Rogue Heroes TV Review

Plot: Based on Ben Macintyre’s best-selling book of the same name, the series centers on David Stirling, an eccentric young officer who is hospitalized after a training exercise gone wrong. Convinced that traditional commando units don’t work, Stirling creates a radical plan that flies in the face of all accepted rules of modern warfare. He fights for permission to recruit the toughest, boldest, and brightest soldiers for a small undercover unit that will create mayhem behind enemy lines. More rebels than soldiers, Stirling’s team is every bit as complicated, flawed, and reckless as it is brave and heroic.

Review: Steven Knight has long been involved in scripting some of the more intriguing films and television series of the last few decades. Somehow, Knight has made everything from chess (Pawn Sacrifice) to blindness (AppleTV+ series See) into thrilling storytelling. His most popular project is the recently concluded historical crime series Peaky Blinders. Now, Knight is back with his latest series which plans to do for World War II what Peaky Blinders did for early 20th-century street gangs. Based on a mix of historical figures and fictional creations, Rogue Heroes is a darkly funny story that blends Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds with the classic novel Catch-22. It is a profane, violent, and engrossing look at a slice of WWII history told in a unique style.

Set in Egypt in 1941 as the Nazi forces expanded throughout Europe, Rogue Heroes opens with cheeky on-screen cards that do not mince words about how close the Allied Forces came to being, well, “fucked”. It becomes instantly apparent that this series would not be your traditional World War II drama as we meet David Stirling (Connor Swindells), a hard-drinking officer who wants nothing more than to get the hell out of Cairo. Swindells plays Stirling as a lout, a brigand, and an all-around defier of those whom he does not respect. Stirling is a solid anti-hero as we watch him join forces with Jock Lewes (Alfie Allen) and Paddy Mayne (Jack O’Connell) to come up with a unique way to fight the encroaching German forces. Absconding with parachutes and an airplane, the three soldiers come up with the idea for the Special Air Service (SAS), the branch of the British military that altered the course of World War II.

Rogue Heroes, spread over six episodes, chronicles the formation of the SAS and how Stirling, Lewes, and Mayne got their idea approved by the British military. As someone who is not familiar with the true story of the SAS, I did some research after watching this series and was shocked at how much of this story is actually true. Steven Knight takes some interesting liberties with the historical record, such as the exact circumstances of Stirling’s parachuting accident in the first episode as well as how he infiltrated Middle East headquarters to meet General Claude Auchinleck to present the idea for the SAS. Rogue Heroes takes a very insubordinate approach to the story and portrays many of the British leaders as stuffy and traditional while painting Stirling, Lewes, and Mayne as the rebellious rule-breakers who changed the rules. There is also a great turn from Dominic West as Dudley Clarke, a pioneer in the tactics that the SAS would embrace. West’s first scene is performed in drag, another curious tidbit from the actual history this series is based on.

The series also includes some fictional characters including Sofia Boutella as Eve Mansour, a spy working with the French Resistance. Boutella is quite good in the femme fatale role and offers a nice balance to the testosterone-heavy cast. The series also has some appearances from Winston Churchill, which makes the legitimacy of this tale feel more authentic while still allowing the story to have fun with this band of brothers as they develop a new way of fighting without direct combat. It is also fascinating to see the British, often shown as restrained and disciplined, as rowdy and defiant. All three of the leads play cocky characters who have underlying issues, especially Swindells as the alcoholic Stirling who is shown as suffering from major daddy issues. The series is the most fun I have had with a war story in a long time and is a lot more fun than Steven Knight’s previous efforts.

Directed by Tom Shankland, Rogue Heroes is designed as a limited series which helps it feel focused and doesn’t get bogged down with long-running subplots. Instead, the story starts quickly and never lets up. There are a lot of similarities to Peaky Blinders in the anti-establishment approach to storytelling, but Rogue Heroes is far more anachronistic than that series. From the constant use of modern music including perfectly placed AC/DC tracks as well as stenciled title cards showing off characters and locations, this series constantly feels like the punk rock little brother compared to Peaky Blinders‘ music snob elder sibling. It also helps that the khaki-heavy, desert set series looks completely different than the urban crime series it will be compared to. In the end, I think a lot of Peaky Blinders fans will seek this out because of Knight but most will stay because this story is so interesting.

Rogue Heroes is a series that would have been a massive hit had it aired on Netflix or any of the bigger streaming platforms. Like Pennyworth before it, many who don’t often check out Epix are going to be at risk of missing a solid war story that doesn’t require a long-term investment. Each of the six hour-long episodes flies by and is full of so many fights, plots, and solid one-liners and insults that you don’t even realize it has been sixty minutes. This series is a balanced mix of action, and drama, and is much funnier than Peaky Blinders which makes for a great viewing experience. I feel like I learned about a missing chapter in my World War II history from watching this and while it may not be one hundred percent accurate to the true story, it is close enough.

Rogue Heroes premieres on November 13th on Epix.

Rogue Heroes




About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.