Scout Tafoya, author at Cult of Mac

Things get a little too convenient this week on Tehran [Apple TV+ recap]

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Tehran recap, ★★☆☆☆
Milad (played by Shervin Alenabi) and Tamar (Niv Sultan) wind up in uncomfortable situations this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ show Tehran puts its second-season plot in motion this week, but the Israeli espionage drama keeps making bizarre missteps in its pursuit of pulse-pounding thrills, twists and turns.

Manjar steps into Farraz’s home in the perfect disguise, Tamar tries out her new character, Milad almost screws everything up for all of them.

Everybody’s tense and everybody’s guilty, as usual. And Tehran continues to benefit from good performances, tight editing and solid music and sound design, which keep every nail-biting scene running efficiently. But is that enough to save the show from an increasingly blinkered perspective?

Shining Girls gets tangled up in time travel [Apple TV+ recap]

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Shining Girls recap: Things get weird when you start messing around with time travel.★★☆☆
Things get weird when you start messing around with time travel.
Photo: Apple TV+

Popular new Apple TV+ series Shining Girls keeps finding new clues to the identity of its time-traveling menace Harper. Meanwhile, Kirby and her reporter co-worker Dan get closer to breakthroughs — and further from normalcy — at every turn.

Kirby must ensure she doesn’t alienate everyone in her life just when she needs them most, even as she tightens the noose around Harper. Dan just needs to make sure Kirby doesn’t come across as an unreliable witness.

Run away from Greatness Code season 2 as fast as possible [Apple TV+ review]

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Greatness Code review: Scout Bassett is an amazing athlete, but this series fails to inspire.☆☆☆☆
Scout Bassett is an amazing athlete, but this series fails to inspire.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s most shameless cash grab is back for a truly unearned victory lap. Gotham Chopra and Co. have crafted the thoroughly un-asked-for second season of Greatness Code, the only show on TV about how great and talented athletes are.

Oh, what’s that? There are 10 million other shows about the same thing, and they’re all more involved than 10-minute interviews with competently animated interstitials and some vague notion of what makes an athlete “great”?

Well shut my mouth. Guess there’s no reason to watch this one, is there?

It’s science vs. religion in new folk horror series The Essex Serpent [Apple TV+ recap]

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Tom Hiddleston in The Essex Serpent★★★★☆
Tom Hiddleston plays a holy man with a lot on his mind in the new Apple TV+ period drama.
Photo: Apple TV+

The Essex Serpent is Apple TV+’s first foray into folk horror and a welcome return to BBC-style costume dramas. Based on the book by Sarah Perry, and starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, this series holds a lot of promise in its deviously clever premise.

Shepherded by writer Anna Symon (Dark Matters: Twisted But True, Deep Water) and director Clio Barnard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant), the series’ excellent production design and game cast make The Essex Serpent appointment television. You can watch the first two episodes Friday on Apple TV+.

A gruesome discovery connects Shining Girls’ victims [Apple TV+ recap]

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Shining Girls recap: The search for a really bad guy continues.
Shining Girls recap: Kirby's search for a really bad guy continues.
Photo: Apple TV+

In this week’s intense installment of Shining Girls, Kirby finds the clue to her killer’s identity and Dan dries out long enough to have an epiphany of his own. The only question is, can they stop Harper before he kills again, or fundamentally alters their reality?

The new time-traveling murder mystery on Apple TV+ finally finds it footing in an investigation-heavy fourth installment.

Tehran takes the action, and the politics, up a notch [Apple TV+ recap]

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Tehran recap: Glenn Close joins the cast for another season of subterfuge.
Glenn Close joins the Tehran cast for a second season of subterfuge.
Photo: Apple TV+

When Apple TV+ spy thriller Tehran returns Friday, the show picks up right where it left off after its taut first season. Mossad agent/hacker Tamar’s crimes catch up with her as she waits for extraction from Iran. And humbled Revolutionary Guards chief Faraz is still seething over his seeming defeat by Mossad, with the eyes of the Iranian government on him.

The spy-on-spy action remains good, but Tehran is playing a dangerous game in dramatizing the Iranian government as the greater of two evils. I’m hoping there’s a little more lip service paid to the idea that, though Iran is the villain on this show, Israel is the aggressor. It’s something the show forgets when convenient.

The Big Conn falls for the modern documentary scam [Apple TV+ review]

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The Big Conn review: Intrepid journalist Damian Paletta uncovered a gigantic Social Security scam.
Intrepid journalist Damian Paletta uncovered a gigantic Social Security scam.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s latest documentary series The Big Conn is a too-earnest, too-cute look at the biggest scandal to ever hit the Social Security Administration.

The story is fascinating and filled with interesting people. But the approach taken represents the very worst tendencies of modern nonfiction. That includes its four-episode run time, which could easily have been tightened to a single movie.

Ultimately, there’s something a little crass about making a documentary about fraud that jukes every scene until it’s two minutes too long, just to make sure it meets a series order.

Slow Horses finishes strong and we can’t wait for next season [Apple TV+ recap]

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Slow Horses season finale recap: The Slow Horses race to track down kidnappers in a rip-roaring season finale.
The Slow Horses race to track down kidnappers in a rip-roaring season finale.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ spy thriller/comedy Slow Horses crosses the finish line of its fine first season this week. The show horses chases down its kidnapping rogues as Lamb gains the upper hand, and Taverner gets desperate. The last-minute rescue operation comes down to blind luck, determination, and no small amount of heroic stupidity.

The show’s efficient plotting and knee-deep characterizations pay off in a desperate last act that uses every agonizing second to its advantage. The show makes a strong case for its next season — and for its own place in the roster of the best Apple TV+ shows yet.

Pachinko’s captivating finale sets us up for season 2 [Apple TV+ recap]

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Pachinko season one finale recap: It's an epic ending to an epic season.
It's an epic ending to an epic season.
Photo: Apple TV+

In the season one finale of Pachinko, we see the beginnings of some life journeys and the end of others. Birth, rebirth, death, imprisonment and hope all mingle freely in Friday’s very captivating episode of this incredible show about four generations of Korean immigrants.

Series creator Soo Hugh and her creative team spin one last yarn worthy of this excellent first season. Apple TV+ just renewed Pachinko for a second season, so we’ll see what happens to these characters. But even if we didn’t, we’d have a very, very excellent saga to look back upon.

Surfing docuseries Make or Break should focus on the waves [Apple TV+ review]

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Make or Break review Apple TV+ docuseries takes you inside the world of pro surfing.
The new docuseries takes you inside the world of pro surfing.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s new surfing docuseries Make or Break charts the fortunes of nearly 50 competitors as they vie for the title at the World Championship of Surfing.

You get to know the underdogs and the favorites alike in this no-holds-barred look at the dangers and excitement of a sport that doesn’t always receive the prestige treatment. This snappily edited, seven-episode docuseries will show you the ins and outs of pro surfing as the competitors hunger for the title.

It’s hardly must-see TV, but it’s diverting enough.