IF YOU obsessed over FX’s prestige spy drama The Americans, you knew Keri Russell starring in another jaunt through political subterfuge meant you were in for hours of corruption, murder, and negotiations veiled as sex. Deborah Cahn’s suspense thriller The Diplomat doesn’t disappoint as Russell portrays Kate Wyler, a career foreign service officer who is unexpectedly tapped to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., following the bombing of HMS Courageous, a British warship, that resulted in the death of 40 British service members. She has to navigate an international crisis while dealing with her failing marriage to American diplomat Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell) and the political hailstorm that comes from it all.
For significant portions of The Diplomat, the show operates as a political soap opera where multiple countries’ fate depends on marital qualms, hidden interdepartmental romantic relationships, and the development of a power throuple. Kate and the debonair British foreign secretary Austin Dennison’s (David Gyasi) covert flirtations have affected a plan for the U.K. to freeze Russian assets and also while debating if they should negotiate with British Prime Minister Nicol Trowbridge (Rory Kinnear)’s puppet master. The CIA station chief in London, Eidra Graham (Ali Ahan), offers up classified intel to her secret boyfriend, Stuart Hayford, the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in London, as a political “mercy fuck” after she delays them going public as a couple. The future of international diplomacy is in the hands of a bunch of people who can’t get a relationship to work, let alone a country.
The relationship mayhem is compelling because it mirrors a well-executed political thriller plot’s shifting alliances and subtle manipulations. Prime Minister Trowbridge’s mercurial behavior often oscillates between bombing Russia to peacefully arresting one known Russian mercenary, an instability later attributed to Trowbridge secretly meeting with his ousted campaign strategist Meg Roylin (Celia Imrie). Kate’s opportunistic husband was about to be on the first flight back to America until he literally cozied up to his estranged wife and offered his services as her silent arm candy. But, that was only so he could stick around long enough to make a bid for the Secretary of State position and meet with a British MP named Merritt Grove (Simon Chandler) as a power move.
The latter had Kate ready to end their marriage again and set up a truly explosive Season 1 finale.
How does The Diplomat end?
After seven episodes of backroom deals, backstabbing, and naughty negotiations, Kate believes she’s staved off the bombing of a nuclear superpower while appeasing the United Kingdom’s thirst for justice. Dennison informs Kate that the Trowbridge changed his mind about the arrest of Russian-linked mercenary Roman Lenkov being an inadequate response to the bombing of a British warship to a plan he’s entirely behind, as long as British Special Forces are the ones who make the arrest. Feeling good, Kate decides to allow her husband to do the speech at the prestigious international affairs think tank Chatham House she originally agreed to, a decision she immediately regrets when she learns he wants to have the speech transcript sent to the White House Chief of Staff. Even with suspicion wrinkling her face, she brushes it off, a feeling that would be fleeting.
Once Hal giddily calls Kate to let her know the speech went great and he’s planning to have dinner with Grove after audaciously offering to connect him with the White House Chief of Staff, Kate figures out his ulterior motives. He would never play the seen-but-not-heard role of the trophy wife, as he tenderly declared to her. She’s furious at him for angling for the Secretary of State position on the back of her hard work and forbids him from meeting with Grove, a demand the charming Hal convinces her team to budge on. Feeling manipulated and undervalued, a calming walk with Dennison ends with him assuaging her disapproval of herself for being foolish enough to keep going back to Hal by telling her she’s a decent person in a world where decency isn’t enough to hold people’s attention. He sees her, and she wants to show him more.
At a decadent gala, the vibrant color-adverse Kate who abhors heels shows up draped in a gorgeous red dress that stuns Dennison and signals to the viewers that Kate may be ready to take their flirtatious relationship to the next level. That is until she learns in a private meeting that the British plan to murder Lenknov instead of arresting him. Not only does Kate storm out of the gala terrified of the implications of this change of plans, but she also shoots Dennison an icy glare of disapproval as if to convey her disappointment in him manipulating her for his own political gain, similar to her husband. When she informs Dennison of the assassination plan, his bemusement is the impetus to the biggest reveal of the entire series.
Kate realizes Dennison had nothing to do with Britain’s new plan and that the only people who would want Lenkov dead would be the ones who hired him, in an attempt to make sure their identity is never revealed. That’s when both Dennison and Kate have the epiphany that Trowbridge’s continued focus on bombing Russian troops was likely a veiled attempt to hide the fact it was he who hired the mercenary to bomb the British warship. Seconds later, we see Hal and Hayward approaching Grove from opposite sides just before his car explodes as he opens the door. The last scene of The Diplomat is of a tearful Kate looking shell-shocked as government agents rush to her and Dennison, seemingly to inform them of the explosion.
Who dies in The Diplomat Season 1 Finale?
For a political thriller whose plot is catalyzed by a tragic terrorist attack, no one’s murdered on screen until the final scene. While the audio from the government agents rushing to Kate in the conclusive scene is replaced by Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In The Sky,” we can safely assume at least one character won’t return in Season 2. Given the fact Grove is in point-blank range of the explosion that leveled half of the street, he almost surely was killed. Although neither Hal nor Hayward was close enough to Grove to touch him, they were still close enough to get caught in the bomb’s blast radius, putting their lives in grave peril.
When Dennison supposedly learns of the bombing alongside Kate, his eyes look ready to parachute out of his head while tears begin to bubble in Kate’s eyes. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Kate’s reaction is proof Hal and Hayward were killed, given her growing affection for Hayward and complicated love affair with her estranged husband. On the other hand, they could also easily be in critical condition, a reality that would also warrant emotional responses from Dennison and Kate. Either way, this cliffhanger ending leaves more than enough questions to be answered in a potential second season of The Diplomat.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.
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