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Series / Babylon (2014)
aka: Babylon

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"Everyone's a racist, we're all corrupt, and at night we lock ourselves in the holding cells and fuck each other."

Richard Miller: We have to change and stay the same.
Liz Garvey: That's obviously impossible.
Richard: Oh, yeah, it's impossible. No one tell you that at the interview? It's definitely fucking impossible.

Babylon is a 2014 Channel 4 satirical Dramedy written by Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong, and Jon Brown, with Danny Boyle as executive producer. In the U.S., it aired on Sundance TV, sans pilot. The show focuses on two aspects of London's Metropolitan Police Service - the ground forces and the PR department - and how they relate and come into conflict in the Internet-era.

Newcomer Liz Garvey is appointed Head of Communications by Commissioner Richard Miller. Liz believes the Met should adopt a policy of transparency, and Richard is interested in giving her ideas a try. However, she faces opposition from the more traditional members of the police, as well as dissenters within her own department.

On the ground, officers from Specialist Firearms Command and the Territorial Support Group struggle to do their jobs amidst personal drama and increasing public scrutiny. To round things off, young director Matt Coward films the cops for what's meant to be a documentary portraying them in a positive light - but he has bigger plans...


Head here for the character page.

Not to be confused with Babylon 5, Babylon Berlin (which has some similar themes), the Japanese novel series Babylon, or the Damien Chazelle movie Babylon (2022).


