28.9 C
Saturday, June 10, 2023
HomeEntertainment"Keri Russell Shines in Netflix's Intelligent and Engaging Political Drama - A...

“Keri Russell Shines in Netflix’s Intelligent and Engaging Political Drama – A Review of ‘The Diplomat'”


In a January interview with The New YorkersNetflix executives referred to the company’s ideal programming as a “gourmet cheeseburger,” a partial intersection of quality and commercialism that didn’t seem quite in line with most of the brand’s latest output.

After a somewhat fallow period, Netflix has had a strong run recently The Night Agent (no doubt a cheeseburger, probably not gourmet) and Beef (no doubt gourmet, probably not a cheeseburger), but it’s the streamer’s new drama, The diplomatthat to me is the closest thing to the feel of the elusive gourmet cheeseburger.

The diplomat

It comes down to

Keri Russell may just be anchoring Netflix’s quintessential “gourmet cheeseburger.”

broadcast date: Thursday, April 20 (Netflix)
Form: Keri Russell, Rufus Sewell, Ato Essandoh, Ali Ahn, David Gyasi, Nana Mensah
Creator: Deborah Cahn

The diplomat is easily accessible and quantifiable. It could be a spin-off of Native country or Madam Secretaryand I can imagine a dozen networks and services where The diplomat could feel on fire.

It’s a pure star vehicle for Keri Russell and, if we compare The diplomat to other shows, as a portrait of a marriage working intensely together, probably to a toxic degree, it has hints of FX’s The Americans.

It has something of the beach/plane appeal The Night Agentonly with a little more talkative nuance and depth of execution, but not so much as to alienate viewers looking for a quick eight-hour escape.

Created by Debora Cahn (an executive producer of Native country), The diplomat begins with an explosion on a British aircraft carrier in the waters of the Middle East. The attack, which was initially unclaimed, kills dozens of British sailors and raises the possibility of global conflict. But with whom?

Russell plays Kate Wyler, who has spent her life in military and foreign service and is just days away from a new high-stakes post in Kabul when she is summoned by the president (Michael McKean, in a juicy guest star) to serve as ambassador of the United Kingdom. It’s normally a boondoggle order given to happy fundraisers, lots of tea parties, and ribbon cutting, but it can be much more critical in this situation. Kate thinks the president really wants her husband, Hal (Rufus Sewell), an internationally recognized foreign policy expert with ambassadorial experience, but Hal’s renegade attitude has burned many bridges, especially with the ambitious Secretary of State ( Michael Sandoval). Moreover, several powerful people have their eye on Kate for a bigger job and are eager to see how she performs in this spotlight.

Soon, with Hal as a reluctant ceremonial husband, Kate finds herself in London under the watchful eye of would-be kingmaker Stuart (Ato Essandoh), where she learns the ins and outs of an unexpectedly complicated gig involving the careful management of the British Prime Minister. (Rory Kinnear) and Secretary of State (David Gyasi), as well as the occasional odious gala and photo shoot. It’s the story of a woman thrust into a job she doesn’t want, with responsibilities she isn’t qualified for, which may just make her the perfect woman for the job.

The series is excellent at exploring the context of diplomacy. Cahn’s background as a writer-producer op The West Wing serves her immensely well when it comes to illustrating elements of the protocol in a way that is both expositional and dramatic. The show is deeply invested in the optics of a position that could be all optics at another time. It’s a job at the intersection of politics and hospitality, so Kate has to learn daily lessons about how much power she does or doesn’t have, which people she can call directly, which middlemen are acceptable, and how much simple things can cause a stir.

Everything in it The diplomat gives the impression of being thoroughly researched and accurately reproduced – production designer Chris Roope’s re-creation of locations such as the ambassador’s residence Winfield House and the US Embassy in London is exceptional – without ever allowing accuracy to replace entertainment.

It’s a balance that isn’t always well achieved in the overall, driving story of the show. Bombing aircraft carriers, with the responsibility to respond and the question of who is to blame, is literally the stuff of a dozen West wing episodic plots, only here it’s stretched to eight hours, requiring a series of red herrings and unnecessary misadventures that I grew tired of around episode five or six.

I also never warmed to the show’s smooth approach to the “real world,” in which the semi-generic inciting event must coexist with references to the intelligence shortcomings that led to our 2003 invasion of Iraq, oblique references to an unpredictable recent president who jeopardized our international status and the not-as-clever-as-they-think-it-is situation with an old and possibly elusive president who chose a younger, female vice president to support her question qualifications for succession.

Rather than nailing the plot precisely, however, The diplomat completely nails his relationships, a rather important thing considering that diplomacy is, after all, based on relationships.

It all starts with Russell’s Kate, a thoughtful and skillfully played character who may be a fish out of water, but the smartest damn fish around. Russell and the series are committed to Kate’s messiness, whether that’s explored in an entire episode about her increasing disarray as she travels back and forth around the world trying to avoid catastrophe, or in small details like how toilet breaks play a bigger role. play in The diplomat than any show I can remember. The diplomat has an impeccable understanding of genre tropes, and it’s not above a total She’s it all reveal trap glamor or a delightfully wacky fight scene if those conventions can be tweaked to tell us new things about Kate and her strengths and weaknesses. Russell fiercely captures Kate’s discomfort and her intellect in a way that never lets viewers forget how right and wrong she is simultaneously for the situation she’s been thrust into.

Speaking of credibility, Russell and Sewell, with one of those American accents that are perfect at room temperature and completely melt away under pressure, have the right chemistry to sell this marriage of complementary aspirations and accommodations, one where the sex might be good, the conversation better, and the whole union a recipe for disaster. Russell and Gyasi have their own instant chemistry that is simple and visceral and a good contrast to the Kate-Hal union.

The diplomat is a series in which the two characters with the most superficial power are white males – Kinnear and McKean present themselves as clumsy dorks, but quickly give their characters surprising and efficient depth – and it’s left to everyone to decide their place at the proverbial table to negotiate or in a back room. That negotiation process is conveyed visually by directors such as Simon Cellan Jones, Andrew Bernstein and Liza Johnson in the way the camera dances between characters and flashes through cramped corridors and sprawling ballrooms. Yes, on the surface the series may be about characters trying to prevent World War III, but my favorite hour was a bottle episode, more or less, focused on the ins and outs of a high-profile lunch where everyone has a different agenda. .

The substantive, clever and playfully profane dialogues ensure that long scenes with characters such as Kate, Ali Ahn’s CIA chief, Nana Mensah’s White House chief of staff and the great Celia Imrie as a notorious power broker measure each other. the best and most exciting in the series. Essandoh is excellent as the man tasked with connecting all these political pieces, Henry Higgins with Kate’s Eliza Doolittle one moment, awkwardly baffled the next.

I like shows of this type best when they have the confidence to really go about protocol and procedure without narrative lily gilding, and The diplomat provides plenty of protocols and procedures to go around. The series leans a little more than I’d like towards the perfunctory and escalating tension of the plot, reaching a contrived cliffhanger that I’m oddly sure will be poorly resolved. At the same time I want to see how it is solved because The diplomat makes it clear that Kate and the audience still have a lot to learn about this world. Who doesn’t enjoy a good cheeseburger?

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

Latest stories