Last watched: August 2016
Liz Garvey, the quintessential tech-version Pollyanna, has been poached from Instagram to head up communications at Scotland Yard in order to shake things up. She believes in transparency and accountability over ducking and diving; protecting ones own against the media and the public. These new ideas are not welcomed fully so the entrenched bureaucracy and old modes of thinking clash.
The summary is the center stage of the show but it is not the core plot of what we see on the screen. Liz’s experiences are intercut heavily with the force on the ground; Territorial Support Group and the Specialist Firearms Division. We also get the story of a plucky camera guy who has a bit of a Cassandra plot as he catches wind of a story before there even is one.
The show is doing something specific. Liz’s ideology of transparency is threaded through as the best way forward but the show, itself, is committing to that ideology, too.
It doesn’t at all depict the police as ‘the good guys’. It shows them at their most casually despicable. In other words; accurate.
The only woman depicted on the ground is constantly harassed by a colleague in a ‘jovial’ manner. The most problematic, impulsive, foolish, shady police officer is allowed to go firearms training with minimal question from his colleagues. The mental health support for a post-shooting is minimal which makes one of the officers a liability. It completely reveals what any clued person already knows; an entrenched culture of white male bro-ship and the implications of that within the force.
The fact that it is represented from all angles – from ‘the brass’ down to those on the street – gives the opportunity to see how difficult the job is without using that as an excuse for shitty behaviour. Being trans, being queer and being clued up about the nature of state control, I am not pro-police but I found this to be compelling, interesting and worth watching.
Babylon is clearly trying to create something progressive. Just like real life, no one’s moral compass points consistently north, but the pennies that shine brightest are the two black men, one white queer man, and the lead, Liz, a white woman. Meanwhile the white, straight men are often shown as being manipulative and grubby.
Pros: well rounded depictions of black men, of women and of a queer man. It’s completely unapologetic and doesn’t pull any punches when showing all the aspects of the police force.
Cons: I want to say it could do with more women, queers and people of colour but honestly I think the snapshot of what they have was representative and that was an important aspect of the show’s ‘honesty’.
Genre: political drama, crime drama, police drama
Light/heavy rating: 6
Approach carefully if: you struggle with sudden suicide (it is not really foreshadowed), homophobic character portrayals, misogyny depicted, infidelity plot lines, abduction (presumably) and death of a small child, racism, accurate depictions of the police including sexual harassment in the workplace, casual and aggressive depictions of racism, homophobia, the shooting of a young black male and frequent police POV deployments.
Can be found: Netflix
Accessibility: Subtitled 😀
If you liked, I recommend: Hunted, the West Wing (maybe? I never watched it), House of Cards