COBRA Season 2 "Cyberwar": Episode 4

Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton), Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle) and Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Victoria Hamilton as Anna Marshall, Robert Carlyle as Robert Sutherland, David Haig as Archie Glover

©Sky UK Ltd

Last week's COBRA ended on a cliffhanger: How and why did an irradiated corpse turn up in a truck in the center of London? A meeting between Prime Minister Robert Sutherland and his top team, Home Secretary Joseph Obasi, Foreign Secretary Archie Glover-Morgan, MI5 Director Eleanor James, and Chief Advisor Anna Marshall is inconclusive. What is certain is they have no idea which world power is behind the severe disturbances plaguing the country. It points to Russia, but China is a possibility. More obvious is Archie openly goading Eleanor. Robert continues to seethe but stresses the identification of the corpse, whose death was caused by being fed a radioactive substance, is critical.

Later that day, he summons them to a COBRA to talk about domestic repercussions. Joseph reports an increase in right-wing conspiracy activity in the COBRA, including Firestorm. Lord and Lady Singer and Robert and his wife are considered at risk, and Eleanor asks Robert to reconsider attending the memorial service. He's adamant that he should go. Robert and Eleanor do their best to persuade Lord Singer (Niall Buggy) to accept more protection. But no, he wants to go on holiday with his wife to Cyprus as planned and be left alone.

Meanwhile, aspiring Labour MP Francine Bridgewater gives a stinging TV interview blasting the Singer Report, suggesting Lord Singer may have "sung for his supper," i.e., been bribed to protect the Tory establishment. Journalist Hari Misra congratulates her, but she's taken aback when he tells her the far-right enjoyed it as much as the left. Sure enough, a shadowy hooded figure (they are always shadowy hooded figures) fiddles around editing her speech on the extreme Firestorm site. Labour leader Chris Edwards meets with Hari and Francine to discuss the memorial service for the Thames Estuary disaster victims, suggesting she announce that she's running as the area's candidate shortly after. (This doesn't actually happen.)

Francine Bridge (Marsha Thomason) Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Francine Bridge (Marsha Thomason). Will she be the new star of the left, or will her friendship with Hari Misra put her in danger? Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Anna sounds out Joseph's opinion of right-wing-nutter Richard Hawkins as the Tory candidate for Kent, as her trust in Robert's judgment erodes. She's concerned, as Hawkins has a history of "inflammatory rabble-rousing and barely-veiled racism." Joseph responds, "No one's perfect," and takes the line that the Tories must keep the seat. If Hawkins is Robert's choice, he supports it; his feelings as Home Secretary or as a Black man are immaterial. Meanwhile, Eleanor reports a breakthrough to Archie. The body in the truck is that of American Edward Hughes, who disappeared while on holiday in France. He was a scientist at a military lab whose research was highly classified. Archie responds with his usual snide hostility.

Anna: "I would like to clarify one last thing. I am keen for us to work as productively as possible despite your pitiful acrimony. But when I am briefing COBRA please keep your snide little peashooter in your pencil case."

Robert finds his wife Rachel in tears over an article on Hari's site Morbid Symptoms that features an interview with a colleague who claims that she was complicit, if not active, in the Kostenko bribery case that blew up in last week's episode. Robert points out that's defamation, but once again, she claims her innocence and tells Robert there's nothing she can do. A hostile crowd greets their arrival at the memorial service. Most of our usual suspects are there, but not Francine, who is watching on television from home.

Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig) Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig), whose only loyalty is to himself, thinking up new ways to harass his opponents in the Cabinet. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Meanwhile, Lord and Lady Singer, leaving their London home, are mobbed by the press as they try to get to their car. A young man we've seen watching Firestorm, armed with a knife, approaches and asks if he sang for his supper. Singer seems to recognize him before he's fatally stabbed, and a security officer is wounded. The killer, Darren Thompson (Aled Ap Steffan), live streams the attack, which the media immediately picked up. Robert, leaving the memorial service, is horrified and shocked. The next morning's COBRA is grimmer than usual when Eleanor reports on the social media activity and the growing conspiracy theories, including one juicy story Robert ordered the Kostenko killing to protect his wife.

Social media companies are complying with taking down the video and removing conspiracy posts; it's a slow process with grave repercussions for privacy. The alternative is to go in with GCHQ, the UK's intelligence, security, and cyber agency, which may not be entirely legal. Robert gives the go-ahead and tells Eleanor to bring in Hari next. (Arresting journalists is now ok, apparently!) Robert confronts Anna about going behind his back to discuss Roger Hawkins with Joseph and scolds her for the renewed friendship with Francine. She is furious and, as she leaves, tells him to get a [expletive] grip.

Francine is concerned she holds some responsibility for Singer's murder and seeks Hari out for reassurance. As usual, he flirts and doesn't take her seriously, although he suggests they do a radio interview to clarify her position. He also reveals he doesn't always check his sources which is pretty irresponsible. Fraser and Audrey visit the Marine Research Facility, which holds the fragments of the wreck in which she nearly lost her life. Amidst the piles of debris, technicians could find the vessel's black box. Although the unit is damaged, they can detect a mysterious low frequency, high decibel wave just before the explosion, but it's not an earth tremor or any other natural phenomenon.

Eleanor James (Lisa Palfrey) and Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton) Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Eleanor James (Lisa Palfrey) and Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton) meet outside their offices, but it's not just for the fresh air. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd

Eleanor and Anna meet on the Thames embankment. Eleanor tells her Hari and Francine's interview won't take place; Anna should tell Francine to cut him loose. Anna calls, but Francine can't talk since she's expecting to be contacted for an interview, but Anna manages to tell her to keep away from Hari before she hangs up. Hari, meanwhile, received an encrypted message, his catnip, with CIA documents on Operation Bethlehem from the Sub Aquatic Detonation System, Research, Development, and Deployment, concerning "matters of covert state aggression." But when Hari tries to get the sender's identity, his screen goes crazy, and it's not just a regular day with Windows. He's been hacked and tracked, with a video cam planted in his office.

Outside Hari's office, a car with two MI5 officers awaits, but as he emerges, another car swoops in and picks him up. The two panicked officers call Eleanor, who tells them to follow the vehicle with some exasperation, and then turns her attention to recent information she's just received. The instigator of Firestorm has been identified as Gavin Beadle in Old Trafford (Manchester), and she asks Robert's permission to give the go-ahead. GCHQ troops storm the small house, terrify Gavin's elderly mum downstairs (the team watching in COBRA looks embarrassed), and arrest Gavin upstairs in his Union Jack-festooned lair. Done and dusted. But as Robert muses, how many more are there, and who's behind it all?

Hari is taken to a warehouse, wrists tied, by two large menacing men claiming they're both called Tommy. They bully, cajole, slap him around, and then wave a large pair of scissors in his face and cut the ties on his wrists. Just doing their job, they say, and offer him a lift home. They direct Hari toward the trunk of a car to ride next to a can of gasoline (never a good sign). He hesitates, and they shoot him, his body tumbling into the car. Poor Hari. Irritated that Hari didn't turn up for the interview, Francine leaves him an angry voicemail message. As she walks toward the building which houses his office, she sees shooting flames and emergency vehicles. She gazes at the fire in horror as the news reports that it's a suspected far-right attack.

And we still don't know who's behind it all! What could possibly go wrong next? We'll find out in the next episode.

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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