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TV Shows We Love: SAS: Rogue Heroes

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War is hell, but Stephen Knight’s latest offering is anything but. The Peaky Blinders creator is back on the BBC, this time tracing the origins of the Special Air Service and how it came to be during the Second World War.

On paper, SAS: Rogue Heroes sounds like it belongs among the library of multi-part war documentaries airing on the BBC, but this is not your ordinary war drama. Unlike anything of its kind, it’s bursting with the bravado and complete disregard for authority one could expect from Knight, only this time it’s not fictional.

Based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre, the show takes a jaunty approach to warfare as it follows the renegade group of young men that masterminded the SAS, punctuated with copious swearing and an anachronistic soundtrack featuring the likes of the Stranglers and AC/DC.

It’s a fascinating story, more so because, as the title card for the first episode reads, “the events depicted which seem most unbelievable… are mostly true”. And it’s true that the SAS founders set off to form their shadow regiment with little more than sheer determination, and perhaps a slight death wish too.

Connor Swindells leads the cast as David Stirling, the brain behind the regiment and its de facto leader, with Alfie Allen joining him as cool-as-a-cucumber master planner Jock Lewes, and Jack O’Connell as the fierce, mercurial Paddy Mayne. Together, the three led the motley crew that was the first incarnation of the SAS, each bringing in their own unique brand of madness.

As bombastic and humorous as it may be, the show doesn’t shy away from the sad, grotesque and dark side of war. “In war, we are allowed to be the beasts that we are,” Stirling muses in one of his monologues, forcing the audience to reflect on how these young men with nothing to lose set out on what initially seemed and felt like a suicide mission.

But war has given them the licence to be reckless. It’s all in the SAS motto: ‘Who Dares Wins’.

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