'COBRA's Season 2 Finale of 'Cyberwar' Ends on a Tragic Note

Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Victoria Hamilton as Anna Marshall

©Sky UK Ltd

After last week's penultimate episode of COBRA's second season had her quit while Robert was busy firing her, poor Anna has taken to her bed in a cocoon of cashmere and self-care. She's finding consolation in her comfort read, a biography of Dostoyevsky, who, let's face it, had far worse to deal with. Number 10 has made no official statement about her departure, only announcing that PM Robert Sutherland suffered a brief illness to excuse his rather nasty collapse that turned the ending into yet another cliffhanger.

Archie: Ann wasn’t disloyal. That’s a categoric error, Robert, from a man who never tires of reminding us that he studied philosophy at Balliol. And don’t give me the Scottish stare either, you’re from Stirling, not Drumchapel. I think it’s a matter of record, for all I never saw eye-to-eye with Anna Marshall. She’s the kind of ghastly liberal snob who thinks her cleaning lady is a loyal friend, rather than a reluctant wage slave. Misplaced loyalty, yes. Unbearably sanctimonious, Christ, yes! But she was never disloyal.

A COBRA is underway, where Eleanor James (MI-5) announces that a new malware, Cerberus, will attack all aspects of Britain's infrastructure with devastating results. The code holds no clues to its origins, and there may be no way of stopping it. Home Secretary Joseph Obasi wants to know how Britain can end such attacks without losing face, and Robert suggests they increase retaliations, but Eleanor explains that is impossible. The U.S. has made it clear they will not help. Foreign Secretary Archie Glover-Morgan attempts to make light of the situation, inciting an outburst from Robert in his best Stalin-Richard III mode. He's already fired one traitor, but Archie isn't having that nonsense.

Fraser agrees (but not about the cleaning lady), and Robert smacks him down and leaves the meeting, followed by Eleanor. Archie is furious at Robert's behavior, and with some embarrassment, the meeting resumes. Joseph, as protocol demands, takes the lead. Eleanor finds Robert brooding alone and calmly rejects his offers of Fraser's job and then Anna's. She has a possible, although dangerous, cyber weapon that may destroy Cerberus. It's time to play dirty and unleash Heracles, a malware designed to confuse and disable missile sites worldwide. It escalates fast and is a significant risk since it may signal incoming nuclear attacks and provoke retaliation.

Eleanor James (Lisa Palfrey) and Kelly (Madeleine Potter). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Eleanor James (Lisa Palfrey) negotiates with her counterpart at the U.S. Embassy, Kelly (Madeleine Potter). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

At the Labour Party headquarters, Francine is stressed. A leaflet, ostensibly from Francine's election campaign, announces that she will be asking for reparations from Kent for slavery. She's received death and rape threats, and a right-wing group, J23, has formed to prevent the election of a Black candidate. As she drives to Anna's house, her Satnav directs her down a one-way street against traffic. Panicked, it takes Francine a while to realize that people are not trying to attack her but are trying to help. Cerberus has made its initial attack on roads and navigation systems; Road signs show the Firestorm symbol, and traffic is chaotic and dangerous. Audrey and Fraser are trying to keep people off the streets, with the motorways a priority.

Eleanor once again visits her contact at the U.S. Embassy, Kelly (Madeleine Potter, with a genuinely atrocious American accent), to ask for support while implying that the British government is aware of their "gaffe" — the explosion that started the whole sequence of events. But when she consults Robert, he is unresponsive. Eleanor shares her concerns about Robert with Archie, and they conclude that Joseph is leaking information and attempting a power grab. At the same time, right-wing candidate Rodger Hawkins creates havoc in Kent.

Archie ends their phone conversation by announcing that he's "off to Pixie Hollow." Yes, he's swallowing his pride and natural dislike of Anna by visiting her home to beg her to return to the Cabinet. He tells her that Robert is in a bad place and needs her. She's the one who knows him best and can stop Joseph from taking over. Anna's son Barney (Joshua Hogan) wanders in and asks, "What's that old Nazi doing here?" Archie laughs and responds, "Just planning a bit of genocide. Rude millennials, first on the list, I'm afraid. Carry on clicking, comrade. Change dot org will come."

