A shit year in politics made for a great year for political thrillers.
The Capture returned on the BBC for a second season in superb form. If everything can be faked or manipulated how can democracy survive? Includes a fantastic cameo from Ron Perlman. Brilliant
The Walk-In on ITV stars Stephen Graham in a true story of a former National Front bootboy turned anti-racism activist asked to handle a mole inside far right terror group National Action in the aftermath of the murder of Jo Cox. Brillaint.
A Spy Among Friends
I don’t really like costume dramas, but this dramatisation of the defection of Kim Philby is outstanding, with Guy Pearce and Damien Lewis in the lead roles.
Philby, Burgess, Maclean et al were unlikely Communist spies. They were from the British elite, public school and Oxbridge, with little or no interest in the niceties of Marxism. They however grew in a world post war which was increasingly egalitarian and meritocratic and there were more over privileged and under talented posh boys than the country needed. Russian intelligence mopped up the surplus
We are in a similar era now. From Thatcher onwards it has been OK to be posh and snobby – her’s was the era of the Sloane Ranger, Young Fogey, Rahs.
Once again we have more posh boys than the country needs, and once again Russian intelligence are picking up the strays. Just not as glamorous as the old generation, and rather than communism they betrayed their country over Brexit.
Another political thriller on it’s second series is Tehran. An Israeli spy drama on Apple+ in which Mossad Agents face off against Iranian intelligence. Both sides come across as equally brutal and ruthless.
Also on Apple+ Slow Horses follows Gray Oldman’s scruffy and dysfunctional bunch of British Intelligence agents on a series of much less glamorous missions, against domestic and foriegn threats. More light hearted than the previous three, but very watchable, and lots of fun.
Season 4 of Stranger Things was big news. but while it looked great and was loads of fun, it felt too big, and too rambling. Normally the more a fantasy series expands its world and mythos the better it is – for example the shift in harry Potter from the wizard school stories of the first 2 books to a fully realised and imagined magic universe. Stranger things does the same thing – over 4 seasons it expanded it’s story into a fully realised world and anti-world, and yet season 4 just felt too big and too sprawling, brilliant at times, flabby at others.
Much better was Sandman, the long awaited TV series of Neil Gaiman’s epic fantasy graphic novel sequence. It benefited from having it’s fictional fully formed in advance, and an all star cast
The much more low key Archive 81 spans horror and sci fi using similar ingredients to Sranger Things but with a very different outcome.
The long awaited Amazon Prime adaptation of William Gibson’s Peripheral looked gorgeous, and moved the action seamlessly between the near past, the near future, and a near deserted London 70 years from now, ruled by Russian kleptocrats. While it is definitely an essential watch the book came out nearly 8 years ago, and his vision of the near future seems a bit bland compared to the Afro-Futurism of Black Panther and Wakanda Forever