In its third episode, State of Affairs mostly put the conspiracy stuff on the backburner in favor of a more straightforward case of the week—and took a giant step backward in terms of quality. Everyone—with the exception of Nestor Carbonell as the new and easily offended CIA director—seemed stiffer and more uncomfortable in their roles, and the dialogue was in some places laughably clichéd. The most interesting parts were the flashback to the first time Charlie met Nick, and that little girl in Nigeria who is basically a freaking superhero.
Yes, the show’s A-plot is ripped straight from the headlines, involving a busful of Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, Charlie’s determination to rescue them even if it means using her personal connection with POTUS to influence her decision-making, Chinese oil interests, and a private security force with the eye-rolly name Controlled Outcomes. Let’s recap.
Maureen. Props to Sheila Vand for making Mo feel like a genuine person with more to her than meets the eye. I also enjoyed her mock astonishment at Charlie not being hungover at work.
Raymond Navaro. Where Acting Director Skinner yelled, Navaro gets quiet and scary—and with Charlie already rubbing him the wrong way, it hints at some interesting future conflicts (provided Charlie isn’t always in such good favor with POTUS).
The flashback. Okay, “Today I terrorize you” might have been the dumbest line of the episode—but the scene explained a bit of the truly odd dynamic between Charlie and Nick and gave us a look at a younger Charlie, less experienced, less cocky, but obviously smart and intuitive. More of that Charlie, please.
Fort C.F. Smith Park. Finally, someone has a covert meeting somewhere other than one of the monuments on the Mall! I salute the show for that small touch of realism.
This one line: “How do you say, ‘Sanctions aren’t working’ in Russian?” “Crimea.” I forced my boyfriend to watch this episode with me, and during the whole hour this was the only line that prompted a genuine laugh.
POTUS and the First Husband. The scene where Constance confronts her husband about investigating the convoy where Aaron was killed was totally bizarre, from the clothing choices to the way it was filmed. She’s wearing what looked a bit like a maternity shirt, and he chastises her like a parent; even the camera angle made it seem like he was looming over her as she cowered.
Charlie’s bartending skills. Maybe she does “put the ‘fun’ in functional,” but pouring three-fourths of a glass of straight bourbon, sans ice? Even Don Draper doesn’t stoop that low.
The hot barista. Between his other job at “the Cave Club” and his flirting skills (writing MILF on Charlie’s cup), this guy seemed to come from an alternate universe in which Washington is actually Entourage’s version of LA.
The Boko Haram captors. I truly do not mean to be offensive here, but when the runaway girl gets recaptured, her captor sounds like he’s speaking Doge: “Such fight, so strong.” Really takes you out of the drama of the moment.
David. POTUS doesn’t seem to have much trust in her chief of staff, first sending him out of the room to hear Charlie’s brief and then forcing him to hang back while she talks to the Chinese President. Why hire David Harbour if you’re not going to give him anything to do?
Nick and the gun. I thought for a minute at the end that Charlie and Nick would end up in bed together (and from the looks of next week’s preview, it wouldn’t be the first time). Instead he goes back to what looks like a hotel room and pulls a T-shirt-wrapped gun out of a drawer. What does it all mean, Basil?
The concept. This show unfortunately continues to feel like a collage of elements we’ve already seen in various other Washington series. The characters by and large still feel like types rather than actual people, and the action isn’t thrilling enough to distract from it. Heigl’s endless supply of leather jackets aside, SoA needs to find something to distinguish itself from the pack, and soon.
Next week: The team deals with a smallpox outbreak, and Charlie and Nick maybe make out. In the meantime, sound off in the comments about what you liked—or disliked—about last night’s State of Affairs.