The trouble with this final episode of COBRA is that we know a second season is in the works, and that leads us to expect a finale that both wraps up issues and raises new questions.
As usual, the tension and stakes are high enough in this particular installment to hold your attention, despite the many unanswered questions and omissions. (For example: Why is rioting no longer an issue? What has happened to People’s Justice? What is really going on in Prime Minister Robert Sutherland’s head?) Over the course of its first season, Cobra has evolved from disaster drama (which. typically, British TV doesn’t do so well) to the genre of political intrigue (for which it is renowned).
Home Secretary Archie Glover-Morgan is all but rubbing his hands with glee. There are calls from all sides for the Prime Minister to resign, and there’s an impending vote of no confidence in Parliament. If the motion passes, it means Robert will lose his position as prime minister and as leader of the Conservative Party. Union leader Harry Rowntree is calling for a general strike and approval ratings for the government are down. Archie holds a press conference in which he announces, without his nose growing one bit, that his conscience will not allow him to serve any longer as Home Secretary in an administration which has blundered so badly. Nobly, he refuses to say whether he will abstain from the vote of no confidence, or if he does intend to vote, which way.
In the very first episode of the series, Robert fired his then Press Secretary Dominic Knight (Sam Crane), who Archie has since cultivated as an ally. Archie intends to leak a story to the press that Peter Mott, the current Press Secretary, knew Robert was aware his wife was coaching their daughter Ellie to lie to the police. Archie asks Robert to reinstate Dominic in exchange for his vote against the no-confidence motion. In private, he tells Dominic that his ultimate goal is to get Anna fired, weakening Robert’s support in the upcoming vote.
The military is in attendance at the next COBRA with disquieting news about the barricade action. One soldier was badly wounded and four civilians died. They discovered the protesters had no weapons, but six neo-Nazis (who were presumably responsible for the use of the phosphorous flare) were arrested. Public feeling is running high against Robert’s decision to use weaponized force; he shrugs it off and announces that he does not intend to resign. The only good news comes from Fraser, who reports that the transformer is almost to its destination, and undamaged from the riot. Emergency power is running low in the Red Zone. Sure enough, Collier’s Red Zone headquarters, reinstated at the hospital, goes dark.
Francine Bridge bursts into Anna’s office to resign, furious that civilians were killed, and to announce that she regrets becoming (in her words) a fig leaf for the Conservatives, whose institutional racism is barely hidden. Anna tells her the soldier wounded by the phosphorous flare has died and defends Robert’s decision to use live ammunition. Both are close to tears during their exchange which becomes deeply personal and insulting.
And, just when things were going so well for Fraser, or at least a little better than usual, he calls in that there’s “a bit of a snag” (Britspeak for a potential disaster) on the last leg of the transformer’s journey. The truck and its huge cargo have to cross a bridge to the power station, but, unfortunately, the original calculations did not account for the camber of the roadway and it’s now considered unsafe.
The driver refuses to take the risk, and Fraser furious at the delay decides to take matters into his own hands. Fraser’s assistant Stephanie tremulously reports on the phone to COBRA as she and the others watch the truck, with Fraser at the wheel, inch across the bridge, debris falling in its wake.
In an additional unnecessary ramping up of tension, power station employees in hard hats run to and fro, reporting on the status of the power restoration. It’s successful, and at the Red Zone headquarters a vending machine flashes into life and delivers a candy bar.
Anna’s affair with Edin is still unresolved. MI-5 has offered him protection if he tells them all he knows about the gangster, Lulin, for whom he worked as an assassin. Anna visits Edin at his safe house and tries to persuade him to accept MI-5’s offer, but he’s adamant that he must leave. He speaks longingly of his house on the mountain and how he’ll wait for Anna there, but it’s likely he’s going to his death.
Ann returns home and talks to her daughter, finally making peace with her. She and her husband gaze silently at each other before he heads off on another business trip. Is there a reconciliation ahead?
For the Sutherlands, though, things are not going so well. Ellie is obsessed with social media coverage of the police investigation, and her mother Rachel believes it’s likely that they’ll both be going to prison. Robert comes home to announce that Peter Mott has turned against them, but claims the family will get through it. Although we’ve seen Peter being taken in for police questioning again, we don’t know what he’ll say.
Ellie, deeply distressed, goes to her room with alcohol and a bottle of pills that Robert knocks from her hand. He tries to comfort her, reminding her of a time from her childhood when, after she was lost on the beach and the family reunited, all cuddled up together in bed. But tonight Ellie and her mother are asleep while Robert sits at the side of the bed, watching over them. We wonder what he’s thinking. Is it insomnia or an expression of distance?
Archie and Dominick have an appointment with Robert, ostensibly to confirm Dominick’s new position as Press Secretary. Robert, in an admirable piece of one-upmanship, orders coffee—for himself only—and lets Archie know he’s seen right through his scheme. Robert tells him, as he has before, “You can bring me down, Archie, but you will never take my place,” and advises them to go to Starbucks if they want coffee (although in a much less polite way).
But Archie hasn’t given up yet. He tells Eleanor he has an alternate plan, to leak to the tabloid press that Anna has been cavorting with drug dealers and assassins. She warns him off. Why Archie wants to know, does she always have Anna’s back?
Eleanor: Because she’s a graceful soprano in a world of hairy-arsed baritones. Pure as a little bell.
Archie: Unlike me, you mean?
Eleanor: Oh Archie, I love you dearly, but you’re as pure as my dog’s bowels after it’s devoured the Christmas cheese selection.
Robert announces his plan in the final COBRA meeting: The threat of the vote of no confidence in Parliament is now irrelevant since he intends to call a general election. In a not particularly bold step forward, he has already decided to dilute his mostly male, white team by appointing an Asian woman as Home Secretary. We hear a voiceover from an interview with Francine Bridge, pondering whether there’s a party that aligns with her values (I wonder if Anna tipped her off?).
Robert and Anna discuss tactics when they’re alone. She points out that he can’t run solely on his success in fixing the solar flare crisis, and that things can’t go back to the way they were. He must declare a wealth tax. Robert, taken aback, sputters feebly that they’re still the Conservative Party and Anna responds:
Announce a wealth tax to fund a solidarity scheme for victims of the storm. People with gold taps on their yachts can afford it. Say we are going to do things differently now. Support diversity without being a box-ticking opportunist. Be presidential, as you have been all through this crisis.
Did you find this ending satisfying? Did you expect more twists? And what do you think of the series as a whole?