with a baby. Soon, Offred is complicit in illicit meetings engineered by the Commander, while harbouring a mutual desire for one of his Guardians, who may be an Eye or a source of salvation. With such a precarious position, the value of her life is always a distant threat…

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel was published in 1985 and is a terrifying concept that is not all that unbelievable. Having studied the novel as part of a Margaret Atwood module at university, I have to admit that originally I couldn’t quite grasp the concepts of her books and so my enjoyment and understanding of her stories were limited. However, after rereading The Handmaid’s Tale, I am happy to say that I completely loved it! Perhaps as we grow older, we also grow as readers. Do you agree?

My reread of The Handmaid’s Tale was in anticipation of seeing Margaret Atwood at the Hay Festival at the end of the month and also the return of the second series of the book’s tv adaptation on Channel 4 on Sunday night. What a return it was! Season 2 opened with a harrowing sequence, played out with added poignancy to Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work and moved me to tears before the opening credits had even aired. The sheer brutality continued throughout the episode and, for me, makes quite a statement on the horrifying attacks that continue to occur against women all over the world. Sometimes extreme scenes are necessary as a wake up call to make people sit up and take notice or shock people into taking positive action. The violence and degradation depicted towards the handmaids  made me think about so many events going on in the world, such as the barbaric act of female genital mutilation, which has previously been depicted in Season 1.

In this dystopian world where women are merely seen as vessels and need their husband’s signature to acquire contraception, the timing of the show’s return feels eerie with the referendum in Ireland taking place this week. Other scenes in the show highlighted the difficulties and judgements that working mothers face, a challenge that men are never expected to experience.

Season 2 is now working from new source material, with Atwood acting as a consultant on the show. This new and unknown direction will allow for even more scope and development of secondary characters and has the ability to highlight even more topical issues. With women’s rights remaining at the forefront of so many causes and campaigns, Season 2 is proving to be as compelling and relevant as ever.

Did you watch the return of The Handmaid’s Tale on Sunday night? If so, what did you think?