Short of tying you up with a pair of tie-dye flares and beating you over the head with a bong, Mayday does everything it can to transport you back to the early ’70s. Cold War tensions? Check. Hallucinogen-fuelled sex? Check. Riot police brutally suppressing hippie protest? Check and check.
Mayday is the first of a proposed string of espionage miniseries that writer Alex de Campi describes as “Mad Men, but with considerably more murder”. It follows a pair of Russian agents sent to the US to kill a defecting general who has a microfilm containing the names of every Soviet operative in the Far East. Known only by their codenames, Felix and Rose, the two are rumbled by the CIA and go on the run. Like Bonnie and Clyde, or perhaps Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather, they’re young, desperate fugitives who leave a blood-soaked trail, but our sympathies are with them all the same. In the heyday of the counterculture, anyone who resists The Man – however violently – becomes a hero.
De Campi peppers her script with a “soundtrack” of music suggestions to evoke mood and era, while Tony Parker, using a lean line reminiscent of Frank Quitely, provides Dutch angles, “off” framing and spacious compositions that echo the cinema of the period. The result is a compelling portrait of America turning sour, Woodstock giving way to Charles Manson, seen through the eyes of outsiders whose own ideals are becoming compromised.
Forget the office. We won’t be back.