of Affairs. QED.
Oh, oh, oh State of Affairs you were doing so well walking that tightrope between dumbing it down and trusting your audience to follow and/or not care about the breakneck pace. And then, right before the second commercial break, for the second time in as many scenes, Katherine Heigl is forced to speak a line that clearly, obviously, blatantly is for the audience since the other person in the room with Charlie would not possibly under any any any circumstances need those words uttered to them to inform them of anything.
Breathe, Mooch, breathe. State of Affairs is still gleefully skipping along with a Cliff’s Notes version of Tom Clancy’s oveur-level understanding of intelligence. This was a solid second episode, nearly identical to the pilot in its ups and downs. I’m hoping this means State of Affairs will work out the kinks and build on its strengths, but worst case scenario? This is as good as it gets.
For every well delivered sequence – POTUS and her Chief of Staff incisively and meaningfully discussing the broader picture; the banter amongst the PDB team in the moments before plans are put into action) there’s a sequence that’s best described as ‘someone’s still figuring it out’. And by ‘it’ I mean what they’re doing with middling lines or clunky exposition. I’m going to pick a small, medium, and large example from episode two:1
Small: Alfre Woodard’s supposed-to-be-deadpan “Are you suggesting the Russian government… lies?” fell quite flat. Woodard hasn’t had a ton of screen time; I’m waiting for her to define the style of her presidency. And while we’re here – I get that Katherine Heigl is significantly taller than Woodard, but the show needs to find a way to not make Woodard seem small. It really undermines her, and there’s no room for that in this show’s pacing.2
Medium: Other Female Analyst (I don’t know anyone’s name on this show aside from Charlie) needs to learn how to pedeconference, but moreover the show needs to find a way to have her not sound like a gossipy sorority sister when talking more personal topics with Charlie. This week’s sequence was just on the wrong side of the line; a disappointment given the relative depth the pair showed when talking similar topics in the pilot.
Large: Sigh. The episode’s emotional climax – Charlie talking a long-time mole into committing suicide to protect vital intelligence – turned out okay in that it managed to skip past many opportunities to go maudlin. And Heigl picked up steam as the scene unfolded – but the transition into Heart of the Episode territory was sudden and started off stumbly. Heigl looked exposed, and not in an Emmy-clip dramatic way. I saw what the show was going for, but it didn’t execute.
With its arcs and characters and intrigue, State of Affairs should be a tightly-scripted movie, every episode, all episode; right now there’s too much TV poking through. Where State of Affairs shines brightest is in depictions of competency. Al the characters are damn good at what they do, be it spying, analyzing, politicking, or backstabbing. So far, they still aren’t damn good at showing emotions in a way that doesn’t drive things to a near halt. But with 75% breakneck competency3 I’m still happy.
This Week’s AwesomeFactor: “I couldn’t find out anything. [sic]” says James Remar, on trying to trace a mysterious phone call. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that,” balks Charlie. “That’s because I never have,” he replies, with barely a moment between lines.
Level of Ridiculousness Meter: Roughly equivalent to NCIS:LA. When someone sitting in an ultra secure room at the CIA massively breaches protocol, then turns to all the other people with top secret clearance in the room and says “Let it go this time guys.” AND THEY DO… yeah.
- All three happen to center on female actors; all three actresses strike me as quite capable. I think the issue here is mostly one of scope – there wasn’t a US-based scene this episode without at least one woman involved. ↵
- Compare and contrast how The West Wing kept people in positions of authority looking as such. ↵
- Name of my next band. ↵