The Diplomat: Season 1 – TV Review

TL;DR – This is a delightfully amusing show for one delving into such topical stories. Like if The West Wing met Utopia by way of The Crown.   

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this series

A British funeral

The Diplomat Review

In a former life, I got very much down the rabbit hole of the world of international affairs. While that is now deep in the past, it is nice to dip your toes back into what could have been from time to time. I thought I would do this when I saw a new show about being the new Ambassador from the USA to the UK. I am not quite sure what I was expecting when I sat down to watch, but I am not sure that a show that is equal parts drama and farce was one of them.

So to set the scene, after years of being the deputy chief of Mission for her husband Hal (Rufus Sewell), Ambassador Kate Wyler (Keri Russell) is getting ready to step up and be the next Ambassador to Afghanistan. However, there was no ambassador in London, which was a problem when an external actor attacked the Aircraft carrier HMS Courageous. So without warning, Kate is dropped into the thick of it as most people see this as an Iranian attack to avenge the Americans for taking an oil tanker earlier in the month. However, while Kate is trying to find her feet, what she is not aware of, but what White House Chief of Staff Billie Appiah (Nana Mensah) has given Stuart Heyford (Ato Essandoh), Deputy Chief of Mission, has given the heads up about is that Kate is on a shortlist to replace the Vice President who is about to get turfed in a scandal. Kate would be good for the job if not for the fact that her marriage is about to implode. Now from here, we will be looking at the series as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.

Kate gives a derisive stare.
Keri Russell is perfect at being both a fish out of water, and completely competent. Image Credit: Netflix.

The first thing you must get used to in this show is how wild the tone is. We open with the attack on an Aircraft carrier, and the possible nuclear war is a main current of the story. But it also looks at a deeply dysfunctional relationship going into free fall, even though the split is apparently amicable. The Diplomat swings wildly from each extreme, and it should not work, but it does. Including a point where we get one of the best Texas switches, I have seen in a while. Where we get Kate and a stunt double fall into a bush, and Hal and a stunt double pop out the other side. All while the security staff look on from the side with a big “this is not my problem” energy.

I think it works as well as it does in part because of the commitment of the cast to throw all of themselves into these somewhat wacky roles. Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell are fantastic with each other, whether they are reconciled or brawling on the lawn. They have to bring a lot of the personal tension while still being not so ridiculous that you feel it is a complete farce, and they somehow get that balance right. A fantastic supporting cast then surrounds them that all hit their marks. Rory Kinnear is perfect as Prime Minister Nicol Trowbridge as he captures that sneering ineffectual pompousness that has marked the current batch of British PMs from David Cameron onwards. Ato Essandoh as Stuart Heyford, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Ali Ahn as Eidra Park, CIA Station Chief, has this good ‘parents in the room’ vibe while hiding their own relationship at the perfect level of hypocrisy for the show. Then, of course, there is the potential rival/love interest/source/antagonist in David Gyasi as Foreign Secretary Austin Dennison.

The president arrives.
Full of Pomp and Circumstance. Image Credit: Netflix.

The scenario also works as Kate is both deeply competent and also a fish out of water. The combination leads to some weird and wonderful moments as they try to determine who did or did not bomb the aircraft carrier. While the ‘who-done-it’ parts play second fiddle to the political intrigue of navigating Britain’s somewhat archaic institutions while preparing to get dumped by an insecure PM, the twists are quite fun. It also helps that this is set in a very modern world. The UK left the EU, Russia invaded Ukraine, and America assassinated key Iranian Generals. It is both fictional and has this level of reality that brings you even deeper into the story.

It all does unwind a bit when they disappear for a retreat in The Dogcatcher, as it shifts to a more always serious tone. It losses some of the balance it had early on, and those moments when it does slip into the more satirical realm don’t hit as hard. However, I am not sure the big reveal at the end of The James Bond Clause would have worked without the groundwork laid in these episodes. So, I am in two minds of it all. On that front, I think The Diplomat might have the best ending tag I have seen in a while that makes you 100% want to see how the hell they resolve that going forward. The creator had worked on The West Wing at the start of their carrier, and you see those touches here, and they work.

Hal eats a cheese tart
The Diplomat. Image Credit: Netflix.

In the end, do we recommend the first season of The Diplomat? Absolutely. There is a lot of awkwardness, and a least one uncomfortable sex scene, that you know some poor person is going to have to watch with their parents given where this show is pitched. However, it is compelling when it is on fire, and I could not wait to see the next episode. Or, indeed, see the following season.

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen The Diplomat yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review
on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.    

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Diplomat
Directed by
– Simon Cellan Jones, Andrew Bernstein, Liza Johnson & Alex Graves
Written by – Debora Cahn, Peter Noah, Amanda Johnson-Zetterström, Mia Chung &Anna Hagen
Created by – Debora Cahn
Production/Distribution Companies – Let’s Not Turn This Into a Whole Big Production,     Well Red & Netflix
Starring – Keri Russell, Rufus Sewll, David Gyasi, Ali Ahn, Rory Kinnear & Ato Essandoh with Celia Imrie, Michael McKean, Nana Mensah, Miguel Sandoval & T’Nia Miller and Jess Chanliau, Pearl Mackie, Penny Downie, Adam Silver, Tim Delap, Kenichiro Thomson, Elijah Cook, Georgie Henley, Micky Sébastain, John Schwab, Leroy Bonsu, Alec Nicholls, Christine Kavanagh, Reza Diako, Bijan Daneshmand,Tom Mordell, Ro Kumar, Tegan Farrelly, Simon Ludders, Anna Francolini, Amy Manson, Anne Wittman, Arthur Lee, Richard Dillane, Rupert Vansittart, David Bark-Jones, Bhav Joshi, Colin R. Campbell, Andre Lillis, Colin Mace, Simon Chandler, Etienne Guillou-Kervern, Alan Mahon, Adrien Mubu, Brigitte Barilley, Stéphane Ly-Cuong, Antoine Mathieu, Matilda Ziegler, Jacqueline Boatswain, David Yelland, Mark Beauchamp, Sharif Dorani, Dana Haqjoo, Freddie Stabb, Tim Berrington, Louise Cole, Marshall Griffin, Laurell Lefkow, Gareth Brierley, David Buttle, Joey Eden, Diany Samba-Bandza & Michael Sheldon
Episodes CoveredThe Cinderella Thing, Don’t Call it a Kidnapping, Lambs in the Dark, He Bought a Hat, The Dogcatcher, Some Lusty Tornado, Keep Your Enemies Closer & The James Bond Clause


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