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TV review: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings, Love and Death, and The Inheritance

15 September 2023


The Dispatches documentary Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings (Channel 4, Tuesday of last week) revealed new information about the motives of those who carried out the atrocities

The Dispatches documentary Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings (Channel 4, Tuesday of last week) revealed new information about the motives of those who carri...

A DISPATCHES documentary, Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings (Channel 4, Tuesday of last week), added a further twist to the obscene story of the 2019 simultaneous terrorist atrocities (News, 26 April 2019). Three luxury hotels and three churches were targeted, and timed, to cause maximum destruction, just as Easter Day masses ended: 269 people were killed, 115 — including 27 children — at one church alone.

Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, but now whistle-blowers reveal a viler narrative: that the bombers were covertly masterminded by a faction in the security forces loyal to the ousted former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, seeking to cause chaos and return him to power as the only hope of restoring order.

His reputation as a peace-maker rested on his ending of the civil war with the Tamil Tigers but this had been effected only with extreme brutality, with, in the final rout, more than 40,000 civilians, supposedly their supporters, killed.

Once firmly established, he ruled with burgeoning corruption, nepotism, and the suppression of all opposition. Public revulsion grew, and he was turned out of office in 2015; but certain national security personnel wanted to restore the ascendancy afforded by his corruption.

The programme presented evidence that this secret faction set up the bombings, and, after the subsequent return to power of the Rajapaksa clan (for the despicable strategy worked), blocked all proper investigations. Those whose revelations underpinned this programme are now in exile, fearing for their lives.

Real-life church-centred murder animates the US drama Love and Death (ITVX, from 7 September). This is the 1980s Texan dream: beautiful couples and smart children living enviable lives, including enthusiastic church membership. But, for the anti-heroine, Candy (Elizabeth Olsen), a yawning chasm threatens. Despite her picture-perfect life, she is existentially unfulfilled, and so engineers an affair with a fellow choir member, Allan (Jesse Plemons).

Although they begin determined that this will neither engulf nor overturn their lives, it quickly becomes all-consuming. The seeping blood of the title sequence signals just how badly it will end: but, along the way, the brilliant depiction of suburban retro bliss simultaneously enchants and repels. We all want enthusiastic church choirs: best check where they go after practice night.

Privately, clergy often talk about Appalling Things That Went Wrong at Funerals. I have had a few grim experiences, but I have not yet had police bursting in to seize the body. Such a scenario concludes the first episode of The Inheritance (Channel 5, Monday of last week). It has started encouragingly: three warring siblings discover that their beloved but neglected father has left everything to an unknown woman, who is revealed subsequently to be his new, secret, wife. It is dark social comedy; but serious astringent themes bubble away underneath.

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