That seems like good advice. When another friend is killed by forces within the Special Branch Black Power Desk, Marcus and Jas spring Dhari from prison, with irreversibly violent consequences. It may not help that Ridley’s camera is clearly fixated with Pinto, idling on her face during pivotal dialogues. It’s hard to decide from what position Guerrilla is shooting, but that’s the colour it places in the crosshairs. “Don’t reduce me to my looks,” Jas tells Kent, a similarly obsessed, if cooler-tempered artist played by Idris Elba. The show is elsewhere fascinated with tentatively overlapping political concerns, where black activists turn to a mercenary IRA for assistance (“What they’re doing in Derry is coming to Brixton, ” someone cheers). “We all benefit from destabilisation.”
It’s a grimly comic scene about ideals and actions in a series that otherwise sees radicalisation as the result of systematic oppression, police brutality and a kind of desperate improvisation. The most subversive streak within John Ridley’s Guerrilla (Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 9pm) a transatlantic co-production between Sky and Showtime, is to depict the early 1970s as a gold rush of radicalism – of still inchoate ideologies and nascent causes looking for alliance. Pinto’s prominence has drawn criticism from black rights groups, uneasy to find an Asian freedom fighter leading a narrative of black power. When, early in the series, a handful of black British revolutionaries attempt to form a cell, they go shopping for assistance from likeminded movements. Ridley even allows one curiously American phrase a much broader currency here, where ignominious police act “under the colour of authority”. Whether they are now soldiers or stooges, however, only history, or at least further episodes, will tell. Deemed insufficiently Marxist-Leninist by the Baader-Meinhoff Group, they are advised to try a self-determinist group like the PLO instead. Ridley’s attention feels deliberate, though, making Jas both Guerrilla’s primary focus and its central question: leading the charge, yet side-lined by the men, she is the more radical, but is dismissed as merely chic. What difference does it make? Marcus (Babou Ceesay) and Jas (Freida Pinto), an young interracial couple, start out as earnest activists, championing the incarcerated Dhari (Nathaniel Martello-White) whose radical, Maoist writings have made him an underground phenomenon.