Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Review of Hunted Episode 1


If you had to go on the run, where would you go?

So I'm trying something new and different here by reviewing a TV show.  As such, I will format this differently to my film reviews.  With the Channel 4 TV show Hunted recently finishing, I thought that I would rewatch it and review it episode by episode.

The Premise:

The idea behind Hunted is simple.  Filmed in a documentary style, 14 ordinary men and women (GPs, Team Managers, IT professionals etc) have to go on the run for 28 days.  They have to stay hidden from a crack team of Hunters.  These Hunters consist of former police officers, intelligence experts and CIA analysts.  The fugitives can choose any method to evade capture as long as it's legal and they stay within the UK.  Each fugitive is given £450 that they can withdraw from their bank account at any time.  The fugitives are given an hour's head start on the Hunters and are all accompanied by their own camera operator who lives under the same conditions as them. 

Fugitive 1: 

The first fugitive is Dr Ricky George Allen, a GP from Kent, who has since become one of the most iconic characters of Hunted.  He is a ball buster; someone who likes taking the piss, and winding people up.  Whilst this makes him a bit obnoxious and slightly unlikeable, he becomes one of the more endearing and recognisable characters of the show.  He goes on the run to make his family proud of him and because he thinks that the state has too much power.  His plan to evade the Hunters begins with him riding his motorbike, narrowly avoiding the Hunters who are able to track his motorcycle using automatic number plate recognition, to a friend's garage, where he picks up a car registered to the garage and then heads north.  His plan is to take refuge in Glencoe village in Scotland where he has worked before as a doctor.  He will use all of his old contacts as a support network, whilst he hides out locally and this works.  Ricky Allen has been on the run for six days and still hasn't been caught.

As I previously said, Ricky Allen is a ball-buster and someone who loves taken the piss, but I think this has contributed to why he's become the star of this show.  He's clever, if a little arrogant.  He's charming, if obnoxious.  He says that the reason he knows Glencoe Village so well, is that whilst working in the hospital there, he fell ill and had to have "surgery of the Lance Armstrong kind: a bollockectomy" and he tells the owner of a fast food fan that "if any dodgy characters with cheap cut suits and dark sunglasses come up here and ask whether they've seen me, tell them I've gone the other way.  Tell them I left you a number, but you wrote it on a napkin and gave it away to a customer." It was comments like this that not only portrayed Ricky's confidence, and arrogance at times, but also made him likeable.  Out of all of the fugitives, he seems the most confident in himself, the most organised, the one with the best plan and the one I want to succeed the most.

Status: Still at Large
Time on the Run: 6 days

Fugitives 2 and 3: 

The second and third fugitives are best friends Emily Dredge, an online business owner, and Lauren English, a decorator, from London.  Emily explains that her and Lauren used to always run away as children and she's been wanting to share this adventure with her again.  Same as Ricky Allen, their plan is to head north.  Whilst first, Lauren's boyfriend Gareth drives them out of London, Emily is worried about the car being tracked and she suggests that they hitchhike north instead.  Whilst this proves to be a very effective way of avoiding the Hunters, it soon takes a big toll on the pair and their relationship with each other.  Emily says that they are now living a lifestyle of a beggar.  They have to beg people for lifts, they have to beg for places to sleep and this soon begins to fracture their relationship and the pair begin to bicker.  However, what really causes friction is when Emily calls home twice to speak to her young son and Lauren gets justifiably angry at her, because, of course, the Hunters are monitoring their phones and the phones of their loved ones.  The true breaking point is when Emily and Lauren blag their way into some free accommodation in a caravan park, if Emily works in the office and answers the phones.  Instead of doing this, she calls home to once again check on her son Ernest, which then means that the two have to go on the run again, narrowly avoiding the Hunters who are converging in on their position.

Whilst Emily and Lauren do come up with a clever way of avoiding the Hunters, their constant bickering and fighting do make them quite annoying and tiresome to watch.  Considering that they're best friends, you would expect them to be able to get on better with each, although the psychological pressure of being on the run is enough to push any relationship to breaking point.

