As the second episode of COBRA opens, it's evening, three hours after impact, and Prime Minister Robert Sutherland and his team are prepared to work around the clock.
Under the Emergency Powers Act, travel is restricted and enforced by the army, and tribunals will deal with civil disorder. COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) is convened, and Robert shares what passes for the good news: That power should be restored in major cities relatively soon, but it won’t be easy. Emergency staff can’t get to work, and in the more remote areas of Wales, Cornwall, Northumberland, and Scotland it’s a different story. Only three transformers are available, and it may take weeks for a transformer to arrive from Europe. One of Robert’s many hard decisions is to choose which area will be dark.
Naturally, Archie takes a crack at the female, Welsh director of MI-5 at this bit of news. As the meeting ends, he chats with Fraser Walker, beginning with the unpromising sentence, “You’re not one of us, are you?”
No, Fraser replies, he’s a civil servant and adds:
“My dad’s one of your biggest fans and thinks you should be leading the country. He’s a mean-spirited old bastard and a borderline racist with early stage dementia.”
Archie laughs it off and moves onto sparring again with the MI-5 director (remember he’s planning a coup—his interest probably isn’t sexual). She tells him she’s a Russian mole and leaves him looking foolish.
As Robert and Anna leave the meeting, he draws her aside and tells her about the crisis in his family. He’s called in extra help from a man he doesn’t altogether trust, the slimy new Press Secretary Peter Mott (Edward Bennett). They both leave the office, Anna telling him that she’s going to stay at Francine Bridge’s apartment, and Robert reminds her he’s not yet approved her joining the team.
But Anna has other plans for the night. The note she received from her former lover, Edin Tosumbegovic, included the name of the hotel where he’s staying. She strolls through the darkened streets, smiling at impromptu parties and bonfires. So far the mood of the city seems optimistic, despite some fender-benders. There’s no apparent panicked withdrawal over fried cell phones.
At the hotel, Anna and Edin have an emotional reunion and he explains why a series of terrible events in Bosnia meant he had to keep silent. His sister, as Anna expected, was brutally killed, and he was captured and imprisoned. He then found himself responsible for his parents, and to please them, married a Muslim woman who later died. There’s a brief, magical moment when they watch the Northern Lights from the hotel room window—ironically an effect of the solar storm.
The very stressed hotel receptionist is called to the basement by a technician working to start the emergency generator. There’s an explosion and an outbreak of fire. Edin and Anna, walking through the candle-lit lobby, hear cries for help, and go downstairs. The technician is dead from severe burns, and the receptionist, injured from trying to save him, joins Edin and Anna in evacuating the hotel. As dawn breaks, the fire department arrives.
Robert, stressed and exhausted, returns home to find his wife Rachel and additional counsel Peter Mott are trying to work up a defense for Ellie. No harm can come to Georgia, in a coma and not breathing on her own, but Ellie refuses to shift all blame to her, knowing her parents will be even more heartbroken. Robert is exasperated, making cracks about cocaine “portion control,” and then stamps out of the room to decide matters of state. But later when the news comes in that Georgia’s life support has been turned off and she has died, he finally is kind and affectionate to his distressed daughter.
Fraser is still in the office, where his crew is sleeping on cots and the dog has a bed on the floor. He receives a call from Stuart Collier, calling from Northumberland for help. An immigration holding facility, where both dangerous criminals and asylum-seekers are held is facing riots. Just as Fraser is about to leave by helicopter for Northumberland, he makes a call to his father’s nursing home, and his expression tells us what he’s been dreading to hear.
In Northumberland, Stuart and Fraser drive to the immigration holding facility and discover that the road barrier at the entrance has been broken and that prisoners have escaped. Worse, the governor has been stabbed, and Stuart and Fraser take advantage of darkness and chaos to rescue him and escape (rather too easily, in my opinion). Fraser is about to board the helicopter to return to London when his control breaks and he weeps as he tells Stuart his father has died. I’ve also been wondering exactly how helicopters still have their navigation capabilities, and whether this sort of detail will weaken the series.
In London, power has been restored. Fraser cuddles up in the office with the dog he professes to despise and falls asleep.
Outside the hotel, as dawn breaks, a photographer catches Anna and Edin together. Their future is still uncertain—he will not return to Serbia if she wants him to stay, but she will not give him an answer, although her yearning looks speak volumes.
Robert meanwhile has made the decision that Northumberland is the area that will remain without power, although his reasoning why is not clear. The news comes in that the University of Northumberland has been invaded by escaped prisoners from the immigration holding facility. In the final moments of the episode, we see a silent, deserted student hall of residence littered with debris and bloodstained bedclothes.
What did you think of this episode? Do you think Anna and Edin will stay together and is he only in London to try and win her back? Or do you think, as I do, that the most important and interesting relationship in the series is between Stuart and Fraser? And what will happen when news of the Prime Minister’s family crisis is revealed?