For the first few episodes, I knew where I was with The Capture (BBC One). The Chinese were setting up a British cabinet minister through the use of clever deep fakes. Half way in, there was a twist. It wasn’t the Chinese after all, it was the Russians. Wasn’t it?
By episode five, my brain was starting to scramble. And by the sixth and final instalment? If I had to sit an exam answering questions on the plot, I’m pretty sure I’d fail.
What I do know is that Paapa Essiedu has been great as Isaac Turner, the slippery security minister at first bewildered by events, then swayed by the promise of power. As DCI Rachel Carey, Holliday Grainger finally had the opportunity to act her socks off by showing pure terror at the threat of being murdered in a lift or tortured in an interrogation room; until this point, her performance had consisted mostly of narrowing her eyes a bit and stalking towards the camera like a catwalk model.
But the drama lost its way when the villain turned out not to be the Chinese tech boss wanting to control security at Britain’s borders, but geeky cartoon baddie Gregory Knox (Joseph Arkley). He was a deeply silly character of the sort you might get in the worst Bond films, and with him the logic of the plot fell apart. So Knox had decided to manipulate voters into electing Turner as PM, without telling Turner first? And was happy to discuss this deeply dodgy behaviour on stage?
This nonsense was a shame, because The Capture was utterly gripping when it came to set pieces. The episode in which two hitmen were advancing towards the hospital room of stricken DS Patrick Flynn (Cavan Clerkin) was a masterpiece in tension. And the whole series succeeded in unsettling the viewer by making us question what we were seeing.
Yet the plot moved so fast in the last episode that I struggled to keep track of what was happening. When did Carey put together her deep fake, which replaced the original deep fake, which replaced the non-deep fake interview with Khadija Khan? And was it really necessary for DSU Garland (Lia Williams) to fake Frank Napier’s CT scans?
The ending was satisfying, as the “correction” programme was finally exposed. The most fake thing of all though: that someone could time a drive through the capital to pull up at Piccadilly Circus at a precise moment. There is no intelligence operation in the world sophisticated enough to conquer London traffic.