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thewhiteowl

S01.E21: The Kill List

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As Elizabeth prepares for the arrival of Iranian President Shiraz to sign a nuclear treaty, she uncovers a top secret plot to assassinate him on United States soil. At the same time, she must deal with a massive protest by the Human Rights Campaign in response to Iran’s plans to stone a gay citizen to death. Also, Elizabeth sees a therapist (Marsha Mason) to deal with her PTSD.

 

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Such a painful episode to watch. I figured they weren't going to be able to save that Iranian citizen, but I kept hoping they might pull it off, especially when Jay got so involved. It brings me to tears, the very thought that anyone out there, any country's government, would be okay with doing such a thing. It upsets me and pisses me off. I hate watching episodes like this because I know these things happen and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

 

And I understand Elizabeth's argument, I do, but I'm with Jay -- at what point do we not even notice the line anymore? And why do business with them at all? I get all the arguments, so I know it's a futile question to even ask, but I just wish things were different. This is one of the times when I get so frustrated with the world at large, and I find myself thinking that politics (not government, politics) and religion and all the agencies that condone this kind of hate-filled viciousness do more harm than good. I just don't understand people who are okay with stoning another human being. I'm at a total loss.

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Well, that treaty is going to have a tough time in the Senate.  Actually, I thought the episode did a pretty fair job of showing the tradeoffs sometimes made at the highest levels. 

 

I was waiting for that woman to trigger a suicide bomb as the FBI was walking up on her.  Fortunately, I was wrong.

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I know these type of choices happen all the time, but i can't imagine an idealogy (or such strong belief in saving the "republic") that I would choose over my kids. As in, as soon as Juliet (Julia?) agreed to this path, she had to know she was giving them up for good either because she'd be exiled/on the run, or in jail.

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A lesser show would have found a last minute miracle to save the gay Iranian guy. And a lesser show might have portrayed Juliet as a misguided soul who got bamboozled by a charming mastermind. But this episode did neither. Juliet is somebody who participated in the assassination of a sitting Secretary of State and attempted to overthrow the Iranian government. That makes her a fanatic and an extremist, even if she is on the side of right (which I wouldn't argue that she is). The word "treason" gets thrown around in our political discourse too much, but Juliet would be an actual traitor who deserves to be on the kill list.

 

As for the treaty, I think the episode did an excellent job showing the tradeoffs we have to make. For me, it wouldn't even be a close call. A gay man is dying horribly, and he will not be the last. But I believe nuclear non-proliferation is an absolute good that is worth almost anything (as long as the nuclear deal is actually enforceable). And the US cannot meddle in another country's internal affairs any more than Iran could try to influence our investigation of Freddie Grey's death. It's just not the place, as horrible as the poor man's stoning is.

 

That said, I hope the show continues to portray Iran in a nuanced and complex way. Yes, their treatment of homosexuals is horrible, but that doesn't necessarily reflect much on the people who have a limited say in their government at the end of the day. I'd hate for Iran in this show to turn into a bunch of backwards savages because that's not what they are.

 

Finally, I was kind of surprised to see Human Rights Campaign featuring prominently in this episode given that they are a real organization. Shows usually fictionalize the names of activist groups like that. It was good to see BD Wong, too.

Edited by Xantar
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Delurking to say - I love how the writers show the world how it really is.  Nothing is truly black or white, but shades of gray.  

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A lesser show would have found a last minute miracle to save the gay Iranian guy. And a lesser show might have portrayed Juliet as a misguided soul who got bamboozled by a charming mastermind. But this episode did neither.

 

As painful as this episode was to watch, I think that's what impressed me most, that they were unflinching in their presentation of all sides of the arguments and story.

 

I only wish the sorts of people who make the choice to stone a person to death were actually watching this kind of show and would be emotionally affected by its clear presentation of how truly awful and wrong that kind of treatment is. Because otherwise the writers are pretty much preaching to the choir, so to speak.

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Great episode. Agree with above posters comments.

I am really enjoying this show . . . Which probably means the network will cancel it in the near future. . .

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This episode was so hard to watch at times. But I appreciate the show's ability to make hard argument seem real and earned. Ethics clash with politics and sometimes it's a zero sum game you just can't escape because there's actually no clear solution.

