The Pitch: A fictitious secret society called The Pentaverate has been quietly influencing world events for the betterment of humanity ever since they discovered fleas on rats caused the Black Plague. As omniscient narrator Jeremy Irons describes, the Pentaverate is nice (unlike other secret organizations) and led by five learned men: high-ranking British official Lord Lordington, Australian media baron Bruce Baldwin, Russian ex-oligarch Mishu Ivanov, real-life rock manager Shep Gordon, and computer programmer Jason Eccleston (all performed by Mike Myers).
After Eccleston’s untimely death, the Pentaverate attempts to initiate nuclear physicist Dr. Hobart Clark (Keegan-Michael Key) and casino mogul Skip Cho (Ken Jeong), but their incorporation of these figures into their group causes more chaos than expected.
Meanwhile, aging Canadian journalist Ken Scarborough (also Myers) is being forced into retirement following a series of unsuccessful news stories. In order to keep his job at CACA News, Scarborough sees an opportunity to expose the Pentaverate, recruiting plucky camerawoman Reilly Clayton (Lydia West) and red-pilled conspiracy nut Anthony Lansdowne (also Myers) to help him navigate his mission.
As Scarborough endeavors to infiltrate the Pentaverate, he uncovers a web of lies and deception within the operation that raises even more questions about who really holds the most power over the information we receive.
Journalism Matters, It Seems: In the age of QAnon and post-Trump paranoia, conspiracy theories have become so normalized that even empirical truths are seen now as questionable. Contextualizing the growing threat of disinformation through a lens of absurdity might seem like a clever, accessible way of highlighting the danger of it.
But there’s also a risk of flattening a critique of the issue into an obvious, on-the-nose indictment of confirmation bias, preaching the very exhaustively discussed idea that we’ve become so easily duped into accepting any piece of information as factual, regardless of the source.
Netflix’s The Pentaverate aims to accomplish the former, showing how even those with morally good intentions can still weaponize and distort the truth for their own self-interest. Unfortunately, it ends up reinforcing the latter through well-meaning but surface-level platitudes about the need for more honest journalism in the face of clickbait propaganda and extremist messaging.
As Mike Myers’ first major comedy venture in 14 years, The Pentaverate is certainly the most competent spoof the Canadian entertainer has made since the Austin Powers trilogy, though that’s about as high as the bar goes. The six-episode series pokes fun at conspiracy theory culture to middling effect, uneasily balancing its stale, dated political humor with juvenile toilet jokes.
If you’re into that brand of silliness with a socially conscious but relatively dull edge, The Pentaverate will prove to be a decent, smooth-brained distraction. If not, it’s probably best to just sit this one out.