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Series / The Brink

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A 2015 Political Black Comedy series on HBO, which will focus on a different international crisis each season. It focuses on three main sets of characters; a low level State Department officer played by Jack Black and his driver, the philandering US Secretary of State along with the presidential cabinet, and an Action Duo of two bumbling US Navy pilots.

The first season focuses on a crisis in Pakistan, after it is taken over by a Military Coup. Low level State Department employee Alex Talbot must act as the US governments guy on the inside, as he is the only diplomat outside of the sealed US Embassy, whilst also dealing with his driver, Rafiq, and his family he has dragged into the problem. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Walter Larson must battle stateside to ensure a peaceful resolution, much to the chagrin of the War Hawk Secretary of Defense, who endeavours to use Ace Pilot Zeke and his partner to bomb Pakistani nuclear sites and potentially start World War III.


The show was already renewed for a second season, but got cancelled anyway.

This show contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: Between the Director of the CIA and President Navarro in the pilot as a funny moment.
    SecState Larson: Smells like a coup d'etat.
    President Navarro: Led by who?
    CIA Director: I can't tell you that.
    President Navarro: I'm the president.
    CIA Director: No, I mean, we don't know.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Raja's requests to overthrow Zaman: $200M in cash, a communications satellite, a nuclear submarine and a golf club membership in Augusta. Subverted when Larson finds this last request to be the craziest one.
    • Ali later has the same thing. Except that he wants two giraffes so that he can show them off to his daughter. And for a drone strike on his car that was going to have its lease expired.
  • Attack Drone:
    • The use of drones over Pakistan is one of the main qualms of the leader of the coup, but only because he believes they are a Zionist conspiracy to render Pakistani's infertile.
    • Glenn accidentally shoots down an Indian Air Force drone whilst high on morphine pills Zeke accidentally gives him. This sparks international tensions even further.
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  • Battle Couple: Martin and Vanessa, two eccentric British expats living in rural Pakistan. Their kinky role play often involves antique weapons, and Vanessa even shoots Martin in the leg with a crossbow during a 'role play'.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Rafiq's family openly insulting Talbot in Urdu, and then telling him they were just talking about 'how much we admire American foreign policy'.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nuclear war is averted, Larson is able to keep his job and reconcile with his wife, Zeke and Glenn end up in Africa with an expensive artifact intent on living their dream, and Alex and Rafiq rekindle their friendship. However, the wreckage of the Pakistani aircraft, and the intact nuke, is discovered by Eritrean rebels, who are last seen transporting it away from the crash site with unknown intentions.
  • Blood Knight: The pro-war members of the U.S. Cabinet are exaggeratedly eager to begin a war with Pakistan. Larson even notices that a general is drooling at the prospect of bombing the shit out of the country.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Zaman orders his guards to arrest Raja after he returns to Pakistan, only to have them turn on him instead. They later continue working for Zaman after Raja is killed when the US bombs the presidential residence.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Talbot is given a briefcase containing $80 million in $1000 bills to give to Raja as an indication the US is serious about helping him to usurp Zaman.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: The first thing the Pakistani Army does during the coup is block cell phone reception. This prevents Talbot and Rafiq from contacting the embassy, and the US presidential cabinet from contacting anyone in the country.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Alex giving the seven Pakistani girls the embassy wifi password. Their tweets break the internet silence across Pakistan, and lead General Zuman to believe they are being held against their will, and vows to get them out, putting the embassy under threat.
    • The $200,000 Raja gives to Alex Talbot. Talbot later uses it to bribe two chopper pilots evacuating the embassy to take the seven schoolgirls to the Massoud residence is rural Pakistan, instead of a US airbase in Afghanistan where they would be further from their parents.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Operation Infinite Wisdom, in which the full bicep of the American military machine flexes its...bicep."
  • Drinking on Duty: Larson gets his aide, Kendra, to bring him booze in the White House Situation Room.
    Larson: I need hair of the dog, pronto.
    Kendra: Yeah, well there is no alcohol in the Situation Room.
    Larson: Then make it look like orange juice! You really think LBJ fought the Vietnam War down here sober?
