Family comes first. That’s obvious. Then after that, it’s country, it’s culture, it’s community. And then, if I’ve got anything left after them three, I’m happy to stick my hand in my pocket. Now if you don’t like that, take a look at 99% of people in this country, and that includes the immigrants… Scott Minett, People’s Justice
Things just aren’t going well for Prime Minister Robert Sutherland in the latest episode of COBRA. In the Red Zone, things are falling apart, with inadequate services, looting, and an ominous consolidation of local powers under the name of People’s Justice, led by the charismatic Scott Minett (Charlie Carrick). Even the mainstream reporter covering the story, Manish Patel (Danny Ashok), seems starstruck.
The movement has enormous appeal to the beleaguered inhabitants of the Red Zone, voicing what many in the north have felt for years: that they are marginalized and derided by the elites in Westminster. Minett’s followers have branded themselves successfully with armbands, a slogan, and a three-fingered salute (CCC—country, culture, community).
At a fractious COBRA meeting, MI-5 director Eleanor James reports that Minett enjoys enormous popular appeal—he’s a poster-boy for diversity with several mixed-race children, and he’s been in the military, undermining the morale of troops sent to keep the peace in the Red Zone. Worse, People’s Justice has high-jacked a fuel tanker leaving the driver badly injured and hospitalized, bringing an additional element of tension to scheduled talks with Harry Rowntree, leader of the lorry drivers’ union.
Archie tries to trick Robert into authorizing General Edward Pickering (Angus Wright) to order the use of lethal force by the troops. Anna recognizes it as a ploy and scribbles a note to Robert, who advises restraint. But that, plus his refusal to allow Archie to speak at the meeting, leads to a vicious verbal exchange; the gloves are off. But as Robert points out, his political fall does not necessarily mean Archie’s ascendence.
Francine Bridges advises Robert to grant the pay raise he has until now declined the union, but Rowntree has other demands, including armed guards for drivers. The new transformer has arrived at Tilbury Docks east of London and is about to begin its journey north under armed guard, and both sides know the military has been used as drivers in past disputes. But Robert ends the meeting at Chequers abruptly without explanation and causing offense to Rowntree when he suggests a stroll in the gardens.
Robert has just received word that People’s Justice has stormed the Police headquarters in the basement of the Northumberland Hospital. Minett and Collier have a tense confrontation nose to nose, in which Minett demands access to the fuel supply, and taunts him. His armed followers lurk around, picking up pieces of paper and tossing them around. It’s quite honestly not very impressive, but Collier doesn’t back down. Robert authorizes more troops to be sent in.
To the Sutherlands’ relief, the newspaper article they were dreading has been published but does not specify that Ellie was involved in buying drugs. But the word is out on social media that a cover-up is taking place, and now the question is raised in Parliament. Robert strenuously denies it. Ellie texts her father, “I must tell the truth,” but he does not respond, being busy with deflecting political ruin and revolution. People’s Justice is gaining support nationally, and Rowntree has lent his union’s support to Minett.
Minett challenges Robert in a fiery speech:
For years you’ve tried to make us invisible. For years you’ve tried to make a joke out of us. For years you’ve tried to make it like we don’t exist. Here we are, Mr. Prime Minister. Here. We. Are. Where are you? You’d better be listening now.
Things are severe enough now that Robert addresses the nation. People’s Justice, he claims, is not a legitimate protest. It represents selfishness and an assault on democracy. He will not resign, nor will he call for a general election. Instead, he calls for dialogue and reason.
It’s a great idea, but Rowntree will not attend talks without Minett, and Robert is very hostile to the idea of giving People’s Justice legitimacy.
Anna, meanwhile, is playing by the book regarding her affair with Edin and does the right thing by reporting it to MI-5 and authorizing any inquiries that are considered necessary to protect Robert and national security. Eleanor confirms that Edin is apparently connected with an ex-Bosnian warlord turned gangster. Archie, spoiling for trouble, also visits Eleanor and likes the idea of dabbling in a sensational divorce, although it’s fairly obvious to us that Anna and her husband don’t have that sort of relationship. Neither does Eleanor seem particularly interested in pursuing it—she wants to see how things play out and discover why Edin is in the country. And she tells Archie that she likes Anna because she’s good, sensible, and hardworking, thus setting a firm boundary.
Anna and her husband have agreed to live separately for a while, although both her children are upset. And if you’re wondering about the other hot romance of the series, after their first date (being a pillow for Fraser on the bus), Francine has now offered to accompany him and the dog to his father’s funeral to protect him from his ex-wife.
The transformer slowly makes its way north. Fraser has sent his assistants James Odubajo (Emmanuel Imani) and Stephanie Lodge (Ellie Kendrick) as part of the entourage. Traffic is slow and comes to a stop. The lorry drivers union, in solidarity with People’s Justice, has set a blockade on the motorway, and on every other exit from London, bringing traffic to a standstill.
In the Red Zone, Minett speaks to his followers, some of whom are taking selfies with soldiers. The Prime Minister did not keep his promise, he says. The lights are not on. This government is over. They storm the local government building.
Ellie Sutherland makes a video statement that she was responsible for buying the drugs that killed her best friend. She does not mention that she was coached by her parents or the the Prime Minister’s staff to lie. But almost certainly the matter will not be dropped, despite the severe issues facing the country.
How do you feel about this episode? Are there any characters you feel you should be rooting for? Let’s discuss!