 

I liked that Jay and Elizabeth both were driving forces of the episode. And the nice telling detail: Russel made the argument against putting Juliette on the kill list but was supporting the POTUS 100% when Elizabeth said the same. He was "a good soldier". And Elizabeth did the same thing with Jay about that poor gay man: she knows Jay's opinion has merit but there's party line she cannot cross and that there's some form of greater good that outweighs individual lives. I liked like Elizabeth's revelation that she's "a good soldier" too, and the fact that she starts to resent it.

 

Great use of recurring and new female characters, as usual.

 

I am really enjoying this show . . . Which probably means the network will cancel it in the near future. . .

 

Fear not! it had been renewed for season 2 already!

Edited by CooperTV
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My one gripe would be that I thought whoever wrote the Jay scene with the gross details about stoning by death must've just come off of a Scandal binge-a-thon.  That was some Scandal-esque speechifying.  

 

Loved seeing Hill Harper, a favorite of mine from the now-canceled Covert Affairs.  

Edited by 33kaitykaity

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My one gripe would be that I thought whoever wrote the Jay scene with the gross details about stoning by death must've just come off of a Scandal binge-a-thon.  That was some Scandal-esque speechifying.

 

They used to do that on The West Wing sometimes, too. I don't think it's anything particularly unique. But it does serve a purpose to drive home the brutality of such a behavior. It's not just a concept or something someone far away does to someone else, not after hearing such details.

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They used to do that on The West Wing sometimes, too. I don't think it's anything particularly unique. But it does serve a purpose to drive home the brutality of such a behavior. It's not just a concept or something someone far away does to someone else, not after hearing such details.

Oh, they had me at hello on the merits, sure.  But then again, I thought Elizabeth's parry about the 13-year-old girls being stoned, if she's old enough to marry, she's old enough to stone, said in that sort of arch tone of like oh, yeah, you care now.  Where the eff have you been? was almost more effective at chopping Jay's knees out from under him.  I just thought it was too screechy.  It's probably me on Scandal overload and I'm projecting.  

Edited by 33kaitykaity

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Yeah, I've never seen Scandal so I have no idea what that one is like, but I can certainly understand show "overload." LOL. 

 

I thought Elizabeth made a very good argument (like you said, essentially "girls have been tortured in this way for a while, what took you so long to get on board with doing more?"), but yeah, in the moment I thought she came off more harsh than effective, especially because even though her argument pointed out the many people being subjected to such cruelty, her decision still stood - there was nothing she could do about it. So I just felt defeated, probably not unlike Jay in the moment.

 

Part of me hoped that Elizabeth would take a non-verbal stand at the signing, by taking a step backward instead of stepping up when they all moved to sign the treaty (especially because they had made such a big deal out of the procedure Elizabeth was supposed to follow in the ceremony), but I knew it probably would cause more harm than good so I understood why she didn't do it. And she did passive-aggressively but very pointedly make comments to them in private right before the signing, which was pretty bold given that they hadn't signed anything yet.

 

I suppose I just have to take very small comfort in Jay's presence at the rally instead. It's not much, but it's something.

Edited by sinkwriter
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Yeah, it was a show that made me think, had a lot of meat to it, shades of gray as people have been saying.  I love it when there's an episode of one of my shows that I can watch again and again and again.  This was one of those except for my one gripe.  

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Excellent episode, did some really hard work. (And MY quibble is that HRC doesn't have the guts to pull off a protest like that...they are perceived as mostly A-gays who lobby and attend galas).

 

Also: Marsha Mason! Always good to see her. 

 

Bess is a tough, tough lady (tears & shrink notwithstanding). She was in a dirty business for a long time, and the President knew he could count on her.

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I only wish the sorts of people who make the choice to stone a person to death were actually watching this kind of show and would be emotionally affected by its clear presentation of how truly awful and wrong that kind of treatment is. Because otherwise the writers are pretty much preaching to the choir, so to speak.

 

Regretfully, I doubt the people in question would be swayed from their stance one iota, by the arguments and sentiments presented in this show.  You can be sure that they have a political, religious, or moral axe to grind, and are just fine with someone suffering horribly to help make their point -- so long as that someone isn't them.

