The Diplomat (Netflix) – Episode 1 “The Cinderella Thing” Recap & Review

The Cinderella Thing

An explosion on HMS Courageous, a British aircraft carrier, kills 41 Royal Naval Officers as episode 1 of The Diplomat begins. Katherine Wyler is preparing to join the new embassy in Kabul as an Ambassador, while her husband Hal works in the White House. The POTUS decides to send Katherine as an Ambassador to London since they do not have anyone there currently.

Katherine has vast experience in dealing with the Middle East and knows the region well. The intelligence agencies suspect that an old enemy of the US might have been behind the attacks. Billie, the Chief of Staff in the White House, asks Stuart Hayford, the Deputy Chief of Mission in London, to assess Katherine as a probable candidate for the vice presidency.

Gwen Hemphill from the British Foreign Office liaisons with the Americans while Kate and Hal are taken to Winfield House, their new home in London. Frances, the residence manager, shows them around the house. In a high-level meeting between the heads of State, Kate is asked to join in, which she and everyone else find strange. Her day’s itinerary does not speak “substantive work” to Katherine, who instead wanted to go to Kabul and patriotically protect what the US has built there over the years.

But that is part of the job and she has no choice. Katherine finds it difficult to process the bizarre formalities of working as an Ambassador under the Queen. From tea-length dresses to practicing getting in and out of carriages, Kate has a whole new language of diplomacy to learn. A journalist is also being brought in to do a photo-op and feature about Katherine. All of this makes her uncomfortable and she decides to run past those formalities.

This is the first time the husband and wife are travelling together and Hal makes a few missteps. Kate feels he will take time to adjust to his new role. She reaches the Embassy for the call and whilst there, we meet Eidra Park, CIA Chief of Station, who is actively involved in the enquiry. From the circumstances, it seems like the attack was not planned. PM Nicol Trowbridge and President Rayburn discuss the predicament the countries find themselves in. Rayburn has already green-lit carpet-bombing Tehran, even though nothing is conclusive.

The US Secretary of State Ganon first wants to speak to the UAE and Saudis before talking to the British Foreign Secretary. Kate is shown her wing and office, taken by the sheer scale of operations. Ganon is trying to whip up the Sunni coalition – Saudis and the UAE – into a frenzy to keep them unprepared, according to Kate. Hal encourages her to call Ganon or talk to Secretary Dennison. But she is not sure about it and wants to respect “institutional norms.”

Kate reaches the Foreign Office for her credentials check. Secretary Austin Dennison greets her and has a private chat with her. Stuart asks Kate to keep it less intense for now. Dennison asks Kate to tag along in his briefing to the PM about the carrier’s situation. Trowbridge comes off as a slightly ignorant traditional conservative in his early interactions. Hal is not deterred by the absence of a driver for him and asks the Metropolitan police personnel to give him a ride.

Kate is asked to step into the US diplomatic channels by Trowbridge to let the Brits handle setting the narrative for this one. This is actually Secretary Miguel Ganon’s jurisdiction but Kate feels Hal had something to do with Dennison tracking Kate to do the job. She talks to Ganon, who is unimpressed with her overt involvement in London. Ganon declines to clear up the air but Kate insists and he agrees to a compromise. Kate next reaches the service memorial for the lost officers.

At the memorial, Stuart finds Hal talking to Meg Troylin, a Tory operative who built Trowbridge’s campaign strategy. And then Trowbridge fired her because she tried to take all the credit for his victory. Stuart does not want Kate to meet her but Hal insists. Stuart handles the situation and prevents the meeting. Stuart is looking after Kate and it is his job to protect her perception in the public. An Iranian boat is seen carrying the explosives, meaning it might be Iran behind the attack.

Eidra confides to Stuart that Ganon asked her to slow-roll Kate’s approval, indicating Ganon wants Kate out of London. Eidra is impressed, though, and so is Stuart. He calls Billie to ask Rayburn to publicly broadcast Kate was sent to London. But Billie says this is Kate’s test of handling the situation herself. Stuart explains to Kate that Ganon will blame Hal for removing her from the position and she must take the edge off the heat. Kate feels the photo-op with British Vogue would establish her credibility and won’t be “fireable.”

Kate and Hal wear the clothes for the shoot and wonder what the future holds for them and how they ended up there.  Kate gives Stuart the name of Gerald Tober, who runs maritime search and rescue at the Pentagon. Stuart finally understood Frances’ remark about Kate “checking the sheets in the guest suite” – Kate and Hal are having marital problems. Stuart confronts her but Kate is uncomfortable sharing the details.

Stuart then goes to Hal saying that the vice presidential campaign won’t work without Hal in the picture. Hal is confident Kate will take him back though, so he also asks Stuart not to tell Kate she is being prepped for the campaign. She might flake and back off if she finds out.

We then end the episode with a view of Kate and Hal riding the carriage like Lincoln and his wife did in the movie Lincoln. Which one of them is about to be “shot in the head”, metaphorically speaking? Well, there is one more tiny thing. A blonde lady, pretending to be on the staff, gets Hal in a car and injects him with a sedative. The car then drives away.

The Episode Review

Episode 1 of The Diplomat was perfect in all regards. Netflix has something really special on its hands. The show promises to be a dynamic take on a multivariate spectrum of issues – political, social, and personal. The introduction to the characters dismisses any doubts that one might have had about the others besides Russell, who brings a different energy to the profile.

From the outset, Kate Wyler seems set to disrupt the notional tropes about such an intensely political character in modern history. The stage is set for an enthralling story to play out. The final moments in the episode might open up a new arc in the narrative, but we have enough subplots of all nature eagerly waiting to be explored in The Diplomat and hopefully, that materializes in the upcoming episodes.

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