Trust no one. Suspect everybody. And when you are at it, stick a small sq. of tape over your webcam. Surveillance thriller The Seize has bought the nation hooked – and fretting about updating privateness settings. Suppose Spooks meets Black Mirror and you’re in the precise postcode. No mainstream BBC drama has been this gripping since early Sherlock, mid-period Line of Obligation or that day in July when 50 MPs resigned.
The Seize has earned an enormous, fiercely devoted following over the course of its two precision-plotted seasons. The debut run averaged 7.6m viewers and was 2019’s most requested new present on iPlayer. The present collection is even higher, its well-crafted rigidity constructing to a climax superbly for Monday night time’s prolonged 70-minute finale. Inform your mates – however solely utilizing burner telephones and CCTV blindspots.
The brand new collection chronicles how safety minister Isaac Turner (Paapa Essiedu) finds his promising profession and ideal household falling aside when an eerily convincing deepfake model of him begins spreading damaging disinformation. Because the present’s tagline goes: “Seeing is deceiving.” His social media is hacked. Smears acquire traction. Scandal erupts. He’s dubbed #IsaacTurncoat on Twitter. “I’m fucking completed,” mutters Turner after going viral for the flawed causes. Finally the beleaguered politician comes face-to-face together with his personal doppelgänger. “WT precise F?” cried creeped-out viewers.
It was merely one other dizzying twist in a present filled with them. Certain, The Seize veers into preposterousness at occasions however it’s pacy and addictively plotted. Its return could have been overshadowed by giga-budget fantasy behemoths – The Seize’s launch fell halfway between Sky’s Home of the Dragon and Amazon’s Rings of Energy – however it’s proving one of many wildest rides of 2022.
When it debuted in 2019, The Seize launched us to the covert counter-terrorism strategy of “correction”. This duplicitous observe “turns intelligence into proof” by doctoring CCTV footage to assist convict harmful suspects. As heroine DCI Rachel Carey (the superb Holliday Grainger) explains in a helpful exposition dump: “Correction is a technique of real-time picture manipulation, utilizing the disruption of digicam feeds and the deployment of deepfake expertise.”
The primary collection discovered military corporal Shaun Emery (Callum Turner) on a homicide cost after CCTV appeared to have him bang to rights. Carey, who was investigating the case, discovered to not imagine her eyes, dug deeper and ended up being recruited to the extremely categorized Correction staff. Is she now working from the within to reveal it? Or is it a case of: “For those who can’t beat them, be a part of them?”
For a present with a three-year hole between collection (blame the pandemic), The Seize picked up once more at breakneck tempo. It opened with chilling “invisible assassins” pulling off successful whereas in some way remaining unseen by CCTV. Viewers had been flung straight again right into a murky world of cyber-snooping and digi-jiggery-pokery.
Over 5 episodes to date, the exhilarating set items and spine-tingling reveals have stored coming. Automobile chases have taken spooky turns. A carry shootout shocked. We even noticed the BBC itself having its information bulletins hacked by hostile powers (a sly nod to assaults on its impartiality, maybe). Who’s behind this knotty conspiracy? China, Russia, the US, or somebody nearer to residence? Welcome to a dystopia the place “Huge Information and populist politics intersect” – a “ethical minestrone” of photo-real facial re-enactment and uncanny voice cloning. Deploying their algorithms from the shadows are “dons of knowledge” Truro Analytics (any parallels with Cambridge Analytica are certainly coincidental). Huge Brother isn’t just watching. He’s pulling strings, stroking a white cat and cackling as your life turns into one large poo emoji.
Making an attempt to unravel all of it is the unapologetically bold, refreshingly unlikable Carey. This “fast-tracked princess” from the Met could sashay round London – coat swishing, pouting pensively – however she is not any showpony. As confirmed in a bruising combat-training scene, Carey can deal with herself in a struggle. The foundations of drama foreshadowing say she’ll have to struggle for her life earlier than the collection is out.
The Seize is dedicated to its personal bonkersness however its author, the previous documentary-maker Ben Chanan, retains it simply the precise facet of believable in a what-if, worryingly near-future method. The UK is, in any case, probably the most spied-on nations on this planet. Controversies swirl round adware companies like NSO.
A storyline concerning the UK authorities granting contracts to Chinese language AI nods to real-world considerations about tech firm Huawei and CCTV camera-maker Hikvision. The Seize faucets into anxieties about surveillance tradition. It asks nuanced questions on false narratives, alt-facts and faux information. It is usually much more enjoyable than this yr’s different cyberdrama, Channel 4’s GCHQ snoozefest The Undeclared Conflict.
Chanan admits that Paul Abbott’s State of Play was a key affect. The spycraft is harking back to Homeland. It shares the jargon and jeopardy of Jed Mercurio’s dramas (one critic referred to as the primary collection “the considering man’s Bodyguard”). But The Seize conjures up a compelling world all of its personal, powered by Twenty first-century tech, whereas paying homage to Nineteen Seventies chilly battle cinema.
A number one power is its canny casting of rising male expertise to play off Grainger. Turner was Bafta-nominated for collection one. RSC and I Could Destroy You alumnus Essiedu is a worthy successor because the hotshot MP together with his eyes on Downing Road, if solely “AI robo-fucks” would go away him alone. Pervading paranoia means everyone seems to be beneath suspicion, which is the place a high-calibre supporting forged comes into its personal. Even incidental characters are a reduce above: Indira Varma because the Emily Maitlis-alike Newsnight presenter, Ron Perlman because the CIA warhorse, Andy Nyman because the weaselly residence secretary. A woozy soundtrack, composed by Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, add to the edgy ambiance.
Social media buzz is constructing in the direction of tonight’s nail-gnawing finale. Will DCI Carey blow the whistle? Precisely what number of Isaac Turners will we see? Will one in all them turn out to be PM? And is The Seize stealthily turning into the most effective homegrown drama of 2022? As Ben Miles’s suave Met commander says: “Regular the fuck on.”
The Seize concludes on 12 September at 9pm on BBC One. All earlier episodes can be found on iPlayer