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Ambassador to Washington is the pinnacle of success in the Foreign Office and the position is offered to only the brightest and the best. But Ambassador Mark Brydon finds his skills tested to the limits when, following a major diplomatic incident, he is thrust into a web of tangled relationships and conflicting interests. In a world of high stakes, where manipulation of information means ultimate power, the question is: who can he trust? Written by
An enjoyable and engaging political thriller despite the clunky bias inherent in the real life parallels
Seconds after taking off from Washington, flight 113 to London explodes over the city, causing loss of life in the sky and on the ground. Outgoing UK ambassador to Washington Mark Brydon is on the ground when it happens and witnesses first hand the tragic events. US Secretary of Defence Lynne Warner is giving a speech at a business event and is rushed away when she learns of the "attack". A former UK ambassador to Turkistan criticises the US and UK for ignoring human rights violations there. A military training exercise in Virginia sees a solider dead, stripped of ID and dumped in a river. A British prisoner on death row sees the hours ticking away on his appeal. The news that flight 113 was bombed by a British Muslim sees the Governor of Virginia rounding up British Muslims in his state. Meanwhile in Washington, Brydon's attempts to minimise the political fallout sees him drawn into a bigger conspiracy than he could have imagined as connections between the bomber and US interests in Turkistan come to the fore.
The first episode opens quickly, matching the dizzy speed that the camera moves around, with a bomb bringing down a passenger plane. This opening looks to grab you and hold you because the writers know that they all viewers are going to be thrown into the middle of a lot of detail and be asked to keep up with it even though the connections will not start coming together for an episode or two (baring in mind this only was six episodes long). Obviously I didn't know this at the start and I confess I did find the first two episodes to be demanding of attention without giving a lot back. However sticking with it does see all the pieces fall into place in a rather convoluted but engaging web of twists and developments. The conspiracy is sadly believable and the series builds a plot that 24 would be proud of albeit with a bit less action.
The delivery is solid and enjoyable with an intelligently building narrative that does reward paying attention. Aside from the early plane crash grabbing attention, there isn't 24 levels of action and some viewers may find it quite talky but the series doesn't seem concerned with this to its credit. The whole production looks professional and expensive but at times the shaky camera-work is a distraction in moderation it isn't a problem but some episodes felt like it had been filmed during an earthquake! The narrative does have one glaring problem within it and that is the issue of political bias. If you are right-wing and believe that the Iraq war was right and that it was all about WMD (or regime change or whatever the official reason is as you read this) then you will probably hate this series because the whole plot is essentially a very unsubtle parallel with Iraq (in regards US going to war obviously the whole "fabricating the war thing is total fiction!). As a bit of a liberal, this element didn't bother me that much but at times it was all a bit obvious and unimaginative in regards the underlying ideas.
The cast is a strange mix but mostly pretty good despite some of them betraying the limited budget of the piece. Isaacs runs the show and he delivers a solid leading man who holds the attention well. Below him the biggest name is Sharon Gless; she is OK but somehow she doesn't convince in her role. Ben Daniels is as good as Isaacs in his rather shadowy role. O'Reilly is very so-so while James and Pearson were surprise finds in supporting roles. The rest all do well enough in their various characters as this isn't a story that asks a lot of depth from the supporting actors so much as it asks for solid turns.
Overall then a pretty enjoyable and engaging conspiracy thriller. The cast are mostly good and work well with a script that rewards paying attention with a satisfying story. The basic idea is a bit obvious and will annoy hawks with its obvious political bias but mostly it should be good enough to please casual viewers as long as you don't expect it to be action packed and contain all the gloss and budget of 24 (for example).
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