British TV has been crying out for a good espionage thriller since it said goodbye to the late, great Spooks, but DEEP STATE may not be its successor.
If you've read my review of The Gifted, you'll know I tuned in purely because Amy Acker was part of the cast; similarly, my main motivation for wanting to check out Deep State was the fact that Mark Strong plays the lead character.
He's a brilliant actor, and his performance in Deep State is superb (though the standout performance actually comes from Lyn Renée, a Belgian actress who plays Anna, the wife of Strong's character, Max Easton).
To summarise Deep State, is essentially a pretty tried-and-tested premise: Easton is a retired ex-British intelligence officer who is recalled to service when he learns that his son, a current British intelligence officer, has been murdered. Easton's drive to find his son's killer is what tears him away from his new family and begins the unravelling of an apparent conspiracy.
It's a bread-and-butter storyline from a writing perspective, but the execution of the different plot strands isn't consistent. The "conspiracy" plot thread (and especially the characters involved) is a little confusing (not helped by the various time jumps that ensue), as opposed to the beginning of Easton's search being fairly easy to follow. And while Lyn Renée's individual performance is remarkable, the idea of Anna investigating her husband's activities is actually more intriguing and enjoyable than it sounds.
One thing Deep State does exceedingly well is present a multicultural, multi-national cast. Easton's new family are all French (or perhaps Belgian, as is Lyn Renée, though they all speak French), and the undercover MI6 team has Asian characters, British characters and even an American. This level of diversity makes for a solid cast that offers a lot more than Spooks can say it did in this regard, and the interesting nature of this team of highly different individuals is a huge part of what props up that confusing side of the story.
However, you shouldn't expect to enjoy a nice family evening if you intend to spend it watching Deep State. When I was younger, a post-watershed show would be something like New Tricks (or Spooks). To my memory, only Spooks included anything heavily involving sex, nudity or graphic violence (and only on one prolonged occasion).
Deep State is a new breed of watershed show to match the modern times, and while sex/nudity and graphic violence aren't exactly terrible (look out for Deep State's intense but short torture scene), it does mean Deep State isn't exactly family-friendly in the same way New Tricks was.
I have a mixed feeling about this premiere. The cast did a very good job of selling the story's beginning, but Deep State feels like a show that will likely improve as it delivers more answers. Its premiere episode was just a little shaky.
- Aired on FOX, April 5 2018 at 21:00.