February 17, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “State of Affairs”


STATE OF AFFAIRS ended its season tonight with a cliffhanger that will almost certainly remain unresolved, although one might speculate whether the mysterious airstrike that was heading toward Charleston Tucker (Katherine Heigl) in Afghanistan might have been sent not by Victor Gantry (Adam Arkin), the perfidious head of a paramilitary conglomerate or President Constance Peyton (Alfre Woodard), but by NBC itself.  While football (including the Super Bowl) and occasional one-time triumphs like this week’s SNL40 special may obscure it, NBC is having a terrible season, without a single new success it can claim.  It’s currently facing a Waterloo on Thursdays, but that failed strategy actually started last November, when it displaced the then-hit The Blacklist from its safe Monday perch, giving the slot instead to State.  The series proved to be a disaster on every level:  it wasn’t a show that people particularly wanted to see in the first place, it was badly conceived creatively, and it never improved despite several different regimes trying to rein it in.

NBC fatally erred at the outset in thinking that hordes of fans were awaiting the TV return of Heigl, who developed State herself (with her mother/manager–both of them served as Executive Producers).  Heigl has burned through stardom on small screen and large with remarkable speed, burning bridges behind her at every step, and although American audiences will forgive a whole lot, they don’t particularly care for reputations like hers, which trail accusations of entitlement and rudeness.  If viewers were ever going to give Heigl another shot, it wasn’t going to be for a role in which she played a grim, grieving, supposedly brilliant CIA analyst.  The initial plan was to make Charleston a pseudo-Carrie Mathison from Homeland, driven to drink and one-night stands by grief over the death of her fiancee (the President’s son) rather than bipolar disorder, but that concept dropped out of the show after the pilot, as showrunners came and went, and Charlie spent the season merely looking anguished, when she wasn’t demonstrating her unconvincing powers of deduction.

What emerged instead was a generic espionage story that never made any sense, and although eventual showrunner Joe Carnahan was instrumental in launching the equally silly The Blacklist, State lacked that show’s charismatic lead and intriguing mythology.  It was a slog of double-crosses and anonymous, uncompelling characters.

The finale, directed by Carnahan and also written by him with Matthew Perri (from a story by Executive Producer Dario Scardapane and Samantha Stratton), followed on last week’s Big Twist that Omar Fatah (Farshad Farahat), who Charlie thought she had turned after torture so that he would help locate and kill his organization’s leader Sheikh Hakam, had actually been the chief terrorist himself all along, and had engineered both the attack that killed Charlie’s fiancee and suicide bombings in the US.  For no earthly reason, Charlie then resigned from the CIA in order to track down Fatah and kill him–hardly an anti-Agency act, since the previous episodes had the CIA itself tracking and supposedly killing Hakam–but that didn’t mean anything anyway, since she continued to get all possible assistance from the Agency, so she might as well have stayed an employee.  Meanwhile, with the kind of idiot savant brilliance she’d shown all series, Charlie looked up into the sky and intuited exactly where all the remaining suicide bombers were.  In the end, she shot Fatah, but  Gantry may have talked the President into launching that airstrike and removing both Fatah and Charlie from everyone’s list of problems.

Barring a shocking shortfall in NBC’s fall development, we’ll never know.  State of Affairs only lasted 13 episodes, to be replaced next week by the return of the mediocre summer hospital soap The Night Shift, which will do what it can with its lead-in from The Voice.  It certainly leaves the Monday 10PM slot weaker than it found it, and as for Heigl, now down several more notches on the Hollywood org chart, she needs to forget about being in charge and just find a solid script for producers who are willing to take on her and her increasingly heavy baggage.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."