The second review of the Capture series – implausible, silly and completely captivating | Television
II’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when you pull the big knife out of a block of wood in the kitchen to defend yourself from night attackers, the blade doesn’t clank. Stop reading this now and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.
But does anyone hear me when I shout these truths on television? Of course not. It continues anyway.
I love hokum espionage like The Capture (BBC One) precisely because it’s so disconnected from reality – from those details like the sound of kitchen knives in combat scenarios to the overall premise of this second series captivating and silly.
Here we have to believe that a Chinese tech company in cahoots with Beijing’s autocratic faux-communist political office is pushing the UK government to install facial recognition software at our airports to improve security. And not at all – heaven no! — to help Chinese spies fly unchallenged in front of border control officers. Which seems, geopolitically, crazy. Unless, of course, it’s part of a romantic business deal that Liz Truss negotiates for pork pies and a handful of beans.
I especially love watching actors in TV thrillers play the laughable with straight faces. There’s a big scene at the start in which DI Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) is trained in a form of special ops punching, the better to administer the socky chop to Johnny Foreigner in the field. Not only does she subdue her beefy male foe, but she also kicks him in the trachea until even the instructor, although he’s probably enjoying the mindless violence which is why he got into this game first, complains, saying, “It’s not self-defense; it’s manslaughter. Whatevs, says DI Carey’s expression, as she adjusts her tousled locks with decor and as shocked underlings take the deflated colleague away for treatment.
Plot-wise, this scene establishes Grainger’s rogue detective as can-do, maverick, and deadly like Dirty Harry with the gunslinging temper of a young Eric Cantona who high-fives at a Crystal Palace fan with all the toes on one foot. But I don’t believe for a second in the set-up. That’s okay – TV doesn’t have to be plausible for me to enjoy it.
DI Carey, you’ll remember from the first series, was investigating the murder of a lawyer. Could it really be, as CCTV footage showed, that the lawyer was murdered by handsome Lance Corporal Shaun Emery whom she was defending from the charge of murdering an unarmed Taliban member? DI Carey discovered that the footage showing Emery killing the lawyer had been digitally faked as part of a conspiracy that went right to the heart of the state, and possibly even further. And yet, at the end of the first series, DI Carey couldn’t save Emery from being sentenced to six years, leaving her colleagues to suspect that she was part of the plot to frame Emery for unclear reasons.
In series two, DI Carey was promoted to S015, the very security unit suspected of being behind the set-up. But she is not, as her grizzled former colleague DS Patrick Flynn (the fearsome Cavan Clerkin) suspects, part of the diabolical conspiracy. Rather, it’s so she can get the hang of the deep fake conspiracy run by a group of cold-blooded muppets – presumably including the superbly frosty Lia Williams as DSU Gemma Garland. But she would say that, wouldn’t she?
DI Carey, then, is a loose cannon of Scriptwriting 101 and if Grainger cracks a smile at any point, it will need to be edited out and replaced with a very serious look. Even more laughable is our other hero, Security Minister Isaac Turner (Paapa Essiedu), who has the aura of a more elegant and less sociopathic Dominic Raab, if Raab knew what the end was. Turner is midway through an interview from his home to BBC Breakfast News explaining government policy on China’s facial recognition system to be photo-bombed by his incredibly sweet six-year-old son in a classic piece of media misdirection . Suddenly, investigators lose interest in the national cybersecurity threat and instead focus on establishing exactly how much of the cute pie the poppet in pajamas represents. It’s a farcical insult to BBC journalistic standards by – get this – BBC drama.
Despite the many blunders, the opening scene of the James Kent-directed episode of the Ben Chanan drama is done effectively. A Chinese dissident living in a London flat anxiously examines security cameras. The glass doors open and close without apparently admitting anyone. The elevator doors do the same. Clearly someone is tampering with the camera feed to this doomed plot device. It’s a genuinely chilling sequence, and I hope there will be more to come. After all, the idea that Britain could be subverted by hackers deeply rigging filmed reality to suit their savage agenda should make for a terrifying TV drama.