Serial television seems to have made a comeback this decade, with at least one show of astonishing depth and resonance, The Wire, redefining the way I look at both TV and American cinema. Steven Soderbergh’s experimental, ambiguous, and as some have pointed out, Warholian K Street set the bar for sheer originality in a one season long serial.
State of Play is a Blair-era, anti-corporatist BBC thriller, involving a British MP’s ties to a series of killings and the newspaper which unravels the sequence of events. The show unfolds like few Hollywood thrillers dare do anymore, which is play with expectations, dole out information as it sees fit, and have eccentric characters grounded in reality. As a six hour serial, State of Play deflates on occasion, where sidetracked plot devices threaten to destroy everything in its wake, only to rebound, revealing the show’s true strengths: the tremendous actors, a humanist script, and a paranoia about the present that remains unresolved.
The show’s penultimate episode resolves its story not in catharsis but anguish and disgust, a conclusion so bloody bleak that the audience is called out for following the revelations like tabloid headlines. It’s television for those looking to escape for sure, but it’s a punch in the stomach to those looking for heroism in the 21st century.