The subtle, virtually inconspicuous effect on award-winning TV dramas when U.S. Predator drones are introduced as characters:
The Wire – Season 1, Episode 1. A crack Verizon-NSA team intercepts Stringer Bell ordering a re-up. Drone strikes take out “the pit” as well as the headquarters of Avon Barksdale. The government of Pakistan protests. Still photos later released from the White House situation room show then-president George W. Bush, VP Dick Cheney and, sitting between them, Proposition Joe. Series ends.
The Sopranos – Season 1, Episode 8. Drones pre-emptively take out the Soprano family home as well as the Bada Bing! strip club. Gov. Chris Christie is apoplectic – strikes violated the territorial sovereignty of New Jersey, and the loss of Carmela’s lasagna recipes. Possible spin-off: The Dantes, or The Walnuts. Kathryn Bigelow is reported seen wearing night-vision goggles, scouting locations in Aleppo, Syria, to stand in for Paterson, N.J.
24 – Series 1, Episode 5. Predator strike on terrorist cell leader Ira Gaines’s compound; Jack’s daughter Kim Bauer is collaterally killed. In the second plotline of the same episode, CTU suspects a mole inside the counterterrorism unit. In an act of supreme sacrifice, and rather than a simple internal inquiry or calling HR, CTU authorizes a drone strike on itself; the attack kills Jack Bauer in the midst of waterboarding himself.
The Good Wife – Episode 1, Season 1. Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is taken out by a UAV over his alleged sex and corruption scandal, and for ditching Carrie at the altar that time. The Good Widow survives blast. Attorney-General Eric Holder is almost finished writing drone deployment policy and legal basis for their use.
Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 1. Meth lab is destroyed in a DEA-targeted drone attack. Walt loses an important meth-making learning experience. Series pivots to an account of a terminally ill high-school chem teacher, is renamed Breaking Boring and is promptly cancelled after Episode 2. Debris from the drone strike is carted out of Albuquerque and dumped in the desert, to be used later as a backdrop for both Lana Del Rey’s Ride and Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble videos.
Sons of Anarchy – Season 1, Episode 4. ATF agent June Stahl arrives in Charming, Calif., to investigate the SAMCRO biker gang. During sex with the deputy police chief (itself a form of torture), she learns that the Sons have ties to the Real IRA, which the federal government considers a terrorist organization. Stahl is daunted at the prospect of the drudge paperwork required for arrest and search warrants and so has the Sons designated enemy combatants. A drone strike destroys the clubhouse/auto-shop; character Half-Sack, not yet a gang member, is taken out, just in case. The creepy Nordics take over the town. (Nordics leader played by Julian Assange.)
Homeland – Season 1, Episode 2. Hellfire missiles blow up the Brody home, kill the Brody family, Carrie selflessly sacrificing one of her last realistic chances at office sex. There is heavy drone irony at work here: Brody himself became radicalized when a drone attack killed the son of Abu Nazir, his mentor. Homeland the series is over after just two episodes. Or is it? The latest drone attack has enraged straight-shooting USMC Captain Mike Faber, who’d been having a steamy affair with wife Jessica. Faber now becomes radicalized himself and seeks out Abu Nazir, with a possible sequel/spin-off (Faber drone attack/Faber-Carrie sexual tension/consummation) rumoured to be under development.
Downton Abbey – Season 2, Episode 8. Unable to tell the difference between a real tea party and a right-wing conspiracy, a joint IRS-NSA overseas operation destroys the Abbey. Among the dead, aristocrats and commoners alike without regard for social class or distinction. Ironically, and as is so often the case with drone strikes, the attack fails to bag the actual potential terrorists, the Irish republican wing of the Granthams being away in Dublin planning their nuptials. Dame Maggie Smith is found in the rubble, nearly caramelized but still alive. “Good Heavens! Has Carson been spiking the Pimm’s again?”
Alexander Wooley is a Toronto-based writer.