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Television

All ones and zeros*

Mogwai brought me here.

Post-rock legends Mogwai added to their portfolio of brilliant soundtracks when the group scored the eight-part tv cocaine-trade series ZeroZeroZero. The band’s music, for the most part, is lyric-free, which lends itself perfectly to the medium.

Possibly their most well-known score was for the baffling French tv series Les Revenants.

The Glaswegians also provided the music for:

Their contribution to ZeroZeroZero comprises new material with more recognisable excerpts from their catalogue cunningly dropped in. With typically abstract song titles like “Moon in Reverse” and “Rivers Wanted” the band hands over part of the creative onus to the listener/viewer – who is encouraged to conjure with the imagery to add depth to the musical experience.

Excitingly, at the time of writing, the Glasgow band are in a race to top the official UK album chart. The last time anybody paid any attention to the charts was during the Blur v Oasis rivalry, surely?

Without wishing to labour the point, the ‘one’ in this article’s headline refers to the number one position in the ‘hit parade’.


The zeros are connected to the way Italian flour is graded … by using a system of zeros: 0 is the coarsest; 000 the finest (like icing sugar). Given that the subject matter of the ZeroZeroZero is the international cocaine trade, it’s tempting to assume the title refers to the illicit product’s purity.

It’s may also be a judgement on the three immoral organisations, and the people who operate in them, that the story centres on: having no redeeming features, zeros.

Events are set in motion when an elderly ‘Ndrangheta boss Don Minu (Adriamo Chiaramida), in an attempt to bring the rival mob families together, orders 500 kg of cocaine from the Leyra family in Monterrey. A seemingly respectable New Orleans shipping family (played by Andrea Riseborough [Emma], Dane DeHaan [Chris], and Gabriel Byrne [Edward Lynwood]) is enlisted to broker the deal and deliver the consignment from Mexico to the toe of Italy. So far, so simple.

However, someone close to Don Minu throws a spanner in the works and sets the plan seriously and violently off course.

Each episode is generally location-specific: the establishment of a narco army in Monterrey; the Mafia machinations in Italy; and an epic African trek. Like other tv shows, The Serpent; The Affair, there is much timeline shifting and, at times, a neat examination of the same event from two viewpoints.

It’s a gripping, beautifully shot, tale, but it’s difficult to root for any of the characters when you bear witness to the industry in which they have chosen to ply their trade.

The cast is top notch. Special mention must go to Harold Torres, as Manuel Contreras, a Mexican army soldier, who is secretly working for The Cartel. Expect to see him get more recognition outside his homeland.

Harold Torres as Manuel Contreras.

Unfortunately, as with most of productions of this type, women are woefully under-represented, mostly shown to be left at home, at their wit’s end. Ok, apart from Emma Lynwood, who we see, actually, having the last laugh.

Would I have watched it without Mogwai’s involvement? Yes, probably. ZeroZeroZero is undeniably great television. But for me an emotional attachment wasn’t made, unlike, say, the first season of True Detective.


*Besides clumsily shoehorning into the article above the references to ‘ones’ and ‘zeros’, this headline serves to draw attention to a brilliant single by The Early Years.

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