TV Picks: The Honorable Woman, The Killing, Masters of Sex

Maggie Gyllenhaal illuminates Sundance's 'The Honorable Woman'

 "The Honorable Woman" Exploring the seemingly endless conflict between Israel and Palestine at a time when the bloodshed there is again in the news, Hugo Blick's series both embraces and transcends its subject matter.

The child of a Holocaust survivor turned pro-Israeli arms manufacturer, Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is attempting to steer her father's company in a different, more peace-seeking direction. Needless to say this causes tension on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the issue, as well as revealing all manner of MI5/CIA political intrigue. And Nessa, though honorable to the point of obsessive, is not without her secrets.

In addition to being a politically provocative thriller, and a showcase for the brilliant Gyllenhaal, "The Honorable Woman" is a splendid example of the brave new world of television. All of the marvels of the genre’s Age of Exploration are at work here: The film star and flawless international cast, the eight-episode, international co-production (Sundance and the BBC), the high-production location shots and gorgeous cinematography, the slow-reveal pace and political aspirations. They combine to make the series a thing of beauty that would not have existed 10, or even five years ago. Sundance, Thursdays, 10 p.m.

"The Killing" When last seen, Det. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), the heroine of Veena Sud's divisive revamp of a Danish crime drama, had discovered that her fellow police officer/lover was really a serial killer; as he knelt before her, she shot him.

If you want to know what happened next, Netflix offers six "final" episodes that move at full gallop to achieve the closure now demanded by binge and real-time viewers alike. The Seattle skies are still weeping, children are still imperiled, the acting remains fine, and includes a guest turn by Joan Allen, but given the slowly measured pace of previous seasons, the narrative is clearly hustled along.

And no matter what happens to Linden, it cannot be more dramatic than the lifespan of this show, which went from critical darling to banished black sheep when the first season finale failed to deliver the answers many expected. Though it went on to a second season, "The Killing" never recovered its footing; it was canceled after season two, then revived for a third season, only to be canceled again. So how final these final six installments will be remains to be seen. Netflix, anytime.

"Masters of Sex" Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) finally gained some humanity last Sunday when he revealed an abusive childhood to Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) in an episode in which the two, meeting in a hotel room for a tryst/research, wove in and out of reality.

Still, as much as the two share with one another, and as objective as they may be about the various things they experience and witness, neither seems capable of engaging in a truly honest relationship. Is it pure soap dressed up in historical integrity? Yes it is, but the dance the two characters have done for a season and a half is a mesmerizing, and recognizable, one. Repression comes in many guises, caused by many forces. Masters and Johnson, and this show, may use sex as the crowbar, but the door they are forcing open reveals a larger, louder and brighter world, in which people are allowed to be who they actually are. Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m.

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