×
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

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco (C),

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union's 'L.A.’s Finest' Opens Monte Carlo TV Festival

    Prince Albert II of Monaco opened the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival on Friday at a glittering ceremony at the principality’s Grimaldi Forum attended by Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. The Hollywood actresses presented the French premiere of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest,” which has just been renewed for a second season. “You typically [...]

  • Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba'L.A.'s Finest'

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union Speak About Horrific 'L.A.’s Finest' On-Set Accident

    Actresses Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba spoke about how the horrific accident on the set of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest” affected them and the crew at the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival Saturday. They also paid tribute to the main victim of the incident, executive producer/co-showrunner Brandon Sonnier, whose leg was amputated below [...]

  • Emmys: How a Social Media Campaign

    How a Social Media Campaign to Game the Emmys Led to This Week's 'Block Voting' Scandal

    The Television Academy’s “block voting” controversy has quickly become the talk of Emmy season — and that appears to have been the org’s point. According to multiple insiders, the number of people disqualified from voting in this year’s competition is believed to be small, only around three members (out of nearly 25,000 members overall). But [...]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    TV News Roundup: Hulu Drops Trailer for 'Veronica Mars' Revival (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Hulu dropped the official trailer for the “Veronica Mars” revival and HBO revealed more cast members for “Lovecraft Country.” FIRST LOOKS Hulu has dropped the official trailer for its revival of “Veronica Mars,” set to premiere on July 26. The series will bring back most of the original cast, including Kristen Bell, Jason [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

    Bob Bakish Talks Pluto TV, Netflix and CBS-Viacom Merger Rumors

    Viacom CEO Bob Bakish knows that a lot of his peers are in the original content space in streaming, but he believes the company’s ad-supported free service Pluto TV is better off relying on Viacom’s library of content. “We can debate a lot of things about the future, but in the near term, the opportunity [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content