Thursday, April 13, 2017

Previewing Guerrilla

I am anti-spoiler, have not actively looked for them in over a decade, but there is something about historical dramas that make me want to at the very least go to Wikipedia to see what really happened. Luckily Guerrilla is more in the vein of The Americans where most everything is fiction instead of a show like Deadwood which was a mix of real and fake characters. Guerrilla is set in Britain 1971 where prison reform and immigration are hotly debated subjects, so yeah, kind of timely for current affairs too. A Character even says, “They’re changing the laws on us,” in the first episode.

Guerrilla comes from John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) who wrote, directed and executive produced most of the six episode limited series. Idris Elba (Luther) is also an executive producer who stars in the show. But the focal point are two lover Frida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Babou Ceesay who get caught up in the black radial movement after a friend is beaten to death by the police during a protest match. The question for the main characters is just how far they should go to get their message out. Even after actions are taken, there still a lot of debate.

While the main characters may never have existed, the target of these protesters, the Black Power Desk, a true-life, secretive counter-intelligence unit within Special Branch dedicated to crushing all forms of black activism was very real and sets an even more harrowing tale with some basis in reality. And what is fascinating having the show set in 1971 is the primitive detective tactics at the disposal of Scotland Yard. You think about the Boston bombing the police were able to catch the perpetrators in days. But four and a half decades ago there were no surveillance camera, no social media, cell phone camera, so criminals could almost walk around almost freely, while the police had to rely heavily on informants, either those that were doing it willingly or heavily coerced. There is particularly graphic interrogation scene later this season.

Guerrilla is billed as a “limited series” at just six episode which is nice as it can essentially be viewed as about a five and a half hour movie. But the one thing that gave me pause is the amount of “limited series” recently that got renewed for a second season, though most of those ended up being anthology series after the fact. There is finality to these six episodes and it will be fine as is, but there is a speech at the end of the final episode that definitely sound like this character looks to be returning at some point.

Guerrilla airs Sundays at 9:00 on Showtime (yes the season premiere is Easter night).

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