If done well, political comedy can be fantastic. The British have done it well with both Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister and more recently The Thick of It. The Americans have offered their own versions too, with The Thick of It’s cousin, Veep, still going strong. These shows cover the day to day running of the country and the backroom, back-door antics which we assume are playing out in real life. The Brink offers something much scarier.
The Brink is about the world on “The Brink” of war. It follows Secretary of State Walter Larson trying to hold peace together while a host of inconvenient, bizarre and uncontrollable situations begin to unravel around him. What makes The Brink an effective TV show is that it doesn’t feel too far from the truth.
Of course, the world isn’t close to World War 3 but The Brink delivers aspects of a story which doesn’t feel too far from the truth. Military coups, diplomat trying to barter for peace (and war) and many different misunderstandings and miscommunication which elevate tensions higher. It is a comedy farce but moments of it can effectively chill you to the bone, especially when it comes to nuclear threats and crazed dictators.
It is a comedy-drama though and moments are very funny. Most of this comes from central character Walter Larson, played expertly by Tim Robbins. It is the sort of role you won’t expect to see the aging actor playing. It feels very removed from his iconic role in classic The Shawshank Redemption, but it is a character you will root for, despite the despicable things he does.
Robbins is in good company in the cast, with Jack Black taking the second headline spot. He is the over-his-head diplomat who is just trying to get out of Pakistan and escape with his life. His story is sweet in places and Black’s character is probably one of best written for some sort of journey across the series. His interactions with his “driver,” played by Aasif Mandvi, offer some of the better moments in the series.
These are just two characters in a sprawling series which also includes two incompetent fighter pilots, a crazy foreign dignitary and plenty of other random sub-plots, some of which offer great additions to the main tale and others that fall away without any real impact.
That is The Brink’s main issue. The series is four episodes too many and at times feels like it is struggling to maintain the story it is trying to tell. The series can often revert back to a previous situation or feel like it is going down one route and then quickly dismiss it. Add to that some of the more bloated and unnecessary sub-plots and you have a series which could have benefited from a trim.
These issues resolve themselves as the series comes to a climax though. There are some genuinely good cliffhangers and you will find yourself wanting to see how certain situations are resolved, including how World War 3 will be averted. The end doesn’t disappoint either.
Overall, The Brink carries on the current trend of decent political comedy-drama. Tim Robbins steals the series, which is a high-praise considering he shares the show with an on-form Jack Black. With tighter writing and less inconsequential sub-plots, the series could have been a classic instead of just a good, solid show.
Best Episode – There will be consequences: The finale offers a good round-up and tying-up of the loose ends which the series left dangling.
Best performance – Tim Robbins as Walter Larson
Should there have been another season? – No, the tale is told and trying to do it again would stretch the credibility of the series and the characters.
Season Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)