    Kendra: Yeah, well we lost that one, didn't we?
    • Played with with Zeke and Glenn. They get hammered aboard the USS Grant after getting severely reprimanded and banned from flying by Admiral McBride, so are technically off duty. However, as the only pilots left close enough to take down the Pakistani fighter jet delivering a nuke to Tel Aviv ( as the rest of the fleet's fighters are still over Pakistan), they are forced get back in the F-16 and engage in aerial warfare, whilst very drunk.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Interpol agents who arrest Martin and Vanessa are disguised as Taliban insurgents.
  • Functional Addict: Lt Commander Zeke Tilson, and apparently half of the 5th Fleet on the USS Ulysses S. Grant aircraft carrier he is stationed on are addicted to prescription meds to keep them awake and focused.
  • Going Down with the Ship: When the White House is evacuated due to fears it may become a military target, President Navarro and his cabinet are sent to a bunker at an undisclosed location. Only Larson remains in the building to negotiate with other heads of state to avert the crisis.
  • Government Procedural: A Genre Deconstruction of one, since it's a Black Comedy. The scenes featuring the President and the Cabinet highlight just how frustrating it is to be the Only Sane Man in a room full of WarHawks. Over the course of seven episodes, the Secretary of State goes from being a respected, if highly unconventional bureaucrat, to being the pariah of the Cabinet because he's the only one not on board with potentially starting World War III.
  • Hope Spot: Larson convinces Raja to return to Pakistan, which he does and places Zaman under arrest. And then right after, Raja is killed in an American drone strike meant for Zaman, who is being safely driven away.
  • Impossible Task: Lampshaded by Larson when the president announces he wants to destroy compromised Pakistani nuclear sites with zero civilian casualties.
    President Navarro: I want zero civilian casualties.
    Larson: Yeah, and I want to fuck Scarlett Johansson.
  • Military Coup: The main focus of the first season. Pakistan is taken over by a radical former general in the Pakistan Army, due to him losing the recently held democratic election.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: What most of Talbot's buddies from Dartmouth went on to be. Talbot instead joined the Foreign Service as he actually wanted to help people.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Vanessa.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Wolf Blitzer shows up in a CNN breaking news story around Zeke and Glenn going missing and another regarding the several Pakistani schoolgirls the US Embassy is protecting.
  • Noodle Incident: Involving Talbot, an embassy SUV, multiple women and a cricket match.
    • Zeke bombing an Iranian arms shipment, an action that made him a 'celebrity' on the aircraft carrier.
  • Nuke 'em: In Episode 8, with Raja dead, Zaman feels confident enough to send a nuke into Tel Aviv. Fortunately, it misfires and detonates while still in its silo. Even when he is usurped by General Ahmed Ali, it is revealed Zaman sent a jet armed with a nuke to Tel Aviv before his removal from power, and gave it orders to not turn back under any circumstance. In the season 1 finale, Israel launches its own nuke at Islamabad after hearing this information, but call it off once Zeke and Glenn take out the plane.
  • Operation: [Blank]: The American plan for attacking Pakistan is named "Operation Infinite Wisdom."
  • Outlaw Couple: Martin and Vanessa are black market artifact dealers who live in a Big Fancy House in rural Pakistan. They are arrested by Interpol agents in episode seven.
  • Pretext for War: The Indian government blames Pakistan for shooting down one of their drones, and Larson fears they will use it as an excuse to invade Kashmir. The drone was actually shot down by Glenn, who mistakenly fired a missile whilst cleaning vomit off his trigger, whilst high.
  • Ramming Always Works: After Zeke and Glenn shoot down the Pakistani fighter that was heading for Israel, they realize that it was a decoy and the actual nuke is aboard a tanker plane they had passed earlier. Having used all their ammunition taking down the first plane, Zeke resorts to ramming the tanker with his fighter (though both he and Glenn eject in time).
  • This Is Reality: When Larson tries to get Talia Levy, the Israeli Foreign Minister, to let him speak to the PM by threatening to cut military aid.
    Levy: Are you mad? Do I look like Latvia to you. We are Israel. IS-RA-EAL. Your congress wouldn't do anything that would hurt us.
