sun 15/12/2019

Deep State, Series 2, Fox review - covert conspiracies in Africa | reviews, news & interviews

Deep State, Series 2, Fox review - covert conspiracies in Africa

Deep State, Series 2, Fox review - covert conspiracies in Africa

Mali is the new battleground for superpower skulduggery

Collateral damage: Harry Clarke (Joe Dempsie) and Leyla Toumi (Karima McAdams)

Last year’s first season of Deep State featured cloak and dagger exploitations of chaos in the Middle East by the capitalist West and its intelligence services. Judging by its opening episode, this second iteration is about to do something similar, except moving the target area left and down a bit to Niger and Mali.

An explosive start was mandatory, and was duly delivered with a bullet-spattered set-piece in a bar in Bamako, where a bunch of off-duty American undercover agents had their pool game interrupted by a squad of turbaned jihadists spraying them with AK-47s. This all kicked off when a woman called Aïcha passed a mobile phone to a nervous-looking contact, who was promptly shot through the head.

It seemed that all the spooks had been slaughtered, until London-based Leyla Toumi (Karima McAdams) received a video message from Aïcha, who had evidently been captured rather than killed. As viewers of series one may recall, Leyla used to work for British intelligence alongside Harry Clarke (Joe Game of Thrones Dempsie), though their love affair went sour along with their former employment. Leyla has been earning a crust by giving lectures in cybersecurity, while Harry is working, lucratively but not happily, for seedy private security contractor Adam McKay (a leering Adam James) in Mali.

Gradually, through a succession of sequences jumping between Mali, London and Washington across a two-year timespan – keep that rewind button in easy reach if you want to stand any chance of staying abreast of developments – chunks of the story began to fall into place. Two years earlier, Harry and Leyla had been part of a CIA-sponsored mission to Mali to try to establish back-channel communications with terrorists who’d fled there from Libya, and they’d hired Aïcha to be their local translator. However, when they travelled to Bourem in a rattling Mercedes minibus to meet an undercover contact, all they found was a bunch of corpses.

All we know for sure is that the plot is messy, murderous and reaches into the highest echelons of politics. In Washington, a congressional oversight committee (and especially Senator Meaghan Sullivan) is concerned that the CIA has been involved in illicit off-the-books shenanigans in Africa, and of course the committee is correct. The US also has plans to send in 25,000 troops purporting to be training advisers, to the alarm of some local African politicians, a move prompted by the growing Chinese presence in the area. Mali is a poor country rich in natural resources, which makes it a prime target for greedy superstates.

Mark Strong, star of the first series, is no longer with us, though the new one reunites his son Harry with both Leyla and their previous British intelligence handler, George White (played with supercilious untrustworthiness by Alistair Petrie). A welcome addition is Walton Goggins (veteran of The Shield and Justified) as gnarled CIA man Nathan Miller (pictured above), who knows where innumerable numbers bodies are buried. It was on his initiative that the Mali operation was launched, to prevent terrorists creating “a new Afghanistan in the Sahara”, and he knows a lot more about the attack in the Bamako bar than he’s letting on. It’s a sumptuous-looking show with movie-like production values, but whether the tangled knots of geopolitical intrigue will allow the characters to breathe and develop remains to be seen.

The plot is messy, murderous and reaches into the highest echelons of politics

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters