Matt on the Box: This Week’s TV Highlights: Complicit, The Brit Awards, HMP Aylesbury and Utopia

by | Feb 23, 2013 | All, Reviews

Hi folks and welcome back to another look back at the week just gone.

It’s fair to say that Channel 4 have had a great start to 2013 with success for shows such as My Mad Fat Diary, Black Mirror and Utopia but it appears as if they’re not resting on their laurels. This week they presented us with yet more new drama in Complicit a one-off conspiracy drama that attempted to show a different side to MI5 to the one that we’ve seen in other programmes such as Spooks. Ironically Complicit did star a former Spooks actor, in David Oyelowo, as MI5 agent Edward who felt like he was being overlooked for a promotion and that he wasn’t getting anywhere in his tracking of potential terror suspect Waleed Ahmed (Arsher Ali). The MI5 that Edward works at is far from the exciting world of Spooks but instead is a monotonous office packed full of grey files and people working in cramped cubicles. After being frustrated that nobody is listening to his theories about Waleed, believing he is being overlooked for some reason, he finally convinces his superiors that there may be some truth to Edward’s words after he intercepts an e-mail suggesting that Waleed  may be plotting to buy a toxic chemical while in Yemen. Edward follows Waleed to Cairo where he meets Tony Coveney (Stephen Campbell Moore) his British contact who helps him question Waleed about why he came to Egypt in the first place. However Waleed claims that the local authorities have tortured him and so Tony informs Edward that they have to look into these allegations before proceeding with their interview. This frustrates Edward once again so he takes matters into his own hands something that leads him into a fiery conversation with Waleed and also makes him question whether torturing one man is the right thing to do if it saves the lives of hundreds of people.

This question is never truly answered which to me is one of the joys of Complicit as is the fact that we never discover if Waleed is wicked or not something that makes us as frustrated as Edward. Though Complicit was slow at times I enjoyed the build-up of Edward attempting to build a case against Waleed which included many hours of lonely surveillance work in scenes that reminded me of the Gene Hackman film The Conversation. As previously mentioned Edward isn’t like other MI5 agents we’ve previously seen on screen as he isn’t surrounded by glamorous women nor does he drive a fancy car but instead has awkward one night stands with colleagues and takes the tube. I have to say I really enjoyed the way the camera is employed throughout Complicit as it takes us through the grey world of MI5 to the cramped dimly lit hotel that Edward is forced to stay in while in Cairo. The camera is also obsessed with focusing on the character’s eyes namely Waleed’s as his angry stare suggests that Edward is right is in assumptions but ultimately we don’t find out whether or not he is right. The fact that we can make up our own minds about the characters is one of the things I liked about Guy Hibbert’s script as is the fact that he builds up the pace well leading to the great head to head scene between Waleed and Edward. David Oyelowo is great as Edward as he portrays a man who is frustrated that no-one will listen to him and so is forced to take matters into his own hands. I also greatly enjoyed Arsher Ali’s performance as someone who may or may not be a terrorist but is able to use the government’s regulations against them. Meanwhile Monica Dolan steals the handful of scenes she appears in as Judith the sort of ‘M’ type figure to Edward’s MI5 agent. Despite being incredibly slow at times I really enjoyed Complicit a drama that asks some hard questions and ultimately lets the audience decide who is right and who is wrong.

It appears now as if we are fully into awards season as, after last week’s BAFTA Film awards, The Brit Awards were upon us once again and for the third year in a row were hosted by James Corden. I personally find Corden to be an amiable host and one who has matured into the role over the past few years with his strength being his ability to talk to the musicians as if they were his friends. I enjoy how he interviews various acts by sitting at their table and is often allowed to banter with them in a way other presenters may not be allowed to do. He is also able to make fun of himself and this year there were plenty of jokes about him cutting off Adele’s speech at the end of last year’s awards which culminated in Corden checking she had finished her pre-recorded acceptance for the Best Single Award. Most of the big winners on the night were predictable with star of last year Emeli Sande winning two awards a number matched by Ben Howard while Mumford and Sons and Coldplay also won some of the main prizes. The performances weren’t as spectacular as previous years and I feel that Muse’s opening turn was the highlight of the show and perhaps should’ve finished the ceremony. Sitting through the programme I was left feeling that a lot of today’s male performers have little charisma and, despite being talented, guys like Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard and Tom Odell lack a certain personality that music stars of the eighties and nineties possessed. Though I enjoyed most of the ceremony I felt I had to switch off when One Direction one a newly created ‘Global Success’ award simply for producing a lot of bubblegum pop hits that appealed to teenage girls in a lot of different countries. It was at this point that The Brit Awards lost all credibility and to me the fact that this was the last award of the night slightly negated the importance of all the other awards that had come before.