Joseph Obasi (Richard Pepple) and Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Joseph Obasi (Richard Pepple) learns he has been outwitted by Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Joseph visits the Tory Election Headquarters in Kent to get Rodger to tone down his campaign. Initially arrogant and insulting, Rodger denies all knowledge of the reparations flyer, but Joseph tells him the party will not support racism and orders Rodger to report to the PM. Joseph, Archie, and Archie's assistant Mottie meet with Robert to discuss what they should do about their rogue candidate. If he is dropped, they are left with no candidate, and if they decide to let him run, he will use his conflict with the party to win more votes and gain Firestorm support. Joseph looks very uncomfortable when Mottie points out that Rodger could be leaking to a foreign power and that he and Archie are entirely in support of Robert continuing as leader.

Robert, who seems to be coming to life again, comments that he wasn't aware his leadership was an issue. What Robert needs, Archie says, is someone who can act as a covert link with the Labour Party and their candidate to get rid of Rodger. Robert sees where this is going and refuses. Archie responds: "Well, that's a terrible shame, Prime Minister, because I assumed you hadn't got your head completely stuck in the soup tureen of paranoia from which you've been guzzling." Not only that but he's set up a meeting with Anna right now. As they leave the meeting, Joseph realizes he's been outwitted by Archie, who never intended to join forces with him. His loyalty lies with Robert "now he's firing on all cylinders."

Anna and Robert have an emotional reconciliation in which he admits he loved her and was wrong about Rodger Hawkins. They hold each other for a long time, both in tears. But enough of this sentimentality; we have a national emergency! Eleanor approaches her contact again. Britain may not be the world power of the past, but when Kelly describes Robert as "a dying bee crawling toward oblivion," Eleanor points out that's when a bee is most likely to sting. She gives her a deadline of 3:00 pm the next day. If Cerberus is not stopped by then, Heracles will be unleashed with its threat of nuclear disaster. Cerberus's next attack will be on the banking system, which could destroy the whole economy.

Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton), Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle), Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig), Joseph Obasi (Richard Pepple). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle) has a Churchillian moment, flanked by Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton), Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig), and Joseph Obasi (Richard Pepple). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

At Anna's suggestion, Robert addresses the country to announce that in addition to being unable to drive anywhere, no one can buy anything or use credit cards. It's all part of the cyber attack that has included a campaign of misinformation and racial propaganda: Britain is at war. After, Chris and Francine join a meeting where Robert shares the information about Heracles. As the loyal leader of the opposition, Chris offers support. Eleanor mentions that J23 is planning violence at the Kent election, and they will provide additional security for Francine and Anna. Anna asks Robert if he really will release Heracles; isn't it the equivalent of pushing the nuclear button? He won't give her a clear answer, but she should know.

Eleanor reports that Cerberus is now infecting at least one nuclear power station, and 30 minutes remain until Robert's deadline for launching Heracles. The COBRA team assemble and watch the screens as the stock exchange as the Bank of England crashes. Kerry calls Eleanor and tells her not to release Heracles, but Eleanor says she can't do so until there is a sign that Cerberus has been halted. In the last few seconds, Fraser notices that the patterns on the screens have changed. Cerberus has been stopped.

Francine and Anna leave Labour Party headquarters, but a motorcyclist swerves past as they drive out of the underground parking. One of Eleanor's security guards runs up to them and tells them to get out immediately. The motorcyclist planted a bomb. Anna runs, and there's a massive explosion. Robert addresses the nation again. His speech is not particularly reassuring, implying that a cyber attack could happen again, and he breaks the news that Anna is in hospital with severe injuries. It's a subdued ending. There are no promises of better protection from cyber attacks or any policy that will improve people's lives, which makes you wonder what the Tory agenda even was before everything blew up.

Both COBRA Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on PBS Passport.

Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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