Home Entertainment Television SDCC ’20: Peacock’s THE CAPTURE panel explores the show’s inadvertent timeliness

SDCC ’20: Peacock’s THE CAPTURE panel explores the show’s inadvertent timeliness

The people behind the show appeared in a pre-recorded video...or did they?

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By Ani Bundel

San Diego Comic-Con’s 2020 virtual convention arrived at a fortuitous time. Since November of last year, the entertainment landscape has shifted drastically, with the arrival of four new major streaming platforms: Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock. The last of these arrived only days before the convention, with a national rollout on July 15. 

Of the nine shows that premiered with the app’s launch, The Capture, produced in conjunction with the BBC, is, by far, the streamer’s best series. As such, it had one of Friday’s high-profile panels. Hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s Philiana Ng, the group included producer Rosie Alison, writer/director Ben Chanan, plus cast members Holliday Grainger, Callum Turner, Ron Perlman, and Famke Janssen.

Explaining the plot of The Capture is a little convoluted, but here goes. Turner’s character, Lance Corporal Shaun Emery, has just been acquitted of war crimes a helmet camera proves he didn’t commit. That evening, an incident is caught on CCTV on his way home from the pub where he celebrated with family, friends, and his barrister, Hannah Roberts (Laura Haddock). The footage shows him kissing her, and then attacking and kidnapping her when she refuses to go home with him. DI Rachel Casey, who recently transferred from Counter Terrorism Command to Homicide, thinks it’s an open and shut case until Emery is shown the footage. He flips, insisting that this is doctored, falsified, faked. None of what we see happened that night. 

As Casey digs into the clues, she realizes Emery isn’t lying to her; what she sees on camera is not what happened. But who would do such a thing, why would they do it, and for heaven’s sake, how? That’s what Chanan was going for. As a documentarian, he became aware of how advances in technology were deeply affecting how the criminal justice system works, with video footage becoming more central to convictions (and acquittals). He started writing this as a dystopian horror of, what if this technology wasn’t as reliable as we assumed?

The irony is that Chanan started writing the story before 2016 when the term “fake news” was not yet mainstream, and “deepfake” videos were not yet part of the culture. He discussed how unsettling it was to watch the world catch up to what had been, in his mind, a futuristic dystopian scenario.

All of the actors agreed how unsettlingly timely it was to work on the series, and how much it opened their eyes to how law enforcement worked. Most interestingly, the two Americans in the cast, Perlman and Janssen, were unsettled by the prevalence of CCTV all over London. The UKers of the group, on the other hand, had normalized it as a part of everyday life and seemed a bit wide-eyed at how little Americans are not surveilled at all times.

That being said, the message The Capture was trying to, well, capture, was summed up well by Chanan at the end of the panel: “In a world where every piece of video footage could be manipulated, how can we believe what we see?” It’s a question everyone should grapple with, especially as technology continues to advance.

The first season of The Capture is streaming in full (six episodes) on Peacock. A second season has been commissioned and is tentatively expected by late 2021 or 2022.

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