The money talk is baffling, and it’s hard to care about bankers – but this dark and murky world quickly sucks you in

Frankfurt: a jittery crowd queues for a single cashpoint, each customer in turn withdrawing the maximum daily amount. When the machine runs empty, the queue erupts into panic. As a hooded figure stalks the glass canyons of the financial district, it’s clear that rioting has already begun nearby. A news reporter announces that a huge bank has collapsed. The mayor of Leipzig is missing.

Remember all this, because the four-minute intro to Channel 4’s Bad Banks is the future: after the opening credits the action shifts to eight weeks earlier, presumably to show how we came to this sorry pass. By the end of episode one, I’d forgotten all about it.

Jana Liekam (the figure in the hood) is a young, go-getting banker – a “budding structurer”, as the subtitles have it – who is fired by her spoilt, dissolute superior Luc for being “dumb enough to be better than him”. At first you think Luc might have a sympathetic side because he volunteers in a soup kitchen before going to work, but it turns out he is actually doing community service for cocaine possession.

Jana, evidently a structurer of promise, has already attracted the attention of the big boss, the glamorous and terrifying Mme LeBlanc. She secures Jana a position at a rival institution, in exchange, she hints, for as much corporate espionage as might be required.

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