As COBRA continues, the net seems to be closing around the Sutherlands. This episode opens with Rachel calmly lying through her teeth to the police; as she tells Robert after, it’s family first, possibly the only sentiment they have in common with People’s Justice leader Scott Minett.
Worse, the Sutherlands’ minion Peter Mott has been arrested and his computer has been seized. He too is questioned by the police, who tell him that Ellie in her statement mentioned feeling pressured; by whom, and why? Peter won’t clarify, even when the police read excerpts from a diary of events on his computer. He insists he and Rachel were discussing press strategies and not legal matters.
News from the north is grim. The northward blockade organized by the lorry drivers’ union, led by Harry Rowntree, and People’s Justice, has created massive shortages of blood and other medical supplies; there’s panic buying and fuel and food shortages. But Robert is determined to go ahead with talks, choosing Chequers, about forty miles northwest of the center of London, as the only viable location. The psychological impact of the site, the country residence for Britain’s Prime Ministers, notably Churchill, for almost a century, is significant for the meeting. As ever, Archie is in full sarcasm mode, scoffing when Robert announces they will travel by train and car to avoid the blockade.
Robert and Anna arrive by helicopter early and stroll together in the gardens. Anna tells Robert about her affair with Edin and that MI-5 are keeping an eye on him, and Robert is at a loss for words. He does comment that adultery seems like too much hard work, and Anna responds that it’s made easier when one partner is away a lot.
Following this bleak assessment, they go to greet the participants for the talks. Archie, always ready with a quip, suggests that he and Rowntree sit together, since “…we’re the only two who still believe in the undying nature of the class struggle.”
There’s another odd couple relationship forming in the Red Zone, between Scott Minett and reporter Manish Patel. They are discovering common ground despite their different backgrounds and beliefs; Patel has been criticized for humanizing Minett, who opens up to him, telling him about his upbringing. Is Minett sincere in his openness? Patel reminds him that they are subject and reporter, that this really isn’t any sort of a friendship. But would Minett take any reporter to meet his family, including his adored daughter?
As they leave the house, one of the truly shocking moments of the series occurs—Minett is killed by a hit and run car, with his little daughter watching from the window. Patel holds his hand as he dies. Deeply affected, Patel holds himself together to report on Minett’s death, but he and his cameraman have to flee when violence erupts on the street.
News of Minett’s death arrives at Chequers as the talks are about to begin. Rowntree leaves, telling Robert that People’s Justice plans to boycott the talks until Minett’s death has been investigated. He and Robert exchange harsh words, Rowntree even suggesting that the government is behind the murder (Archie has already proposed assassination as a solution). Robert commits himself to bringing the barricades down:
Rowntree: Are you going to use the Civil Contingies Act to keep me here? Are you going to throw me in front of a tribunal if I try to leave? Are you a dictator now, Prime Minister? How do we know that you didn’t have Scott Minett taken out?
Robert: Don’t be ridiculous. This isn’t about the Civil Contingencies Act. … It’s about you acting like you’re on the bridge of the Battleship Potemkin. You can’t control your members. You’re competing with People’s Justice while hard-working public servants battle around the the clock to get the power back on. So why don’t you get back to your barricade, you posturing idiot, because I’m coming for you tomorrow.
On their second strange date, at Fraser's dad's funeral, Francine meets his Ice Queen ex (Elizabeth Conboy) who wishes her good luck with him and sneers at her response that they’re just colleagues. Fraser briefly sees his children, and we see how saddened he is by living apart from them. His daughters miss the dog, too.
After that, Fraser and Francine need a drink and go to a pub where the news of Minett’s death is being aired, including speculation that the car which killed Minette was driven by Black or Asian men. The men in the pub bristle with racist hostility at the presence of someone with an Irish accent and a Black woman, and the barman suggests Fraser, Francine, and the dog leave, because dogs aren’t allowed. One of the men starts singing a blatantly nationalist song to provoke Fraser who starts to laugh:
Man: What’s so funny?
Fraser: Oh, well apart from the country going insane, I just buried my dad. My kids won’t talk to me because their mother’s a lying sociopath and even though I’ve done nothing to him I’ve got some guy singing in my face “No Surrender to the IRA.” What a setting for a wake. My dad would have loved it here. It’s hilarious.
Francine breaks up an exchange of meaningful male stares and hustles Fraser out of the pub. In a taxi, as they drive through crowds of rioting looters, she suggests they go to her place which is closer, and there’s an exchange of “I like you’s” and a kiss while sirens wail. Fraser destroys the post-coital bliss by rushing out of her apartment with all the enthusiasm of a kid going to Disneyland after he receives a call to a COBRA.
Anna is back in London too and visits her daughter Tess (Grace Hogg-Robinson) who wants to go with her to the apartment. Anna, on her way out to the COBRA, tells her to stay at home since it’s dangerous outside. Tess, you may remember, has a key to the apartment, and makes her way over there.
MI-5 has bugged the apartment and has been following Edin. Now an armed team waits in a van outside. There is a sinister mention of “a shipment” and then Tess walks in. Edin realizes who she is, and also that she's in great danger as his colleagues won’t let her leave—and they address him as Nico, the name of Lulin’s assassin. He pulls a gun on them and gets Tess out of the apartment.
Robert, seeing the violence erupt not only in London but in all major cities, requests armed troops on the streets to deal with the rioting. There is evidence that a right-wing extremist group has infiltrated People’s Justice. It’s time to bring down the barricades with all possible force. The barricades fall as armed soldiers in riot gear and bulldozers advance through a storm of missiles and molotov cocktails, and more protestors appear out of the smoke.
General Pickering, in the COBRA and in contact with the troops, asks for permission to return fire when a phosphorus grenade, a military-grade weapon, is thrown. What other weapons might they have? Archie calls for a retreat, and this may be to provoke Anna and Robert, as he tried before; but this time Anna tells Robert:
This isn’t a protest, Robert, it’s an armed attack. They’re throwing grenades at British soldiers.
Robert authorizes the use of gunfire and soldiers advance through the smoke and chaos. The first shot kills a reporter.
What did you think of this episode? And how do you think the series can possibly wrap up next week? Let's discuss.