Oh boy, was I ever disappointed in this show. The Honourable Woman looked like it would’ve been an intelligent, thought-provoking series, but instead it was an illogical, pretentious, slow-moving drag. It’s rather awful and I wondered why the CBC even bothered to pick it up. Reruns of the fifth estate or The Nature of Things would likely be more interesting than this BBC Two summer series.
Actually, I’m not even sure the CBC wants you to watch The Honourable Woman. I couldn’t find it available in the CBC app and I couldn’t get it to play on their website. I managed to get a copy via SundanceTV in the US, the American broadcaster of the series. They made the first episode available for free on the American iTunes store and managed to misspell the title as “The Honorable Woman.” I’ll never understand how the Americans are always randomly leaving the letter “u” out of words. I did find the program later on Rogers Anyplace TV’s app though.
When it comes to the show however, The Honourable Woman acts as if it wants to put you to sleep right from the first scene. That scene in particular is just a shot out of a door looking out at roofs with satellite dishes. In retrospect, I should’ve known from then that this was going to be a painful hour of TV.
After that brief scene, it moves to a kitchen while the main character, Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal), does a monologue in the form of a voiceover on who you know you can trust. That’s because it was building up to (Spoiler Alert!) her dad being killed right before her eyes as a kid. The problem with this scene, however, is that it made absolutely no sense.
Her father was murdered by a waiter who took the time to serve her and her brother with what appears to be a muffin, even shooing away her brother’s hand from the muffin basket. I guess if you’re going to commit murder, you wouldn’t want some dirty kid’s hands all over your muffins. I mean, what are you going to eat in jail? Well at least, you better hope you’re going to jail because there’s no way you’re going to get away with murder if you mixed and mingled with the kids and proceeded to murder their father in front of them. Perhaps he thought the kids were just slow, viewers might think that especially considering they didn’t scream or do anything at all while their father was being murdered. Not that it would really matter because if the kids didn’t see him do it, the over two dozen other people in the room would’ve likely seen it as well.
Then there was the silly choice of a murder weapon: A pair of tongs right to the neck (not a pair of thongs, he’s not Sisqo, although that would have made things far more interesting). Wouldn’t a knife be more effective though? You were just in a kitchen, I’m sure you could’ve smuggled one on yourself, hell, since you’re a waiter, you may have been even able to get away with walking around with one in plain sight.
To make things even worse, after the deed was done, the waiter just dropped the tongs and stood there, not making a run for it, not jumping out the window, just standing there. Despite obviously not being a threat you hear a gunshot and he’s gone, implying that he was shot, perhaps fatally. How did they know it was him who committed the murder unless they watched him do the entire thing? If that’s the case, what took them so long to react? Also, how are they going to explain shooting a guy with his hands up who no longer seemed to be a threat, especially considering all the witnesses…oh wait, we’ve seen this play out before.
So, it’s that level of idiocy you have to deal with stretched across an hour. Nessa chose, for whatever stupid, reason to hold a meeting to make a special announcement 30 years later in the same dining room where her father was killed. If it wasn’t foolish enough that it was held in the same room, the room almost looked identical even though 30 years passed.
She mentioned that her father’s company, which it appears she inherited, produced and distributed weapons, but now she was giving out a telecommunications contract for the Middle East for whatever reason. Then when someone who she associated with in the past didn’t get the contract, he was pissed, and in quite possibly the least dignified way, decided to cuss her off in private.
Oh, and don’t get me started on that gaudy animal print dress. I’m not one to pay much attention to what characters are wearing, but this was probably one of the first instances where I actually found a character’s clothes distracting. Poor Joan Rivers must be turning in her grave.
Despite what I described above, there doesn’t feel like there’s a lot to The Honourable Woman at times. There’s plenty of times when the show just dragged along with entire sequences with no dialogue, simply music and you had to wonder if they were doing that just for the sake of taking up time.
The Honourable Woman is a show clearly aimed at the older crowd despite the unnecessary profanity, which I wonder if the CBC removed for broadcast, and the fact they randomly used Radiohead for one of those meaningless dialogue-free scenes.
The show takes one of the things old people (well at least my parents and the people who watch a lot of cable news) are interested in, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and tries to go in a bit of a different direction with it. That’s great, but The Honourable Woman often looks as if it could’ve been made any time within the past 40 years with its corded telephones, classical music and people playing chess. Laptops and smartphones exist, but you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for them.
Sadly, it took nearly the full hour to actually feel as if it was going somewhere. Just after Nessa opened a classical music show, the lights went out and one of the show’s useless kids was kidnapped. Much like a lot of the other parts of the episode, this section at the end was filled with idiocy.
It was complete chaos when the lights went out and only one person thought to use their smartphone as a flashlight. While the kid was being kidnapped, he didn’t scream or shout, despite that the guy alongside him was running and if he went any faster he might be literally dragging the kid on the concrete. The kids on this show are almost written as if they’re pets and sometimes seem as stupid as cattle.
Nessa somehow catches up with him even though she took the time to take off her shoes to run barefoot across the city (because if that wasn’t enough to slow you down, the broken glass and rusted nails on the street going right into your feet are). Then when Nessa confronts the kidnapper, he takes so long to shoot her that someone following Nessa (I could only assume) shot him, then the guy that shot him gets shot and the kid gets taken up by two people on a motorcycle while she runs toward it looking agonized. I’m sorry, there isn’t enough time in my life to give a damn about something so aggravatingly sloppy and idiotic.
While the acting is a high point in the show, the amount of nonsense in the debut episodes defeats all of that. If we said this was an MTV series, replaced Maggie Gyllenhaal with let’s say Miley Cyrus and all the scenes with instrumental/ classical music with vapid top-40 and twerking, it would be easier to call The Honourable Woman out on its bullshit.
Unfortunately, many of the critics fell hook, line and sinker for the show’s pretentious nonsense. Take a peek over at The Honourable Woman’s Wikipedia page to see what they thought—it was almost as if they were watching another series. However, to be fair, I sampled the show’s first episode some of those reviews were for the finale, still you have to wonder how the series could turn around that dramatically after such of a lacklustre debut.
Episode Reviewed: The Empty Chair
The Honourable Woman airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the CBC