I’ve so far enjoyed many aspects of Channel 4’s Secret State, but as the series reaches its conclusion, I can’t help but think that it’s spreading itself too thin, and piling plot lines on top of each other again and again until it reaches a point where it almost forgets what it is actually about.
So in this third episode, we’ve got the potential war with Iran that Tom Dawkins’ actions in the previous episode seemed to trigger not going anywhere, Tom teaming up with his Indian counterpart to take over a bank that holds Petrofex’s funds, a member of Tom’s team having an affair with the foreign secretary, and Tony the former MI6 man, working with a current MI6 employee to find out what happened to the former PM’s plane.
And there’s all that before we get to Ellis Kane (Gina McKee with an absurd character name), a journalist who is attempting to do a profile of Tom, but receives information from the head of Petrofex about Tom’s dirty past in the army.
It’s all becoming very messy, and that is hurting the show’s ability to have an impact and really be something worth watching. It means that plot lines come and go, like the possible war, for example. Tom realises that when he saw the men he dropped a bomb on praying, they were doing it because they’d crossed the border into Iran and believed they were safe from harm. And he also discovers that the army men that goaded him into dropping the bomb were aware of this, which is why the threat of war exists. But it’s explained away with news that there elections happening in Iran and then it all just goes quiet and the show has moved on to something else instead.
I can’t say that I’m disappointed by that however, as it always felt like an unnecessary element of the show anyway, especially as it seems far more likely that Petrofex were the ones who planted a man (and possibly a bomb or something that would explode) on the PM’s plane. But even that, when you really think about it, seems a bit too far fetched. Would a massive company really try and kill off the British Prime Minister because he was pushing them for compensation after an explosion at one of their factories destroyed a town in England?
That may be the biggest problem the show has; it’s gotten so far away from its starting point that it’s hard to see how it can properly resolve itself in the final episode. Tom’s friend Tony seems on the verge of solving it when his house is broken into and he cracks his skull while fighting with the intruder. If, as it seems he was about, he dies, will the girl he’s been speaking to get the truth to Tom? Will Ellis write the truth about Tom’s past in the army and force him to resign?
Secret State has a strong cast and the quality of the acting reflects that, but it’s gotten to the point where there is just too much going on for it to be a coherent and intelligent look at the world of politics, banking and big business.
I may be wrong, and the final episode could wrap things up in a brilliant and unexpected way, but before that final hour begins, Secret State looks like a bit of a mess.