What would happen if a solar flare wiped out power in the UK for a few weeks? It’s an intriguing question for sure and one that Sky One’s politically charged sci-fi thriller aims to answer. Despite a strong opening and an exciting array of ideas early on, the series quickly descends into a questionable political melodrama, losing sight of logic and plotting along the way and consequently causing everything to feel very small and insignificant compared to the opening episode.
The story itself predominantly revolves around Prime Minister Robert Sutherland. Vilified by the media and struggling to do right by the people, he finds himself forced into calling a meeting with the top-secret ministers – code-named COBRA. Once there, he learns that a geo-storm is en-route to Earth and the solar flare is likely to wipe out all electronics in the UK and possibly the world. With the black-out hitting at the end of the first episode, what follows is a mad scramble to get the lights back on again as things descend with a muddied antagonistic threat involving assassins, immigrants and a politically charged scandal including Sutherland’s daughter Ellie.
Of course, mixed into this are the inevitable subplots including Sutherland’s advisor Anna who gets caught up in an affair with a man from her past, a police officer called Collier and a man named Fraser. All of these characters intertwine with the main plot at different times, converging into a season finale where everyone is brought together and everything is resolved in a somewhat questionable but consequential manner.
On the surface at least, COBRA does well to keep things as steeped in reality as possible. There’s multiple talks about Brexit here, along with plenty of debate around immigration and political powers and the attitude of the people surrounding politics. As you approach the latter end of the series it’s almost impossible to remember a time where sci-fi was the main narrative crux as the series quickly devolves into a much less interesting political thriller.
For all of its attempts to be steeped in realism, COBRA slips up with multiple logical flaws and questionable character choices. There’s some bizarre, nonsensical actions here that don’t always work that well and with some poor camera angles and cinematography late on, COBRA does itself no favour with some of its aesthetic choices.
It’s a shame too because the first episode sets things up really well and opens the doors for a very exciting and interesting thriller to take place. Given how much this one promised to steep things in realism, it’s a cruel sense of irony then that this one descends into illogical incredulousness in the manner it does. Of course, if you can switch off and take this one at face value, there’s plenty to like here and early on there’s some great pacing but the show quickly descends into disappointment. Even the marvelous Robert Carlyle isn’t enough to save this one, ultimately making it a pretty poor thriller.
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Verdict - 3.5/10