So, straight away, you know this is going to be different from most dramas, and for such an intense one, Channel 4 have done the right thing in airing this nightly over four consecutive nights, and I wish channels would do this with more dramas. Yes, the conventional way is broadcast one episode a week, but in an age of streaming and wanting to get to the next episode as quickly as possible – C4’s contribution to that being the Walter Presents series of dramas – nightly is the best option we’ll get on a mainstream channel.
The State follows three individuals, all having been radicalised online and influenced by others around them, sneaking into Syria, thinking they can serve their God. Firstly, Jalal (Sam Otto, above-right) thinks he can get out there and fight, as he’s a headstrong young lad; while Shakira (Ony Uhiara) wants to work in the hospital – given how she was a junior doctor in the UK, taking her 9-year-old son with her. In addition, Ushna (Shavani Cameron) is a teenager who’s gone over there because she sees it as their relgious duty, but things are very different in Syria and they’ll basically ‘serve Allah’ in the ways they’re told, and not the way they want. One thing the women will quickly learn is that you don’t have the same freedoms you do in the UK, as you can’t go out and about without a male guardian, so marriage comes quickly regardless of love.
Jalal also wants to head out to Syria is because his older brother went there a while back – and never returned, so what’s happened to him? If he has died, then becoming a martyr is a *good* thing in their deluded world. Plus, if you don’t die out there, but only get injured on the battlefield, then the Syrian equivalent of the NHS isn’t much of an equivalent.
Shakira and her son.
As the drama progresses, occasional words pop up in Arabic with their English translation, for the benefit of the viewers (e.g. akhi – brother, din – religion), as they’re words with which we won’t all be familiar. These come up each time they’re used in the first episode, and less frequently in others, which is pretty handy and makes this as accessible as possible.
Going back to losing freedoms and you can kiss goodbye to using a mobile phone, in case they’re tracked, with one even having to delete pictures of their mother from it because she’s “uncovered”, i.e. not wearing a hijab. Those thinking of joining ISIS should definitely watch this, given how the youth of today are addicted to texting and the internet, and even if that doesn’t put them off, the sight of having to use communal toilets in the newcomers’ house would be enough for me – no privacy, and since you’ve lost your mobile, no killing time with a bit of Words With Friends…
They also have to burn their passports… quite something given how bloody expensive those things are, and if he needs to use the one-day service, it’ll cost him £128! But then again, these idiots *don’t* think!
Oh, and don’t worry about missing Hollyoaks while you’re out there, because if you join the martyrdom, you’ll be dead before too long, and then you’ll miss EVERY episode.
Following a steady opening, there are some slow bits in the second installment amongst the shocks, plus others here and there which feel a little contrived, but the tension does ramp up in the final two episodes.
Overall, The State is an eye-opening drama. There’s plenty in store that none of them has bargained for, and you will want to follow each of their journeys until the conclusion.
The State begins on Sunday on Channel 4 at 9pm, continuing for the next three nights, and once broadcast, each episode will be on All4, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. Click on the top-right image of Jalal for the full-size version.
Director: Peter Kosminsky
Screenplay: Peter Kosminsky
Jalal: Sam Otto
Shakira: Ony Uhiara
Ushna: Shavani Cameron
Umm Walid: Jessica Gunning
Abu Sahl: Samer Bisharat
Sayed: Amir El-Masry
Abu Omar: Ali Suliman
Imam: Iqbal Elyas
Abu Jihad: Fayez Bakhsh
People Trafficker: Thaer Al-Shayei
Armed Guard at Palace: Abdi Cherbou
Syrian Imam: Yassine Fadel
Abu Issa: Yasen Atour
Abu Akram: Karim Kassem
Ziyaad Kader: Ryan McKen
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.