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TELEVISION REVIEW

A complicated, politically intriguing 'State'

Jason Isaacs stars as British ambassador Sir Mark Brydon in "The State Within." (BBC/AMERICA)

It is now the fate of any terrorism-themed drama to be compared to "24." But BBC America's three-part miniseries "The State Within" is a little different from "24" in that, well, it tries to make sense. "24" long ago gave up any pretense of logic, making twisty fun the primary goal.

But making sense of "The State Within" does turn into work during the course of this complicated six-hour series, which airs in two-hour chunks beginning tonight at 9. You might want to keep a pad at your side to keep track of the story strands, as they involve both American and British politics, and then you might be disappointed when you realize how simplistic it all ultimately becomes.

The action begins in earnest tonight with a fantastically filmed bombing disaster, in which we see a plane take off from Dulles Airport and explode from the point of view of cars on the road beneath. That bombing becomes part of a chain of complicated events (including the rounding up of all British Muslims living in Virginia) that involve British ambassador Sir Mark Brydon, played with typically cool intensity by Jason Isaacs from "Brotherhood." As Brydon gets deeper into the mystery, we follow him through conspiracies and duplicities that are more politically intriguing, if less juicy, than those that Jack Bauer faces.

There are subplots aplenty in "The State Within," including a lawyer trying to stop the execution of a British national (played by Lennie James from "Jericho") and a US Secretary of Defense with ties to a defense contractor that looks a lot like Haliburton. You won't be bored, as you strain to keep track of everything, and Isaacs, with his piercing eyes and reserve, is a great lead. And, in an unexpected bit of casting, Sharon Gless makes sparks aplenty as the defense secretary. She doesn't mince her words, or her actions.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, go to boston.com/ae/tv/blog.

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