‘Expanse’ Not Finished Yet, A Grueling ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Big Brother’ Turns 20
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Expanse (9/8c, Syfy): In one of the season’s happier survival stories, this stimulating space odyssey ends its run on Syfy with back-to-back episodes after three acclaimed seasons — but will return at some point in the future with new episodes on Amazon Prime Video (which already streams past seasons). In the first episode, survivors arrive to the Behemoth, where opposing factions decide how to handle a mortal threat, and in the season — thankfully not series — finale, Holden (Steven Strait) tries to stop Ashford (David Strathairn) and his cronies from destroying the Ring — and with it, humanity.
The Handmaid’s Tale (streaming on Hulu): In case you had any doubt Elisabeth Moss would earn a second consecutive Emmy as the long-suffering Offred (formerly June), this week’s grueling tour de force would by itself make her a front runner. Left alone in an abandoned house after last week’s wrenching reunion with daughter Hannah, a very pregnant Offred wrestles with hope, doubt, despair and oh so much suffering as she once again contemplates escape and is beset by memories of her first pregnancy and delivery. It’s a harrowing but also indelibly moving hour. And in their one big scene, Yvonne Strahovski (Serena Joy) and Joseph Fiennes (Commander Fred) have some of their best moments to date, ripping into each other with mutual blame and contempt as they frantically seek their missing Handmaid.
Big Brother (8/7c, CBS): Some people’s guilty pleasure — which I tend to think of as “How I Wasted My Summer” — hits a 20th-season milestone, introducing 16 new Houseguests as they enter a tricked-out house/prison, this year’s model festooned with high-tech innovations inspired by Silicon Valley. The busy two-hour premiere (followed by an hour-long episode Thursday) includes three challenges that will give lucky players either a game-changing power or unprecedented punishment. (What, watching Big Brother After Dark?)
Inside Wednesday TV: TCM’s salute to June brides concludes with 1950’s Father of the Bride (8/7c), starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, and the 1956 musical High Society (10/9c), a Cole Porter-infused adaptation of The Philadelphia Story, which TCM featured a week ago. Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra are the bigger-than-life stars… PBS’s Nova examines the “Rise of the Superstorms” (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), looking back at the catastrophic damage wrought last year by monster hurricanes, including Harvey flooding Houston, Irma decimating Barbuda in the Carribean and Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico. The special asks how prepared we are to weather this year’s storms… In its time period premiere, Paramount Network’s Yellowstone (10/9c) finds the Duttons pulling strings and engaging in some very dirty tricks to cover up the unsolved fatality from the pilot episode’s shootout.