COBRA Season 2 “Cyberwar”: Episode 1 Recap

Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle). Courtesy of © Sky UK Limited.

It's been almost two years since we were last enthralled, confused, and annoyed by Sky TV's COBRA, written by Ben Richards and directed by Mo Ali and Sallie Aprahamian. The term "COBRA" has the same relevance to herpetology as Monty Python's Flying Circus; it's an acronym for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, where bad news, bad behavior, and political jockeying solve big problems. Season 2's big problem is a World War II wreck in the Thames Estuary, loaded with explosives. (Helpful note: there is a real-life World War II wreck in the Thames Estuary, the SS Richard Montgomery, loaded with explosives, a mile from densely-populated land and in an area full of shipping. Fingers have been crossed for a very long time.)

Backtracking to the "real" start of the series, shortly before the catastrophe, Prime Minister Robert Sutherland has recently won a general election, although with a smaller margin than before. He is a friendly Tory, we've been told, not too posh, and he successfully kept his promise to turn the lights back after a massive solar flare knocked out everything except everyone's cell phone in Season 1. The Labour Party has a new, dynamic leader, and Sutherland's family scandal may well have also lost his party some seats.

Daughter Ellie went on trial for a drug offense that caused the death of a friend, and after a short spell in prison, she is now in Chile to keep out of trouble. Sutherland's wife, also in danger of a prison sentence for her involvement, was found not guilty. Francine Bridge, who defected from Labour to join Sutherland's cabinet, and is now out of favor with both parties, is looking for another position. She appears on a podcast with journalist Hara Misra with whom she trades insults and lots of significant eye contact, leading to an intimate exchange of phone numbers.

Richard Dormer as Fraser Walker. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Fraser Walker (Richard Dornan) gazes out at the Thames Estuary shortly before everything explodes. Literally. 

As Season 2 opens, recent earth tremors (which may or may not have been caused by fracking?) have disturbed the wreck in the Thames Estuary, and disaster czar Fraser Walker is with his team on the coast, persuading people to evacuate while a Navy team prepares to send down divers. It's not a spoiler to tell you that the ship will blow up because, of course, it does. But remember that Season 1 started with one dramatic event and then became another sort of drama, so there are probably surprises ahead.

Old-school villain and former Home Secretary Archie Glover-Morgan, defined neatly by his ally Peter Mott as "another ancient wreck," can't wait to grab power and ooze into a Cabinet seat. Robert welcomes his new Home Secretary Joseph Obasi, a favorable choice as he comes from a working-class background (and also dilutes the dominant whiteness of the cabinet). Robert's second-in-command Anna Marshall is less impressed, particularly when Joseph, a man of faith, quotes St. Paul. Robert hustles him into a COBRA meeting where Fraser drops in to report that, yes, indeed, there is the chance of a massive explosion and is sent right back to make the evacuation mandatory.

There's also a seemingly unrelated crisis where a Russian oligarch's helicopter inconveniently explodes over a school's playing field, injuring students and killing their teacher. Eleanor James (Lisa Palfrey), head of MI5, reports the perpetrators are activists Rodrigo Araya (Sebastian Capitan Viveros) and Larissa Petrova (Victoria Valcheva). She suggests Robert let them go rather than stirring up international relations. However, the explosion killed a British subject; Robert wants an arrest. Besides, the school renting out its playing field for helicopter landings will raise awkward questions about government funding for education. Robert and Eleanor compromise by picking up the couple at the airport on a fake shoplifting/resisting arrest charge.

Alexa Davies as Audrey Hemmings. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Duty calls: Alexa Davies as Audrey Hemmings. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Back on the Thames Estuary, Fraser's team goes door to door trying to convince inhabitants of the seriousness of the threat, urging them to board buses to take them to safety. But those pesky seniors just won't cooperate! They continue to enjoy sea views and strolls on the beach. Fraser has a new assistant, Audrey Hemmings (Alexa Davies). She's curious about her boss and asks about Francine Bridge, with whom he had a brief affair in Season 1. He tells her that according to his ex-wife, he is a "slow puncture" in any relationship, and I hope Audrey doesn't see that as a desirable trait. She's missing her recently-deceased father, and her reference to him "dying alone" may be an indication that there's been a pandemic recently.

Audrey volunteers to accompany the Royal Navy diving team, led by Mark Everly (Dipa Ola), who does not like women aboard his vessel and can't see why she should be there. She sets him straight:

The point of me right now is that I am the eyes and ears of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. Now that may not mean much to you, Captain Pugwash, but it means I’m the eyes and ears of 10 Downing Street, and hence the British PM. So if you’re got a problem, then I suggest you take it up directly with him.

Dipo Ola as Mark Everly. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Dipo Ola as Mark Everly. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

We get a repeat of earlier footage where the diver examines the ship's hull, and it's clear there's a leak. Mark shouts to bring the diver up, and then there is a massive explosion, which causes, in turn, a tsunami. Fraser, annoyed seconds before by people walking on the beach, gets into his car and drives into the underground parking entrance of his headquarters as debris flies around and waves crash inland. He seeks safety by climbing onto the roof of his vehicle. A massive portion of the Kent coast has gone, there are heavy casualties, and the Emergency Services Communications Network is down, so Frasier can't rally emergency services.

Back in COBRA, their system has been hacked, with screens on the walls showing only the image of a Union Jack with the words Ruin Britannia. Who is responsible? "Bring me answers!" Robert Sutherland bellows as his minions scatter to get to work. We, too, want to know. Has Audrey survived? Is there a connection with the helicopter attack? Which world power is accountable? More next week!

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.