Status: Still at large
Time on the run: Three days

Fugitives 4 and 5:

The next team of fugitives are life and business partners Sandra Cooley and Elizabeth Varsy.  Their plan to avoid the Hunters involves taking local buses to crisscross South-East England.  Whilst they manage to evade the Hunters for four days, they make the fatal mistake of staying in a town and are soon spotted on CCTV in Brighton, where they are caught soon afterwards.  So, Sandra and Elizabeth weren't really in the show long enough to make much of an impression, but they highlighted a very important lesson in hiding from the government: always get away from cities and CCTV as soon as possible.

Status: Caught
Time on the run: Four days

The Hunters: 

The Hunters are a group of thirty cyber security experts, intelligence experts, former police officers who are headed by Chief Brett Lovegrove, a former head of counter-terrorism, and Peter Bletchley, a former undercover police officer who has infiltrated the IRA and the Mafia.  What this show does well is highlight the terrifying power of the state.  As Ben Owen, a deputy intelligence officer says, "if you are a fugitive, the State has every right to search your house to find where you have gone." The state makes extensive searches of Ricky and Emily's houses.  They question Ricky's wife and take his laptop and tablet in order to hack into his emails.  They do much the same to Emily, where they find out that she is a young mother, but go one step further by taking some of her dirty clothing, so that sniffer dogs can find her scent.  Furthermore, they also make extensive use of CCTV.  All of the fugitives have to take money out of ATMs, which all have cameras installed in them, that can instantly tell the Hunters the locations of the fugitives that used them.   However, what catches out a lot of fugitives is their desire to call home, which of course, the Hunters are monitoring. 

The Verdict:

I know this show has received a lot of criticism over how authentic it really is.  It is stated at the beginning of the show that certain powers of the state such as the ANPR is replicated for dramatic and entertainment purposes.  This then begs the question that if the ANPR is just a dramatic reconstruction, how are the Hunters exactly tracking down the fugitives through license plate recognition.  One bug bear that I do have with the show is the camera operators that accompany the fugitives.  I just can't see the practicality of this.  Are these camera operators just expected to lag around a heavy film camera for 28 days? Are they expected to carry this through the highlands of Scotland or to hold it on the back of Ricky Allen's motorbike or in a car that Emily and Lauren are hitchhiking in? Furthermore, there is obviously more than one camera operator, as there are plenty of shots of the camera operator who is accompanying the fugitives.  I would also think that the camera operators and the cameras themselves are very much a liability.  What happens if the camera breaks? Where can it be repaired? Also, wouldn't it be logical for the Hunters to track the camera operators and research into their backgrounds, but this is never mentioned on the show.  If this was the case though, then the operators would be a massive risk to the actual fugitives.  I think it might be more effective if each fugitive was given their own flip camera or compact digital camera and told to make regular video updates, but I guess, not every fugitive would have the times or means to do so.  

I think the portrayl of Hunters and fugitives is what makes this show really interesting.  As a viewer, you identify with the fugitives, you want the fugitives to succeed and to outwit the government, whom are very much portrayed as the antagonists of the show.  In real life, this could very much be the other way around.  The fugitives would be the villains and the Hunters are the heroes.  The way that Hunted inverts our expectations like this is what makes it such an entertaining show to watch.

Top 3 facts for evading capture:

1. Go rural.  Get out of the cities, get away from technology, get away from CCTV, get away from people who could turn you in.

2. Be as random and as unpredictable as possible.  Sandra and Elizabeth get caught, as their plan to catch local buses soon creates a pattern, which allows the Hunters to predict their next step.

3. DO NOT PHONE HOME! The Hunters will be monitoring all incoming and outgoing calls of the phones of your loved ones.  Even a pay as you go burner phone will still leave a trail that the Hunters will be able to track.

Sandra and Elizabeth have been caught, but Dr Ricky Allen, Lauren English and Emily Dredge and 9 more fugitives are still on the run.  Can any of them evade capture from the Hunters?

No comments:

Post a Comment