Channel 4’s hidden-camera exposé on data firm Cambridge Analytica has made familiar faces of the puppeteers of democracy who wished to remain invisible, but we’re glad to meet them.
Not since the third season of Fargo have we seen an ultra-British supervillain as captivating as Mark Turnbull, the managing director of the company’s political division who boasts about tapping into human hopes and fears from behind two huge jars of sweets.
If you ignore the fact the great berk’s being filmed while revelling in his own stealth, it’s hard to escape the intoxicating air of a mastermind who’ll never be caught. His velveteen turn of phrase, likening Facebook user data mining to dropping a bucket down a well, almost justifies his gleeful game of manipulating electorates.
He turns up for the second act in fancy dress as Jack Nicholson in Chinatown before turning the concept of dirty online propaganda into yet more poetry: “We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and watch it grow.” Who is this guy?
Unfortunately for him, he’s merely the lackey to cold-eyed CEO Alexander Nix, who wades in on the third act to give the game away on all the honey traps, spies and fake news they get involved in. And just like that, he’s a national joke. All those clever ideas, and he winds up no better than Sam Allardyce and his pint of wine.