Sophmore slump is a real phenomenon, but not for BBC's The Capture, which debuted its second season in the U.S. on streaming service Peacock on Nov. 3, 2022. Series creator and showrunner Ben Chanan, who wrote and directed all six episodes of the first season, comes back to the world of deep fakes and CCTV with an all new perspective. Instead of focusing on one man's story, and whether or not the video evidence that proves him innocent or guilty is real, The Capture Season 2 takes a sweeping view of all the possible screens ripe for the manipulating.
As Chanan told Telly Visions, working on the show "makes you question every screen you see." As CCTV becomes more prevalent around the world, and the technology to create believable looking deep fakes ever easier for anyone to access, the nightmare scenario he dreamed up becomes less science fiction and more science fact. Though "Correction," the euphemistic therm Chanan invented for the process of taking real live footage and manipulating it in real time, does not exist yet (that we know of) it's only a matter of time before it's a tool governments could easily use in morally questionable ways.
We sat down with Chanan as Season 2 of The Capture landed on U.S. shores to talk about everything from the public's unawareness of how much they're being watched, to just how dependant we've become on video communication and video evidence.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Telly Visions: What inspired you originally to conceive of the whole concept of Correction, taking deep fake technology a step further?
Ben Chanan: The idea festered a long time before I tried to turn it into a story. I made a bunch of documentaries on the world of policing, and I became increasingly aware of how decisive video evidence is. We often lock people away based on videos, or it's the most convincing article of evidence against a defendant. At the same time, video manipulation was getting more realistic. You can see it in movies, or create deep fakes on a free app, and it looks pretty convincing. Add the idea CCTV camera are monitored online, and anything online can be hacked. Put those three together; it doesn't take long before you start to imagine the kind of nightmare scenarios we see in the show.
TV: Both seasons are premised on a world where CCTV is everywhere, which is not really the case in America. Can you talk a bit about how it affects UK culture?
BC: Even people live in big cities in the US don't necessarily realize how much they're being watched. It has been a big thing in the U.K, I think London's one of the most watched cities in the world, maybe the second most watched city. But I think it's wrong to say it's not happening in America, I think you guys haven't figured out how prevalent it is. But to be quite honest, neither have we. Making Season 1, I thought people already knew about this, but so many people were shocked at the number of CCTV cameras. So you ask how it affects the culture, weirdly, it almost doesn't. People walk around not really conscious they're being filmed, probably all the time. I wanted to explore the implications for our privacy and our freedom in a surveillance state, the implications for the truth of our actions in the advent of artificial intelligence, and deep fakes. It's not just big brother is watching you. It's like Big Brother is deep faking it.
BC: It helped teach me longform storytelling. It's rare as a director you get to work on an entire series. Usually you get a block of two or three episodes, either starting, or the middle, or the finish. It was such a unique opportunity to see a process through prep all the way through the shoot and the edit. It gave me the confidence to start writing The Capture.
TV: The end of Season 1 is opaque; it's not clear if DCI Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) joined the dark side or not. Did you plan on Season 2 from the beginning?
BC: When I write an ending, I hedge my bets; I try and make it satisfying, and if it doesn't get recommissioned, I can say, well, of course, I didn't want it to be recommissioned; look at the ending. If it does get recommissioned, I can go well; of course, look at the ending. I left the door ajar. We wrap up Shaun's story, but I wanted to leave Carey's story ambiguous. Is she giving up and going well, can't beat them, join them, or is she going in with her different agenda? We answer that question fairly soon in Season 2. But we shot a lot of takes of Holliday delivering that last line in Season 1 because I wanted to play with the levels of ambiguity.
TV: Season 1, you wrote and directed all episodes. You brought in James Kent and Phillipa Langdale as directors for this one. What did they bring to the process?
BC: It's a lot to do the whole season, as I discovered in Season 1, and I don't think it's particularly healthy to do that every time. But I was also writing for another show, so that I couldn't be on set all the time. It would have been silly to direct as well. They got the style of The Capture, but every director brings something it's hard to put your finger on. But I think Season 2 is better than Season 1, so clearly, it only improved the show.
TV: With Season 2, you focus less on the personal and more on elections and influencing political narratives. Were you worried actual events might catch up with you?
BC: I've been worried about that throughout Seasons 1 and 2; it's a constant. It takes two-three years to make a show. I'm always thinking, 'God, are we telling the right story? I feel we need to get this story out before it becomes a documentary, you know?' So, it's a constant concern. But you've just got to go, this is the story we're telling, and I'm telling the best I can.
TV: Season 2 focuses more on social media, international hacking, and political stakes between the U.S., China, and the U.K. Why did you focus more globally?
BC: I think the concept of the show is quite elastic. As long as you don't break that covenant, playing with the idea of can you believe what you see, and giving the audience a thrilling story with lots of twists and turns, I think you can take the story all around the world. It's relevant, you know? If something like Correction exists, it's not just happening in one nation; it's going to be happening internationally. Garland hints at that at the end of Season 1, so it felt only right to be as ambitious as possible. At the same time. I liked the uniqueness of being located in London because London feels quite international, particularly in the world of International Policing and Counterterrorism; it's so connected to everywhere else.
TV: Social media bots and international hacking have been international news, but the twist that took me aback was Gemma deep-faking Frank Napier's cancer diagnosis. What inspired you to include the safety of our healthcare record?
BC: I kept thinking, we've really nailed the implications for the justice system, in the era of deep fakes, but what about other things, what other institutions? What are the places in society dependent on video evidence and video communication? And it's kind of everything, right? But what is the one that really affects us? Medical imaging. I wanted to go into media, politics, data, analysis, and social media. but also I wanted the extra thing that makes you question every screen you see. When you go to the doctor, and you look at the screen, it's no different.
TV: You said you leave the door open in case you do get commissioned for another season. But Season 2's ending really does feel final. Do you have plans for Season 3?
BC: I can't confirm or deny, I'm so sorry.
TV: No, it's okay. Do you have any other projects coming up that you can talk about?
BC: I've got this show coming out here that's really cool, called Then You Run. It's coming out in I think February or March on Sky. It's really fun, very different from The Capture, funnier, and brilliantly directed by Robin MacKillop. It's got an ensemble cast, weaving together coming of age with a mafia story and a serial killer story, and it's kind of bonkers and unlike anything I've seen before, so I'm super proud of it. Hopefully, it will find a home in the U.S. too.
All episodes of The Capture Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Peacock.