You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Deep State’ on Epix

Is there a hit from the past decade more widely imitated than “Homeland”? Perhaps that’s because the spy serial’s action-packed appeal seems easily replicable, even without a character as indelible as Carrie Mathison. Building relatable characters is hard, but ratcheting up tension is easy. Right?

Epix’s new series “Deep State” creates tense situations that don’t quite hit home — because, artfully directed and grimace-inducingly violent as those situations may be, they’re happening to people from whom we feel a strange remove. On “Deep State,” Mark Strong’s Max Easton is called back into the field as an MI6 agent to course-correct a failing mission in the Middle East. In so doing, he’s called away from his bucolic family life in France — including a wife who knows less than she might and who takes it upon herself to learn what her husband’s been up to. Other players in the game include a moral dead zone of a spy chief (Alistair Petrie) and an unfortunate chap, Easton’s estranged son (Joe Dempsie), who’s forced on the run, his adventures in parallel to Easton’s own.

The series was produced by Fox for European and African markets, and its desire to move from territory to territory may have sanded away idiosyncrasy as well as Easton sanded down a piece of furniture in his introductory scene (the only time we get a real sense of his interests in the show’s early going). Strong’s inherent blankness as an actor — his stoic competence and his ability to carry across an unspecific sense of darkness — serves the story as written, here; we watch him torture a man by pulling out his fingernails and find little in his expression but bland momentum. For someone whose past haunts the story, his depths are certainly well-hidden. And that unreflectiveness comes at the expense of what might have been an action series whose thrills come with, and are nourished by, our knowledge of their psychic toll.

“Deep State,” by contrast, lards its story up with new faces, names, and conspiratorial connections without ever giving us a glimpse at the man at its center. The action is great fun and the show looks good, but there’s little to grab onto even as one knows the show ought to be getting incrementally more “tense.” Surely even in the high-pressure world of espionage, there’s time to make us care about the spooks for more than just their abilities and their adventures.

TV Review: “Deep State”

Drama series (eight episodes, three watched for review): Epix, Sunday, June 17, 9 p.m. E.T.

Credits: Executive Producers: Hilary Bevan Jones, Alan Greenspan, Simon Maxwell, Matthew Parkhill, Helen Flint. Producers: Tom Nash, Khadija Alami

Cast: Mark Strong, Joe Dempsie, Karima McAdams, Lyne Renée, Anastasia Griffith, Alistair Petrie, Khalid Laith, Mark Holden, Donald Sage Mackay, Rachel Shelley, Kingsley Ben Adir.

TV Review: 'Deep State' on Epix

More TV

  • Writer-Director Dominik Moll on Series Mania

    Writer-Director Dominik Moll on Series Mania Competition Contender ‘Eden’

    LILLE, France — “I must down to the seas again,” Amaré, an teen African illegal immigrant, reads aloud in a poetry lesson at a refugee center near the beach in Greece. Thoughts of wander-lust seen comically out of place. Amaré has just been seen in the prolog to “Eden” leaping out of a dinghy beaching [...]

  • John Simm Talks ‘Cold Courage' as

    John Simm Talks ‘Cold Courage' as Lionsgate Boards International Drama (EXCLUSIVE)

    John Simm plays a rabble-rousing populist politician in “Cold Courage,” and Lionsgate has stepped up and taken international rights to the series. Based on the series of novels by Pekka Hiltunen, the drama is billed as the biggest yet out of Finland and will bow on the Viaplay streaming service in Scandinavia. With a cast [...]

  • "Raven's Home" Executive Producer, Eunetta Boone.

    Eunetta Boone, Showrunner and Creator of 'One on One,' Dies at 63

    Writer-producer Eunetta Boone, creator of the UPN comedy “One on One” and showrunner of Disney Channel’s “Raven’s Home,” died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 63. Boone was found dead at her home of an apparent heart attack. Boone had most recently worked as showrunner on the third season of the Disney [...]

  • Global Sales for ‘Les Miserables’ Series

    Global Sales for ‘Les Miserables’ Starring Dominic West Ahead of Series Mania

    The BBC and Masterpiece adaptation of “Les Miserables” will play on a numerous international channels after a raft of deals were sealed for the series, which features Dominic West, David Oyelowo, and Lily Collins. Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic has been acquired by broadcasters in Scandinavia and southern Europe, and by several buyers [...]

  • Kevin Hart

    TV News Roundup: Kevin Hart Netflix Comedy Special Drops First Trailer

    In today’s roundup, Netflix releases the official trailer for the comedy special “Kevin Hart: Irresponsible” and Josh Charles joins Showtime’s Roger Ailes series “The Loudest Voice.” DATES More Reviews SXSW Film Review: 'J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius' Film Review: 'Roll Red Roll' Season two of “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, will premiere [...]

  • adidas game of thrones

    5 New 'Game of Thrones' Collaborations Coming in Time for the Final Season

    Some of the biggest lifestyle brands in the world are jumping on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon this spring, hoping to capitalize on the fandom and popularity of the HBO hit, as it enters its eighth and final season. From sneakers to spirits, these officially-licensed collaborations extend the characters and colors of the show beyond [...]

  • Nicole Richie

    Nicole Richie Joins Fox Comedy Pilot 'Richard Lovely'

    Nicole Richie has been cast in a series regular role in the Fox single-cam comedy pilot “Richard Lovely.” The project follows Richard Lovely (Thomas Lennon), the disgruntled author of the best-selling children’s book series, “Mr. Mouse.” He doesn’t hate children, but rather just everything about them. After a publicity fiasco involving an unexpectedly savvy 9-year-old [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content