As well as bringing as The Brit Awards, ITV also aired the latest in their prison documentary series as they took us into Her Majesty’s Prison Aylesbury one of the most notorious institutions in the country. I personally felt that this was the most disturbing and violent of all of the prison documentaries that ITV has aired up to this point as the first half of the programme culminated in a hostage situation in one of the cells. This whole sequence had an air of danger about it as three men threatened to rape and kill another prisoner unless their demands were met and we followed the governor who was attempting to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. Though the situation was eventually resolved the after effects were shown both through the traumatised hostage and through one of the kidnappers who wanted to return to his family up north. In a less dramatic story we also met Josh whose prison life was made a little more bearable on the days his young son came to visit him and later Josh told us that his son was his motivation to keep his head down while in Aylesbury. Josh hated the fact that his young son already knew how to be searched when coming into the prison and he told us his aim was to get out of Aylesbury as soon as possible. Where I feel ITV’s prison documentaries succeed is by not having a voice-over or a famous face narrating events and simply letting the prisoners and guards tell the story of their lives in the institution. I felt that HMP Aylesbury was definitely the toughest of ITV’s prison documentaries to watch as this was a place in which rival gang members were cooped up together and were obviously going to fight as soon as they came into contact with one another. Overall this was another excellently produced look at our nation’s prisons and in particular why violence breaks out so easily in high security institutions such as Aylesbury.

Finally this week we had the concluding part of the brilliant Utopia where, for me at least, the majority of the loose ends were wrapped up. The main questions that the series had asked were answered as we learnt who Mr Rabbit was, why Wilson helped Letts escape last week and why the Utopia manuscript was so important to The Network. This final episode demonstrated what was so enjoyable about Utopia namely that it had many thrilling moments but also took the time to let the characters develop and one of my favourite moments of this finale was when Dugdale (Paul Higgins) decided to adopt Alice (Emilia Jones) as both were lonely souls. Writer Dennis Kelly also pulled the wool from under us as we were led to believe all the loose ends were tied up only for him to reveal that some of the characters were not all that they seemed. This then leads to the question will there be a second series? My answer would be that there was enough material for series two but at the same time this was a fitting conclusion if Utopia was going to be a one-off. I personally think a second series wouldn’t be as good but I’m guessing Channel 4 will base their decision on how well the DVD does when it goes on sale. I’m also personally intrigued why we heard the voice of a certain character over the end credits and this alone has definitely left me wanting a little bit more from this excellent series.

OK that’s your lot and remember you can always follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites

Matt Donnelly

Matt Donnelly


Made in Staffordshire, Matt is the co-editor of the site and co-host of The Custard TV Podcast. Matt has been writing about TV for over fifteen years and has written for the site for almost a decade. He's just realised this makes him a lot older than he thought he was.


Follow us:

Our Latest Posts:

The BBC confirm second series of Sherwood.

The BBC confirm second series of Sherwood.

As the critically acclaimed Sherwood finishes its much talked about run on the BBC tonight (28 June) it has been confirmed that it will return for a second series with...

Saturday 2nd – Friday 8th July 2022

Saturday 2nd – Friday 8th July 2022

PICKS OF THE WEEK 24 Hours in Police Custody: The Murder of Rikki Neave Monday 4th/Tuesday 5th July Channel 4 Only Murders in the Building Tuesday 5th July Disney+ We...


Submit a Comment