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TV Series Review

You might call Charleston Tucker the world's most exclusive book editor.

She only edits one book, and that book only has one reader. But the contents of the presidential daily briefing book on matters of national security are so explosive that they can, and do, impact national and international affairs for days or weeks or lifetimes. Everything the president of the United States needs to know is in that book. And, as such, what Charlie decides to include or exclude is of inestimable importance.

Which might make the free world wish she didn't, y'know, sleep around with strangers quite so much.

State of Affairs, an NBC political thriller, is all about the myriad threats the U.S. may face from all corners of the globe. But it's also all about Charlie—a briskly efficient CIA agent who not only has one of the government's most important jobs, but also has an out-of-control personal life. And every episode, it seems, will ask viewers to imagine what might happen should one occupation bleed into the other.

Psychologists might say Charlie has her reasons for misbehaving—as damaging as that misbehavior might be. She was once engaged to a guy named Aaron Payton: soldier, humanitarian and son of President Constance Payton. But Aaron was killed during a mission in Kabul—one that both Charlie and Pres. Payton were a part of—and now Charlie deadens her loss through the sensate pleasures of sex, alcohol and bad behavior. But there's something else at work, too—something that Charlie's therapist suspects but doesn't understand quite yet. Charlie and Aaron's mission was more dark and troubling than is commonly known. And something horrible took place in a culminating firefight that Charlie can't yet admit to (or even remember).

This storyline—just what happened in Kabul and why—is one that will drag on throughout the season and perhaps longer. But it will surely take a back seat at times to State of Affairs' crisis-of-the-week concept. Terrorists are threatening innocent Americans in Oman. Reactionaries are rioting in Manila. Someone's trying to smuggle a bomb into San Francisco. And always, always, the CIA is looking for ways to bring down the radical cell that killed Aaron and threatens American security.

"I am going to end every single one of their lives," Charlie vows to President Payton.

"That's my girl," the POTUS responds. "His [Aaron's] death will make killers out of both of us."

With that said, it shouldn't surprise viewers that the morality of State of Affairs is … murky. In the political intelligence realm, Charlie and her co-workers make questionable decisions based on imperfect information. They consider making deals with less-than-ideal international partners and weigh the importance of missions on skewed scales. Should they save the lives of innocents here if it means sacrificing a promising intel lead there? Should the American people be told? Should the president herself be told? Lies are offered. Dark decisions are made. Bullets are fired. People die in pools of their own blood.

All that, of course, is standard operating procedure for these kinds of thrillers. We're supposed to weigh motives and wade through muddy ethical waters as we decide who, if anyone, is "right." That's part of their pull.

Most such shows, then, simply don't have the time or inclination to get too salacious on the side. Alas, the same cannot be said of State of Affairs. While Charlie's irresponsible actions are called out for being irresponsible, they're still shown in all their irresponsible HD color. We see her kissing, stripping and in bed with any number of fleet-footed lovers. We watch them share drinks and trade coarse come-ons.

When it comes to the state of State of Affairs, it's a little too fond of "Show Me" for us to stay in a state of acceptance.

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Episode Reviews

State-of-Affairs: 11-17-2014



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Katherine Heigl as Charleston 'Charlie' Tucker; Alfre Woodard as President Constance Payton; Adam Kaufman as Lucas Newsome; Sheila Vand as Maureen James; Cliff Chamberlain as Kurt Tannen; Tommy Savas as Dashiell Greer; David Harbour as David Patrick; Mark Tallman as Aaron Payton; Farshad Farahat as Omar Fatah






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Paul Asay

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