    Larson: Trust me, arms can be twisted. And plus, I'm close with all the Jewish senators: Boxer, Schumer, Feinstein.
    Levy: It's not the Jews that protect us, its Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi. It's your right-wing, neo-con super Christians. And they don't even like Jews, they just need us here to keep the lights on for their fucking Messiah!
  • Rogue Agent: Secretary of State Walter Larson becomes this, operating out of the bathroom and interns offices in the White House after President Navarro demands his resignation.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Secretary Larson, when, despite all his efforts, America will launch a full-scale attack on Pakistan. He decides to head off and get very drunk. Fortunately, Kendra convinces him to stay.
  • Secret Police: How Rafiq and his family view the Pakistani ISI.
    Rafiq: I wouldn't get too cute with these guys, because they're kind of like our Gestapo.
  • Sexy Scandinavian: Talbot mentions wanting to 'nation build' with Melina, an attractive woman who works at the Danish Embassy.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The first season shows correct Indian and Pakistani military uniforms. The latter part includes berets and insignia.
    • Larson correctly mentions that China has a border with Kashmir and that China could get involved if a war between India and Pakistan is centered around the area.
  • Sinister Surveillance: With no way of directly contacting Raja, Talbot calls Rafiq's home number, assuming Raja's men are bugging their phone. Although Rafiq begins to claim the Pakistani government isn't like the NSA, the call is interrupted by an ISI agent who gives Talbot a meeting point and time.
  • Spy Speak: A hilarious example occurs when Talbot calls Larson on a non-secure line to confirm the $80 million was given to Raja.
    Talbot: Hello, this is, uh, Puck, from a Midsummer Nights Dream just passing messages of the heart back and forth and trying to save the enchanted forest from total nuclear annihilation.
    Kendra: I think its Alex Talbot, but it doesn't sound like he is on a secure line.
    Larson: Okay Puck, did Grover Clevelandnote  make it home safe from the prom?
    Talbot: Yes, and when he got home his, uh, brown uncle chucked him into bed.
    Larson: Don't make this weird, I get it, package delivered.
    • And again when discussing the evangelical Ambassador Kitteridge's plans to ship Talbot to Baghdad and ruin their plans.
    Talbot: Sir, one other thing. Jesus is having me transferred to Baghdad.
    Larson: Negative, I need you there on the ground. Screw Jesus.
    Talbot: Sir, I would love to screw Jesus but his...butt is, uh, too...tight? I'm sorry, talking like this is hard.
  • Tempting Fate: Talbot calls Rafiq's home number in the hopes that the ISI is listening in in order to arrange a meeting with Raja.
    Rafiq: The ISI is not like the NSA! They're not listening to our phone calls! [someone says something in Urdu on the phone] They say they'll be here in forty minutes. [something else is said in Urdu] Fifty if there's traffic.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Zeke and Glenn end up stranded in rural Pakistan after their plane is shot down during a reconnaissance mission.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Lampshaded by Larson after the President goes against his advice and decides to take direct action.
    Admiral McBride: I have a high degree of confidence in the full array of assets we've deployed.
    Larson: Ah, I see that golf jockey you took with your wife courtesy of Lockheed Martin is really starting to pay off.
  • The War Room: The White House Situation Room, where President Navarro and his cabinet watch the crisis unfold.
  • Tunnel Network: Located underneath the US Embassy in Islamabad, connecting it to multiple other embassies in the diplomatic enclave. Alex uses it to deliver weed to his friend in the Chinese Embassy, and later attempts to get the schoolgirls out of the US Embassy via the tunnels.
  • Wham Episode: "Sticky Wicket". As Raja is preparing to become the new head of state, he is killed in a drone strike meant for Zaman, putting the future of Pakistan in an uncertain position.
    • "Just A Little Crazy Talk". Zaman reveals that he sent out a backup, which was a PAF loyalist with a nuke-equipped fighter to take out Tel Aviv.
  • Unfortunate Item Swap: Zeke and Glenn accidentally take morphine pills instead of Xanax before their mission, which leads to Glenn puking all over the cockpit and accidentally shooting down an Indian Air Force drone, over Pakistani airspace.