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The Dwindling British Empire Is the Subject of 'The Last Post'
December 22, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

When most people think of Britain in 1965, they think of rock ‘n’ roll bands, trendy clothes, and Swinging London.

The Last Post, which becomes available Friday through Amazon Prime, reminds us that in a very different corner of Britain in 1965, a small garrison of soldiers was holding onto a final vestige of the British Empire.

With a half century’s perspective, we can clearly see just how doomed that mission was.

While colonial occupation was collapsing around the world, and deservedly so, this one was particularly fraught. It was in the Middle East, specifically in Aden, where maintaining a military presence meant exposing the soldiers to the whole firestorm of issues that have wracked that region forever.

The Last Post humanizes the story by telling it largely from the perspective of more than a dozen soldiers and wives.

For U.S. viewers, it will bear some similarity to previous military ensemble dramas like Army Wives and Manhattan. It flirts with soap at times, but sticks mostly to the larger issues. Like, say, colonialism.

In the first episode, one soldier gives a speech about how colonialism has been the best thing that ever happened to its subjects. The benevolent Brits, he explains, come in and develop a country, giving it power plants and roads and infrastructure, and then when that work is done, turn it over to the now well-trained natives.

Anyone who thinks that’s really how colonialism worked needs to get back on their meds. But the speech is an effective dramatic device, because it captures much of the real-life rationale Britain used to justify ruling huge swaths of North America, Africa, and Asia for hundreds of years

The primary characters here include Captain Joe Martin (Jeremy Neumark Jones, top), who has just flown in to take command of the post from the well-liked Captain Nick Page (Joseph Kennedy).

Martin, while seemingly not a bad guy, is young and insecure, which makes his normal-sized streak of arrogance come across as somewhat larger. He’s also newly married to Honor Martin (Jessie Buckley, top), who comes off at first as something of a ditz.  

One of his chief aides is Lt. Ed Laithwaite (Stephen Campbell Moore, above), who was passed over for the commander position.

While it may be awkward, it's not Laithwaite’s biggest problem. That would be his wife Alison (Jessica Raines), who’s pretty much out of control. Raines plays Alison right on the edge and she’s riveting to watch, even beyond the train wreck element.

The younger soldiers, the ones who aren’t veterans of the World War II generation, include Lance Cpl. Tony Armstrong (Tom Glynn-Carney, left).

They have a different view of the world, and soldiering, which may help explain why Armstrong develops a fondness for Yusra Saeed (Ouidad Elma), a young local woman.

She is fond of him as well, though The Last Post quickly reminds us about the fragility of such alliances in communities where suspicion, antagonism, and violence are such ingrained parts of the larger culture.

The near-impossibility of maintaining a calm, benevolent stewardship of Aden is evident from the beginning. In fact, just staying alive isn’t something everyone can do, and the larger lesson about the futility of occupation permeates the drama here.

The Last Post, isn’t a black-and-white argument for or against either side. It just makes clear that history has left almost everyone in an untenable situation, from which even extrication isn’t as simple as hopping on a plane and leaving.

It doesn’t leave much doubt that one way or another, British departure was inevitable, and that the damage along the way is not limited to those hit by actual bullets.

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I saw this series recently in UK. It is beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted, with very well created women as clearly as the men. Jessica Raines is superb, however so are all the characters. The music chosen for it's timeliness, plays a specific part as well.
It is simply the best series I have watched in years.
Haunting, as the world repeats itself Historically.
Dec 22, 2017   |  Reply
Angela, when it aired just a couple of months ago in UK, all the actors were on Twitter, conversing with their new fans. Very human. Little George Markham was delightful, and I follow him still.@woolftoby. (I suspect they'd get a kick out of US audience reaction, too!)
Dec 23, 2017
Zeke, I see what you mean about this series being the best you've seen in years. I've only watched 2 episodes thus far but it's obvious The Last Post is very special and I'm hoping for a second season.
Dec 23, 2017
You are a guest on this site.
It would be quite nice if you acted like a polite guest.
Dec 22, 2017   |  Reply
R. Dunn
HAHA! Hinckley you have really read or understood any of this "post-colonial" history or politics you celebrate.
Last time I check current events 'post-colonial' Africa has become a cesspool... The British, French etc. had clean, educated, well running Colonies with civil society.
And here we are 'post-colonial' and all the world has to deal with a mess of a God-Damned continent.
It really offends me hearing you, and your lefty-progressive-socialists, spew your political views about TV shows on here... And of course use TV shows to rewrite history
Dec 22, 2017   |  Reply
Speaking of offensive... --TVWW
Dec 24, 2017
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