PM Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle). Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
What fresh new hell can be introduced in this episode of COBRA? So far, Robert Sutherland’s Britain has lost a chunk of Kent in an explosion/tsunami; there’s been a significant security hack (Ruin Britannia). A Russian oligarch has been assassinated, and there’s the frightening prospect of Archie Glover-Morgan, old-school Tory, weaseling his way back into the Cabinet. We still don’t know which world power is behind these catastrophes, but in this series, there is one certainty — there’s something worse around the corner.
You will not be disappointed. Trucks are arriving at Britain’s major port, Dover. Cyclamen, the system that scans each vehicle for radioactive material, is disabled, but not before over 1,000 trucks have been let into the country. Dover has been closed, but MI5 Director Eleanor suggests all ports close down, despite the risk of an impending food crisis. It’s essential to maintain public calm and keep details from the press. “I want those ports open again before there are riots in Tesco!” PM Robert Sutherland announces.
Robert is brooding over the Singer Report, which let his government off the hook for the Season 1 shooting incident. He’s appointed Archie as chief whip, giving him power over Conservative MPs, and plans to make him Foreign Secretary. Robert needs greater support from the party’s right wing. Anna is shocked. “They’ll smell weakness on you,” she tells him, visibly furious as Archie enters. “I’ve always said she brings such warmth to the workplace,” he comments before graciously accepting the position of Foreign Secretary. Duty calls.
Archie Glover-Morgan (David Haig) graciously accepts the position of Home Secretary. But is PM Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle) making a mistake? Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Fraser’s team is busy tracking the unscanned trucks and checking their documentation. Audrey is back at work following her ordeal and rescue and assures Fraser, hovering over her, that she’s recovered. One truck from Ukraine is under suspicion, flagged down by the police. Army personnel cautiously approach the truck, armed with Geiger counters that detect high readings. Inside the truck is a cargo of radioactive blueberries. Despite attempts to keep the public away, a team of journalists lurks.
Fraser explains that the blueberries came from close to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, hence their high radioactive levels, and using a new supplier will be destroyed. But Robert’s government needs to make a statement before rumors spread while avoiding the details of the current crisis since almost 500 trucks remain to be cleared. They decide to announce that the ports will reopen in 24 hours, Eleanor’s suggestion, which Archie roundly derides as being “wishy-washy.” He never misses an opportunity to harass her.
Labour leader Chris Edwards and wannabe MP Francine Bridge meet to discuss her campaign. He suggests she emphasize Conservative policies are linked to the recent disasters. Underinvestment in infrastructure caused the port shutdown; the North Sea drilling contract with China caused geological instability in the Thames Estuary. (A theory, Francine points out, that hasn’t been proven.) She’s unsure of these tactics for a constituency of white, right-leaning, working-class, who are possibly unreceptive to a Black candidate.
A suspicious cargo of blueberries is the cause of high radiation levels in a truck that was not scanned at Dover. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Chris suggests she get back in touch with Anna for information and advice, which she refuses to do. Meanwhile, Anna and Robert are discussing their candidate for the bye-election, and she’s infuriated his list is all right-wing candidates. With Archie’s backing, he has chosen extremist Roger Hawkins. Anna is angry he’s running the risk of Archie’s inevitable betrayal. She retreats to the basement to cry, just as Francine calls. Anna is surprised but reveals she supports Francine’s candidacy over Robert’s choice: “Win it. You’d have my vote.”
Archie, meanwhile, summons Eleanor to his office, where he and his assistant Peter Mott confront her with yet another crisis. The Chinese government denies that their drilling connected with the explosion, which, they claim, was because the British had ignored the danger of the unstable ship for so long. Archie and Peter, throwing in a few obvious sexist metaphors, demand that Eleanor use all her resources and assets to prove China wrong.
Robert returns home but is interrupted by Eleanor. Cyclamen has been contained, and the ports will reopen. She’s been watching a new conspiracy channel, Firestorm, speculating about the radioactive fruit and the government’s silence and getting quite close to the truth. She recommends that the silence from the government is fueling conspiracy theories and that they should come clean about Cyclamen being hacked. Nine trucks remain to be searched. Robert disagrees and tells her they will discuss the issue the following day.
Anna Marshall’s (Victoria Hamilton) faith in her Prime Minister is being eroded. Credit: Courtesy of © 2021 New Pictures Ltd
Journalist Hari Misri is watching Firestorm before being interrupted by Francine calling for his election support. He agrees to back her, but when a headline online catches his eye, he abruptly ends the call. Anna calls Robert; an anonymous online source posted documents from a 20-year-old case where young Rachel Sutherland (Lucy Cohu) worked on a legal team for Mikael Kolenko, the oligarch killed in the first episode. Kickbacks were involved. Robert is furious she didn’t mention it; Rachel denies any wrongdoing, but the media swarm.
Robert tells Anna he will make a statement that he stands by Rachel and there is no danger in food imports. But Audrey and Fraser spotted a truck with questionable credentials, and Anna insisted he wait until it was found. People are panicking over food, buying canned vegetables instead of fresh, and drinking disinfectant. One man is arrested for sprinkling iodine-based detergent on produce, and aggressive mobs gather at the open ports.
Audrey interrupts the COBRA to announce the truck has been found, in central London, parked under Waterloo station. Fraser gathers his team and delivers his expert opinion: “It doesn’t look good.” The truck is approached cautiously by people in protective suits; radiation levels are extremely high. Fraser, having another Captain Obvious moment, insists that central London be sealed off. Inside the truck, the source of the radiation is revealed, shockingly, as a human corpse.
“This is what this was all for. To get that truck into the country.” Robert announces. and Eleanor has come to the same conclusion. Robert adds, “I need to know if this country needs to be ready for war.” But war with whom? We still don’t know, and we’re halfway through the series. Meanwhile, Anna’s relationship with Robert erodes as he chooses dubious political allies. What could go wrong now? We’ll find out next time.