  • Aborted Arc: In Episode Three, Grant Delgado tells Liz that the Met "lost its soul after a boozy lunch with the tabloids." At the end of Liz and Finn's next argument, Finn doubles back to suggest that Liz check "the filing cabinets on the fourth floor [...] to see where the bodies are buried". The line seems to be a Call-Back to the previous episode, when Mia joked that the PR department files press coverage about Richard in a box marked 'Richard's Massive Ego'. Liz doesn't check, and it's never brought up again.
    • Earlier, Finn's phone call to Charles implies that Charles may have some dirt on Richard. It's never clarified whether this is related to Richard's affairs or something separate.
    • The Initiatives on Policing Conference mentioned in Episode Two is supposed to take place in two days' time. This should coincide with Robbie's first day in Armed Response, according to Matt Coward's documentary. However, the conference doesn't seem to occur before or during Episode Three, and it isn't referenced afterwards.
  • All There in the Manual: The character profiles on the Sundance TV website expand on the characters' backgrounds, clarify some of their job descriptions, and hint at their individual Hidden Depths.
  • Advertisement:
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Liz and Finn.
  • Brick Joke: In Episode Four, Sharon is heard starting to quote John Rawls on TV. In Episode Six, during an interview she wasn't prepared for:
    Sharon: I was thinking of the conceptualization of law enforcement in terms of natural law and Thomas Aquinas…
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: In Episode One, Liz retreats to the restroom to think - and overhears Mia on a call with one of her friends, whom Liz made a bad impression on by ranting about work. Mia herself is somewhat protective over Liz, but it still visibly hurts Liz.
  • Black Comedy
  • Book Ends: Episode Three begins and ends with someone jumping from a high point, seemingly with the intent of killing themselves.
    • Early in the pilot, Finn and Mia stand side by side, watching Liz address a crowd. The final scene of the series has them in that position again.
  • Call-Back: During their short-lived truce, Liz sends Finn to handle the press at Cravenwood, saying, "I want my best brain on it." Their relationship deteriorates again soon after. In Episode Four, Charles sends Sharon to spearhead the operation at Victoria Park, claiming, "I need my best people on this." Things go downhill from there.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Banjo beating up a bin.
  • Cliffhanger: The first series ends with one.
  • Dead Star Walking: James Nesbitt’s character kills himself three episodes into the first series.
  • Downer Beginning: Episode Four opens with a shot of Richard's body floating in the Thames.
  • Downer Ending: Episodes Three and Five.
  • Establishing Character Moment: From the pilot:
    • Liz starts her TED Talk by disclosing that she's nervous, explains how being honest makes it easier to facilitate communication, then adds, "it's good PR."
    • Tom is wordlessly encouraged by Richard to step closer to a drone. He obeys, with a frightened expression.
    • Finn is sitting on the toilet, watching Liz's TED Talk. He spits on her onscreen face.
    • Charles nearly gets into a tense verbal stand-off with Liz after she jokes about being able to kill him.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Well, everyone except the media.
  • Foreshadowing: In the pilot, Finn tells Mia that Liz was hired because "the Commissioner saw her TED Talk and his dick went hard". At first viewing, it seems like Finn is making a misogynistic comment about Liz because he’s The Resenter. Then, come Episode Three, Liz learns that Richard has had multiple affairs, including at least two in the workplace. Finn is spying on everyone, so he probably thinks that’s the case with Liz as well.
    • In Episode One, Richard exhibits some odd behaviour, such as telling Tom to cancel all his medical appointments, without giving a reason why. It's never explained, but: either Amy was still Richard's physio at the time and he was in the process of ending it, or he was already beginning to have suicidal thoughts, or Caroline Carey was already sniffing around. Or it could have been any combination of all of the above.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The dates and times on shots of surveillance camera footage. Apparently, Series 1 takes place over little more than twenty-four days. This isn't a coincidence or oversight - the dates are consistent with Matt Coward's dialogue in Episode Three and Caroline Carey's article in Episode Four.note 
    • In Episode Two, Liz's email features her making contrived metaphors about Apple and Samsung, seemingly forgetting how to use punctuation, and suddenly typing in all caps.
    • In Episode Three, when Liz first speaks with Richard, a framed poster in her office reads "too good to be true".
    • In Episode Four, the news portal which hacked into the drone feed has a sidebar speculating if Richard was "killed by the Russians".
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality
  • Headbutting Heroes: Charles Inglis and Sharon Franklin. Liz and Finn, too, for a given value of ‘hero’.
  • Meaningful Echo: Richard comparing handling the police force to putting out fires.
    Richard: I know I look like a police officer, but I'm a firefighter. That's all I do. I put out fires.
    • In Episode Five, Liz's impassioned pitch to Sharon paints the Met as metaphorically burning to the ground, with Charles and Finn bolting the windows and setting extinguishers on fire.
    • And after Armed Response chooses not to carry their firearms, as a form of protest.
      Liz: (incredulously) Can they also choose to be firemen?
    • Later, a police convoy goes down a road, only to find it blocked by rioters...and an abandoned police car that's on fire.
  • Motivational Lie: Liz delivers one of these to Sharon, to encourage her to apply for Commissioner.
  • No Such Thing as H.R.: The higher-ups at Scotland Yard are constantly at each other's throats, resorting to verbal abuse, rude gestures, and borderline harassment. Possibly justified, in the sense that their squabbles never seem to affect the lower-ranking workers, and they're almost all guilty of it to some degree.
  • One Degree of Separation: For clarity's sake, the series only focuses on one Specialist Firearms Command unit and one Territorial Support Group unit, whose members are closely linked to each other. (Robbie transfers from the TSG to Firearms; Davina and Banjo are married.) Somehow, these two units are involved in nearly every major policing incident in London, which makes their storylines intersect with the higher-ups'.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The Karl Jeffries Story Arc was clearly inspired by the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011.
  • Satire: Leans more towards Horation.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The bomber in Episodes Three and Four.
  • Ship Tease: Between Liz and Richard. She has a serious case of Hero Worship towards him, and lets slip to Granger that "he's not always perfect, but it's something to get out of bed for - saving an institution." Richard keeps kissing her on the cheek, and says she's the only person he trusts. Nothing happens between them before he kills himself.
    • In later episodes, between Liz and Finn. When the car they’re in swerves, Liz clutches Finn’s hand on reflex, and they exchange an awkward glance. Later, she purposefully grabs his hands again while appealing to him for support.
  • Slave to PR: Everyone.
  • Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: At least two per episode.
  • Visual Pun: Whenever a character leaks information to the press, they do it in the restroom.
  • Volleying Insults
  • Wham Episode: Episode Three. There's a bomb threat. Richard approves of Metwork and agrees to ask Finn to resign. All seems well for Liz, until Richard tells her that a journalist has learned of an affair he had in the workplace and is planning to run the story the next day. They're also demanding that they give up on Metwork. Then, the bomb goes off. The journalist decides to go with another story - of another affair Richard had, this one with his sister-in-law. At the end of the episode, Richard jumps into the Thames.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The missing boy in Episode Five is implied to have been kidnapped and murdered, but there's no mention of whether the perpetrator was caught.
    • The last we see or hear of Matt Coward is his arrest. There's also the matter of his former employers encouraging Robbie to tamper with evidence.
    • The Clarkey/Davina/Banjo subplot is abruptly resolved with Clarkey being badly beaten.
  • World of Snark

"Do I need to read you the Riot Act? The last line is 'do not restart the fucking riot'!"

Alternative Title(s): Babylon