Odyssey, review: Anna Friel on a mission to redeem the soul of US democracy

It's nonsense, but glossy, well-executed nonsense

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The Independent Culture

If you feel that Homeland oversimplifies geopolitics, you may have preferred to skip the double bill of BBC Two drama Odyssey and have another flick through Robert Fisk’s latest instead. This new series starring Anna Friel as an American special-ops soldier really is global conflict for dummies, but that doesn’t necessarily make for bad television.

The ex-Brookside actor plays Odelle Ballard, part of the military unit that kills a top al-Qaeda commander while on a mission in Mali. Their patriotic celebrations are cut short, however, when Ballard stumbles on evidence suggesting that this terrorist cell has been funded by a large US corporation called SOC. Later, mercenaries acting for SOC swoop in to destroy all evidence and witnesses, disguising their dastardly massacre under the guise of an enemy attack.

A well-timed toilet break makes Ballard the only survivor, so she sets out across north Africa on a Homeric quest to return to her family – a cute daughter Suzanne (Sadie Sink) and a husband played by Jim True-Frost, aka Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski from The Wire. Perhaps along the way she’ll also redeem the rotten soul of American democracy? Who can say?

That’s the core plot, but Odyssey also features several other interconnected characters, all with access to a piece of the puzzle. Back in the States, Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson) is the handsome Upper East Side rich kid turned Occupy protester who wants to bring about real change. 

Peter Decker (Nurse Jackie’s Peter Facinelli) is a corporate litigator, willing to risk his high-paying job to uncover the truth, and Bob Offer (Nate Mooney) is a swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist who may just be on to something – if only he can get someone to listen. Between them, these characters move the plot along at a fast enough pace to outrun both audience boredom and any awkward continuity questions. It’s nonsense, but it’s glossy, well-executed nonsense.