Warning: contains spoilers for The Capture Series 1.
The most effective horror films are the ones that make menace out of everyday things – the TV in Poltergeist, the shower in Psycho, little girls with long, wet hair in… everything. Surveillance thriller The Capture does the same by turning the simple act of walking down a city street into a paranoid, pulse-raiser. Look up at the street corners and lampposts and you’ll see them, CCTV cameras feeding a data network that, combined with deepfake technology sufficiently advanced to make it indistinguishable from magic, can make you anybody’s puppet.
That’s what happens to Lance Corporal Shaun Emery (Callum Turner) in The Capture Series 1. First, Shaun’s barristers got him acquitted on the charge of unlawfully killing an unarmed Taliban insurgent on tour in Afghanistan. After serving six months in prison, Shaun was freed when his legal team called into question the reliability of the helmetcam footage evidence used to convict him. The public campaign surrounding his conviction made him a household name, which is precisely what activist group the Pilgrims of Justice needed.
“Correction is not fake evidence, it’s truth re-enacted.”
Shaun’s barristers Hannah (Laura Haddock) and Charlie (Barry Ward) were secretly working with the Pilgrims of Justice to expose a process known as “correction”, which they’d discovered had been used to convict a client of theirs named Faisal. He’d been convicted up on terrorism charges, but maintained that the CCTV footage submitted as evidence in his trial had been faked. Faisal was right.
Specialist teams in the British Intelligence Services and CIA were using images from defendants’ social media profiles to create incriminating CCTV footage and plant it in live feeds for patsies (or ‘truffle hogs’, as they called them) to find. When their intelligence about a defendant’s guilt had been gained via methods that made it inadmissible in court – through phone hacking, for example – they used “correction” to create evidence that would be admissible. According to MI5, they weren’t faking evidence but re-enacting what really happened so it would lead to a conviction. They’d “corrected” Faisal’s footage, and footage that led to several terror suspects being sent away in what was known as Operation Sycamore.
The unwitting truffle hog who’d found the planted CCTV footage in Operation Sycamore was fast-track detective DCI Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger). Sycamore had earned Rachel a promotion from Counter-Terrorism to Homicide, where she was made Senior Investigating Officer in the disappearance of Hannah Roberts, working with DS Flynn (Cavan Clerkin) and DS Latif (Ginny Holder).
Hannah was one of the barristers who’d worked on Shaun Emery’s retrial and was last seen on CCTV being assaulted and dragged away by Shaun hours after his release. Rachel duly arrested Shaun but he swore blind that he hadn’t hurt Hannah and the CCTV was a lie. So began a cat-and-mouse game that saw Rachel gradually realise that Shaun was telling the truth and that she was being lied to by her bosses, including Commander Danny Hart (secretly an MI5 operative), with whom she’d been having an affair.
The Pilgrims of Justice
Shaun’s footage had indeed been faked, but not by MI5 or the CIA. Eli – apparently a whistle blower in the CIA correction team – had worked with the Pilgrims of Justice to stage Shaun’s assault using an actor and Hannah’s cooperation, and hacked it into a live CCTV feed. The plan was to get Shaun arrested on the basis of the footage and attract a lot of media and public attention. Hannah would be hidden away for a few days before emerging safe and well to reveal that that the footage used to charge Shaun was fake, thereby exposing the practice of correction and getting CCTV-based convictions including Faisal’s overturned. (Faisal’s sister was a member of the Pilgrims).
Unfortunately for Hannah, Frank Napier (Ron Perlman) the CIA agent running the Correction programme sniffed out Eli the whistle blower, who told him where to find Hannah. Frank couldn’t afford for correction to be exposed, so his only course of action was to make the ‘Shaun abducted and killed Hannah’ story true. Frank had Hannah murdered and her body planted in the boot of a car Shaun was found driving.
Frank then needed Shaun to confess to Hannah’s murder, so he abducted Shaun’s young daughter from school to force his hand. Frank’s team secretly filmed Shaun playing with his daughter, to gain footage that could be used to fake him appearing to do terrible things, possibly to her, on screen. That blackmail, along with the assurance that Shaun and his daughter would both be looked after if he went along with it, convinced Shaun to make a false confession. He pleaded guilty to killing Hannah on grounds of diminished responsibility due to PTSD and was sentenced. As Shaun saw it, justice had simply caught up with him, because he knew that he really had unlawfully killed the unarmed insurgent in Helmand and that he shouldn’t have been acquitted in the first place.
The ‘Whistle Blower’ Exposed as a CIA Plant
While Frank Napier thought he was protecting the correction programme by covering up Eli’s whistle blowing scheme, it turned out that Frank’s bosses had – we think – secretly planted Eli because they wanted conspiracy theorists to know about correction… to an extent. As CIA boss Jessica Mallory (Famke Janssen) told Frank, they needed Eli’s plan to get a certain way along so it would reach the right online message boards and infiltrate the right groups. Why? Because if the reliability of video evidence were brought into question, it would help anybody who’d been caught on camera doing something they shouldn’t, particularly, said Mallory, a certain powerful individual. (The ‘someone powerful’ to whom she alluded was presumably President Donald Trump, in the White House when Series 1 aired). DCI Carey wasn’t the only one being lied to by her bosses.
DCI Rachel Carey and the Hidden Memory Card
In the final moments of Series 1, after watching Shaun plead guilty to a crime she knew he didn’t commit, Rachel took British Intelligence up on its offer to join their team. They’d extended the invitation in order to neutralise the threat Rachel posed to them. She had surmised that ‘DSU Gemma Garland’ (Lia Williams) – the detective brought in to take over the Hannah Roberts missing persons case – was really an MI5 agent, and threatened to expose Shaun’s innocence using real CCTV footage sniffed out by her colleague DS Patrick Flynn (Cavan Clerkin) showing Hannah Roberts safely on the bus from which Shaun was supposed to have dragged her away.
Rachel threatened to send that footage up the ladder, but Garland managed to corrupt the file before it could happen. Rachel did however, keep a copy on a memory card hidden in a framed photograph of her mother and her as a child, kept at her stepmother’s house. Garland suspects Rachel has a copy of the footage and so has something that would threaten the whole Shaun Emery conspiracy.
A bit of background on Rachel – her mother died of lymphoma when she was 13 years old, at which time she discovered that her father had a secret family with another daughter that her mother had never found out about. Rachel’s father moved her into his other family’s home, and she swore that she would never be kept in the dark about anything again. Now a member of Garland and Hart’s intelligence team, we’re sure that won’t happen… Bring on Series 2!
Episodes 1 and 2 of The Capture Series 2 air on Sunday the 28th and Monday the 29th of August at 9pm on BBC One.