Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Peacock’s surveillance drama The Capture is a timely, eye-opening binge

Holliday Grainger in The Capture
Holliday Grainger in The Capture
Photo: BBC/Heyday Films/Nick Wall
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The Capture, already a popular British thriller, arrives this month on Peacock, positively brimming with action. The series from creator Ben Chanan tackles pertinent themes including excessive surveillance, evidence manipulation, fake news, and corruption within the government, police, and justice system. Season one is a fascinating exploration of the soaring dependency on technology to solve crimes, but it also offers a terrifying perspective on how the same tools can be maneuvered to present, per the phrase made popular by a senior White House aide, “alternate facts.” While the show starts off strong and conjures up twisty cliffhanger endings, it falters in the end due to the convoluted plot. However, with only six episodes, The Capture is just gripping enough to binge in one sitting.

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It centers on Lance Corporal Shaun Emery (Callum Turner), who is on trial for allegedly killing an unarmed Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan. He is acquitted when his barrister and human rights lawyer Hannah Roberts (Laura Haddock) proves, with the aid of an expert, that the battlefield footage is possibly glitchy and cannot hold up in court. The video editing details of this opening scene act as a harbinger of the mystery that is about to unravel both of their lives (and the show overall). After a night of celebration, Shaun asks Hannah out; they kiss, and she gets on a bus to go home. At least, that’s what we are led to believe. The street security camera captures him assaulting and kidnapping her instead.

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This kicks off a chain of events that quickly leads to Shaun’s arrest by Detective Inspector Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger), the gritty crime drama’s moral, no-nonsense cop who recently moved from counterterrorism to the homicide division. Shaun’s defiant claims of innocence, coupled with her own strange observations of live security camera monitoring, push Rachel to investigate a possible conspiracy theory, an idea further advanced with the introduction of Frank Napier (Ron Perlman), an American intelligence officer who runs a shadowy underground agency in London. Shaun and Rachel are on a collision course for much of the season. The suspense mounts as they make their way down their distinct but destined-to-intertwine paths.

The show quickly raises several intriguing questions: What exactly happened to Hannah Roberts? Is Shaun Emery a culprit or a victim? Will it be Rachel who uncovers the growing web of lies? How deep (and global!) does the agency Frank runs go? The answers all seem just out of grasp, as they are dangled in front of viewers over the first four episodes. But underneath the complex mysteries, The Capture proves to be quite revelatory in exhibiting the detrimental possibilities of engineering audio-visual deep fakes. The way this technology is deployed within the show is a bit far-fetched, but the idea behind it all is certainly well-timed, especially as evidenced in the finale. The number of closed-circuit cameras in the United States alone was 50 million last year, according to a recent survey, putting it in second place after China. The U.K. is third on this list. The Capture might reel you in with a perplexing crime and some powerhouse performances, but the show’s real draw is the thought-provoking message about the rapid rise of surveillance technology and data mining through social media. The entire series essentially echoes the opening words of the CBS sci-fi crime drama Person of Interest“you’re being watched”—and spins it into the worst-case scenario.

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As engrossing the show is in its demonstration of how little the public knows about the extent it’s being surveilled, the final explanation of the crime as it arrives in episode five, titled “A Pilgrim Of Justice,” feels quite contrived. The finale brings Shaun’s story to a conclusion but ends Rachel’s with an anticlimactic twist. (BBC One has already renewed the show for a second season that is poised to focus more on Rachel, though, so this could just be a feint from series creator Chanan.) Grainger’s work as Rachel gets better with every episode, but the season belongs to Callum Turner. He churns out an evocative, admirable performance as Shaun, whether he’s in despair, on the run, or even in the rare moments of joy he shares with his young daughter. He effortlessly garners both apprehension and sympathy. Perlman’s wicked ways are extremely fun to watch, especially his interactions with Famke Janssen’s Jessica Mallory. Jessica arrives from the U.S. to check on his operation, only to reveal that even the White House is clued in on their transgressions and supports them because the higher-ups would benefit from the ability to alter videos and, as mentioned above, present certain alternate facts. Can something be too on the nose if it’s true?

The Capture is an ideal binge for fans of fast-paced crime dramas that pack a punch, or who are looking for a chaser to 2018’s Bodyguard, ma’am. On its own, it doesn’t quite justify signing up for a whole new streaming service—but as part of a larger slate of original series that are folded into Peacock’s reported 15,000 hours of programming, The Capture will keep viewers in their seats.

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