 

A martyr is willing to die for their beliefs.  A fanatic is  willing to let someone else die for their beliefs.

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A lesser show would have found a last minute miracle to save the gay Iranian guy. And a lesser show might have portrayed Juliet as a misguided soul who got bamboozled by a charming mastermind. But this episode did neither.

I agree. As much as I wanted the guy to be saved, it was more realistic that he wasn't. I loved Elizabeth's comment at the end about not wanting to interrogate Juliet because Juliet might give her reasons that the treaty is a farce. I find myself comparing this episode to the Scandal episode from a few week can'ts go when the Veep and Fitz tried to fix a bill. In addition to all the practical issues with that episode (ever heard of separation of powers, Shonda Rhimes?), it was just so predictable and superficial. This is TV show--Scandal is a series of video clips.

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I am really enjoying this show . . . Which probably means the network will cancel it in the near future. . .

 

Are you a show killer too?  Sometimes if I hear a show is really good, I hold off watching it until it really catches on so I won't jinx it...

And thank you kwnyc for identifying Marsha Mason as the psychologist, it was killing me that I couldn't think of who that was.

 

Great show, very complex issues handled interestingly, and I like that the writers don't always taking the easy way out.  This shit is hard, it should look hard.

 

Superficial observation:  When the show opens with Bess sitting in the psychologist's office, and behind her you can see the open spiral staircase going up and down, all I can think of was "what a terrible space to have high level politicos discuss their deep seated fears and insecurities while dealing with their PTSD issues--all that open access right behind them must feed right into their paranoia!"  Then later on, the psychologist says something like "Go ahead...this is a safe space." and all I could think was "<snort> Shows what you know!  No, it's not."  Jeebers, if I sat there, my shoulderblades would be constantly crawling.

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While this may have been a "good" episode, it was also kind of a downer for a show that tries to include a fair amount of light stuff.

I did appreciate at the end that Bess said she expected to be drawn into the viewpoint shared by Julliet while interrogating her.

Russell burying his true feelings about the stoning of the gay Iranian and then Jay unburying his feelings to take a stand at the rally further emphasized the theme of the episode, which I guess was sort of: The bitter ends will not justify the means.

It was good to see B.D. Wong in a role perfect for him that flowed easily into the story rather than being shoehorned in as a PSA, which might have happened on SVU or another show.

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Superficial observation:  When the show opens with Bess sitting in the psychologist's office, and behind her you can see the open spiral staircase going up and down, all I can think of was "what a terrible space to have high level politicos discuss their deep seated fears and insecurities while dealing with their PTSD issues--all that open access right behind them must feed right into their paranoia!"  Then later on, the psychologist says something like "Go ahead...this is a safe space." and all I could think was "<snort> Shows what you know!  No, it's not."  Jeebers, if I sat there, my shoulderblades would be constantly crawling.

 

Was wondering for a moment as well, despite that I prefer even this kind of open space, having more of a problem with closed rooms and feeling cornered. Still with such stairs in the back would have a hard time stopping to think, that someone could be down there and listen in quite easily. But I am someone masking my computers built-in webcams or disconnect the extra ones, just in case.

 

Wondering though just for a moment, because Tea Leoni's acting took me all in then. What an intense moment with her slight deflection asking about Russell, couldn't help but grin for a second, but then it was even more heartbreaking to see Bess cry over the betrayal and loss.

 

Tough to watch this episode. I think they did a good job with letting Jay give a graphic picture of what stoning means, considering that showing it would have been hardly an option, while at the same time it was needed IMO to give an impression of the suffering - to contrast even more the talks about "optics". They were asked about it at the Paley Fest panel on Monday eve, and Barbara Hall said, they had some discussion about it, they decided confronted people this way with the brutal image, to show the world as it is.

 

But maybe a good thing I'm not watching Scandal (Shonda Rhimes' shows are just not my cup of tea), so couldn't be distracted with comparing that scene with whatever they're doing on that show. 

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Caught last Saturday's re-run - when Bess and Conrad walk into the room to greet for Iranian President and foreign Minister, Bess waits before entering. I always assumed that it's because she's giving Conrad a moment but this Saturday it occured to me that there's no real reason for her to wait that long and that she might be waiting so long because she needs to collect herself before facing the Iranian.

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