THIS WEEK THE LOSER REVIEWS: THE HONOURABLE WOMAN

Am I the one with the problem? I am often the one with the problem. Often I am the problem. I have tried to follow the storyline of The Honourable Woman. (The Honourable Woman is a BBC mini-series that, initially, I found fairly intriguing for its diffuse characterizations as well as its expository restraint.) Through seven episodes I have tried. Now, with one to go, I am throwing in the towel. Or, to grab a more appropriate cliché, have lost the plot.

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Mind you, I have no doubt that the eighth and final episode will clarify all that remains beyond intellection up to this point. Do let me know; I won’t be watching it myself. Instead I am going to be sullen, bitchy, and punitive. Why? Because The Honourable Woman makes The Big Sleep look coherent. Fuck, it makes Finnegan’s Wake look coherent, even without a thorough grounding in Vico’s Scienza Nuova, which I have not.

In fact its plot is least among my puzzlements. I have other questions.

First and foremost: what is this series about? (Not what happens but what is the topic of its internecine scrutiny?) If forced to wing it, I’d guess it’s about the espionage of childbirth. Nearly everyone with half a womb is either pregnant, or recently pregnant, or secretly recently or secretly presently pregnant. “Have you ever been a mother?” is a question that is directly, confrontationally, posed on more than one occasion, as if the only paradigm of empathy — not to say sanctimony — were childbirth, an event that is inevitably depicted as rare and strange, despite its having been accomplished well over a hundred billion times by homo sapiens alone. Even female characters who are not conspicuously maternal — who are, in other words, rational, decisive, knowledgeable, and serious — even these would seem to be pregnant with our implied reproach.

But I have several less-ontological questions as well …

• Is it simply not possible for anyone associated with spying to requisition lightbulbs of an output higher than 30-watts? Even in their own stainless bachelor pads overlooking SW7, the day’s tradecraft done, these elegant spooks, conditioned by long dreary hours at Thames House or the Cheltenham “Doughnut,” keep their rheostats so low as to strain the eyes of us hapless voyeurs.

• Have powerful people never heard about fucking while lying down on, you know, mattresses? Or is it part of the entitlement of excess that you get to rip designer clothes, bash crockery and stemware, and knock over bottles of single malt Scotch while displaying affection?

• And if they haven’t heard or indeed prefer to ram each other bipedally, literally without exception*, can it not occur except at breakneck speed?

• And this being the case, the speed I mean, is it due to inclinations established in childhood (dare we say childbirth!) or because screen writers know instinctively that audiences would otherwise rapidly lose patience watching vertical pogo-sticking humpfests in which genitalia are concealed by bespoke shirttails and not-quite-assunder satin lingerie?

• Is it realistic that the unbelted peepee of a man with connections in high places might enter — by means of one deft thrust in her general vicinity — the unlubricated peepee of the woman who, having “grown a set,” now wears the trousers at GCHQ, whereupon simultaneous high-decibel climaxes occur typically before the second deft thrust? (It should be mentioned, too, that these gymnastic penetrations are executed entirely hands-free, except insofar as a man with connections in high places does in fact use his masterful grip — the Omega clattering on its loose metal bracelet, the Bernardaud cufflinks flashing like distant nebulae in that 30-watt gloom — to pin the wrists of his conquest against Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park No. 34. And as I say — it’s the speed that astonishes! For this is frenzy on an order that would make Michael Douglas’s flying rear-ender over the back of Jeane Tripplehorn’s sofa in Basic Instinct appear languorous by comparison.)

• Lastly, is there some law in television dialog land that prevents gnomic Palestinian diplomats from learning how to form English, um, contractions?


* Actually I have since realized that there is one exception to the always-standing-up rule The Honourable Woman, and it’s a rape.

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