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Weekend TV reviews: A stylish Ukrainian crime drama Hide and Seek and an American mess in Afghanistan: Getting Out

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Hide and Seek's mismatched detectives Maksim Shumov (Vyacheslav Dovzhenko) and Varta Naumova (Yuliya Abdel Fattakh)

Hide and Seek's mismatched detectives Maksim Shumov (Vyacheslav Dovzhenko) and Varta Naumova (Yuliya Abdel Fattakh)

Hide and Seek's mismatched detectives Maksim Shumov (Vyacheslav Dovzhenko) and Varta Naumova (Yuliya Abdel Fattakh)

Crime drama Hide and Seek (All 4) opens with a striking shot of a car travelling along a perfectly straight, tree-lined road. In the distance, shrouded in fog, are brutalist apartment buildings and towering industrial chimneys.

You wouldn’t call it a pretty place; it’s a faded industrial town, bleak and not a little depressing. I couldn’t help wondering how much bleaker and more depressing that landscape might look today. Are those buildings among the ones damaged or obliterated by missiles? Has that road been left pockmarked by shelling?

Hide and Seek is the first Ukrainian series to be shown in the Channel 4/All 4 Walter Presents strand. It was made in 2019, when war seemed a world away.

Leaving the inevitable poignancy aside, the set-up, at least in the opening episode (the whole series is available to stream), suggests it’s going to tread familiar ground – until it doesn’t.

Detective Maxim Shumov (Vyacheslav Dovzhenko) is a little resentful at being partnered with new addition to the squad Varta Naumova (Yuliya Abdel Fattakh, a commanding presence), who holds the senior rank. Shumov has troubles personal and professional.

He lives with his father, an alcoholic, and shows misplaced loyalty to his corrupt partner, who’s been demoted for stealing from a crime scene. 

Shumov’s boss warns him that unless he shops the rotten apple, he’s in serious danger of being dragged down with him.

Naumova – who has a habit of wearing black leather gloves at all times – is steely, aloof and private, but clearly haunted by something in her own past. 

A seven-year-old girl disappears while playing a game of hide and seek with her father in his apartment. Shumov suspects the father, a car dealer who’s involved in low-level crime but is nonetheless a loving parent, has killed the child and disposed of her body.

The far more intuitive Naumova dismisses this out of hand. She’s subsequently proved right when CCTV footage shows a shadowy figure slipping into the apartment.

The trope of the mismatched cops who don’t hit it off at first yet end up making an effective partnership has been worn smooth through overuse. But Hide and Seek, which is stylishly shot, throws us a few late twists and turns that push it in a more intriguing direction. Definitely one to investigate further. 

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America’s hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Joe Biden was a catastrophe. No sooner were the boots off the ground than the Taliban swept back in to reverse freedoms, dehumanise women and drag society back to the dark ages. A return to barbaric business as usual.

That this happened on Biden’s watch comes as no surprise to former defence secretary Robert Gates, who worked under eight presidents, Barack Obama among them, and is one of the contributors to Afghanistan: Getting Out (BBC2, Sunday).

There was constant tension between the Pentagon and the White House during Obama’s time – although he wasn’t the one getting on the collective wick of the defence community.

“The real problem was the Vice-President,” says Gates, who believes Biden has been wrong on every single defence and military issue of the past 40 years.

If that’s a brutal assessment of Biden’s track record, this excellent two-parter, stuffed with heavyweight insiders (although no former presidents), was a no less excoriating account of America’s catalogue of failures from the George W Bush era to the present day.

General Doug Lute, who had the unenviable task of giving Bush daily updates on Afghanistan, called it “a history of missed opportunities where we could have snuffed out this fuse”.

When Bush left office, he handed Obama a mess. Obama sent in tens of thousands more troops – while privately agonising, said deputy defence secretary Ben Rhodes, over the young men he was dispatching to their deaths – then undermined his own action by announcing they’d be home within months.

Meanwhile, the Taliban retreated to the hills to watch and await its moment.

HIDE AND SEEK 3/5
AFGHANISTAN: GETTING OUT 4/5


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