The Diplomat (Netflix) Season 1 Review – An enthralling behind the scenes look at the world of diplomacy

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5



Keri Russell recently said in an interview while promoting The Diplomat, Netflix’s new high-stakes politically charged drama, that she was not “show shopping” when she was offered the part. Russell had no intentions to take on another fully-blown, intense lead character. It was Debora Cahn’s insightful access into an unknown world of state departments and diplomats that changed her mind. She could not turn down this explosive combination, something most viewers are similarly saying after finishing the show.

The Diplomat is only eight episodes long but seems like a never-ending maelstrom of tricky diplomatic challenges, sharp marital discombobulation, and growing complexities as the threat of a full-scale global war looms large. The show runs at a frenetic pace and never quite settles into a cadence, no thanks to its hands-on protagonist Katherine Wyler (Russell). She is so hyperenergetic and serious about her job that you never know where she will end up. It can be a dingy toilet in an unknown café in the middle of London, or the backwoods of Winfield House, home to England’s second largest yard only behind Buckingham Palace.

We are always on the move – a ghastly reminder of the thankless job these people do. Combining this behind-the-scenes experiment with ragged, bittersweet adult drama makes it harder to process things. As a viewer, you are saddled with the burden of being attentive and following Cahn’s eye. There is a component of trust between her and you for The Diplomat’s fate; the absence of which would hamper your experience. In no uncertain terms, you have to “surrender” yourself to her judgment in creating this unique world.

Creator Debora Cahn’s impressive grasp of internal deliberations at this level of government comes in handy. She characterizes the show with an authentic representation of a fault. Those who have been in Katherine, Hal, Stuart, or Eidra’s shoes, will likely recognize just how well Cahn carves out the slice of life from their experiences.

The Diplomat distinguishes itself from other shows in this field though, which function with the mindset to “keep up” the appearance of having a high-level understanding of its world. The Netflix show has an urgency to exploit its deeply researched thesis about international relations and frail political ties between countries.

It might not make sense all the time but the devil truly lies in the details. Cahn manifests the real-time complexities of being a diplomat and the umpteen, simultaneous challenges of varying natures they deal with on a normal day. Their tasks are actually on a spectrum, which requires them to wear many hats. And make no mistake; Katherine’s handling is nothing short of a miracle. Russell’s intense portrayal is sort of a feminist icon; in a world where the term’s meaning and significance is increasingly being diluted, Katherine Wyler is a breath of fresh air.

In a non-obvious, cringe-free fashion, she becomes the epitome of female empowerment by taking gender completely out of the picture. There is no conscious effort to show that a woman can do a man’s job as well. It is her actually doing all those things that suffice the notion.

On the other hand, there are moments where Katherine isn’t hesitant to call out the hypocrisy of the world. That requires her to specifically – and cynically – put down those who try to mix her gender with her work. It is a smart, reasonable, and highly effective creative choice that allows The Diplomat to speak to a lot of things. Cahn’s razor-sharp wit is infectious and effortlessly start-stops as the mood in the episodes change.

There is a lot of changing and chopping but The Diplomat’s humour finds its place with no hassle. And one can easily gauge its importance by reimagining the show without those moments of reprieve from the seriousness of the plot. It successfully hides Katherine’s disdain for Hal, giving their marriage a spicy twist. All said and done, the Wylers’ dynamic repartee is reminiscent of Frank and Clare Underwood from House of Cards.

The Diplomat optimizes the historical emotional connect viewers have with it to give them déjà vu. Even though the Wylers’ relationship has its unique imprint and language, one cannot deny the inspiration. Apart from Russell, the ensemble is truly up to the task. Rufus Sewell, Ato Essandoh, Ali Ahn, and David Gyasi turn in valuable performances and there are no complaints from the actors, who play a big part in The Diplomat’s success.

The Diplomat intelligibly makes the choice to make itself unlikeable to the average viewer. Even for the purist, getting your head around its complex and intricate cinematic world is difficult. But one thing is certainly undeniable; its passion for the art of diplomacy and penchant for international relations make it a rare Netflix offering.

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  • Verdict - 8.5/10

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