Keri Russell takes on the perfect post-The Americans acting job in Netflix’s slick new political thriller The Diplomat, which also stars Rufus Sewell as her on-screen husband, Hal Wyler. The marriage between Hal and Kate (Russell) is just one of many pivotal relationships in this talk-heavy drama that keeps you hooked and guessing from start to finish.
The Diplomat season 1 recap
Though The Diplomat is primarily a show about talking and strategizing, similar to The West Wing in many ways, it’s also entirely engrossing, and all of the performances are top-notch. Russell plays a career diplomat who must juggle a new high-profile job amid an international crisis while potentially being groomed for an even more notable position.
The following slideshow features recaps for all eight episodes of The Diplomat season 1. Bookmark this page and follow along!
Spoilers ahead for The Diplomat
The Diplomat episode 1 recap: The Cinderella Thing
The first episode of The Diplomat is titled “The Cinderella Thing,” which happens to be a quote from the episode, which we’ll get to later. In the first scene, an aircraft carrier explodes off the coast of Iran, and we find out shortly after that it’s a British aircraft carrier.
Then, we meet Hal and Kate Wyler, a husband and wife diplomatic duo seemingly on the rocks. Kate is going to be the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, but she’s called in for an emergency briefing in the White House to give an update on the attack on the aircraft carrier, or so she thinks. She’s actually being assigned to be the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom. She accepts, and she and Hal are on a plane for London that day.
Kate thinks it’s going to be an easy trip for optics, but clearly, there’s something more to this story and a reason for her to be sent to the UK. What is it?
Seconds later, White House Chief of Staff Billie Appiah (Nana Mensah) confirms, via video chat with Stuart Heyward (Ato Essandoh), that the Vice President is resigning and Kate Wyler is in consideration for the position. She needs Stuart’s help to see if Kate is the right person for the job, although Kate is still in the dark about the potential gig.
After arriving in London, she is hustled through Winfield (where she’ll live in the UK) and briefed by her new team on the situation before speaking with President Rayburn (Michael McKean) and Prime Minister Nicol Trowbridge (Rory Kinnear), but first, she checks the sheets on the bed in the guest bedroom. Trouble between Hal and Kate? It appears so.
Her team wants her to do a photoshoot, but Kate bails on that with the magazine because she’s all business. In the chaos, Kate makes Hal sniff her armpit before going to the memorial for those killed in the attack on the aircraft carrier. It’s pretty weird, but then she asks if she’s okay, and it’s clear it’s just insecurity talking. She’s in a very different environment from where she thought she’d be a few hours ago and in the middle of an international crisis after all.
Eidra Park (Ali Ahn), the CIA Chief of Station, briefs Kate on the situation with the aircraft carrier, and then she takes a call with the President and the Prime Minister. From the jump, it’s clear that Kate plays by her own rules, but her team is trying to reel her in and keep her from going rogue. She also seems to be having this inner conflict about how much to do her own thing without pissing everyone off in the process, and she seems like she’s trying not to have a panic attack on her first day at a new job, something we can all relate to I’m assuming.
She’s pulled into a meeting by Austin Dennison (David Gyasi), the UK Foreign Secretary, with the Prime Minister, and she’s told how the UK wants to play this crisis. They didn’t appreciate that the spread alluded to bombing Iran, and Kate thinks Hal is behind it somehow, pulling the strings from afar.
Kate meets with Secretary of State Miguel Ganon (Miguel Sandoval), who sucks, and she convinces him that the UK wants the President to keep his mouth shut about everything for one day.
Kate, then, attends the memorial, which Hal is also attending after sneaking out of their accommodations. He’s with someone called “Meg Roylin” (Celia Imrie), who is a political operative and not a good person. For some reason, Hal wants to introduce them, and Stuarrt is not letting that happen. He asks security to pull the Ambassador before Meg Roylin arrives with Hal.
Ganon is trying to get Kate fired, while Stuart and Billie hash a plan to try to turn Kate into a viable VP candidate, and there’s the underlying story of the season, I think. Kate is there to fix a problem, but she also has a very bright future. Where the story goes from there, we’ll have to see in episode 2.
At the end of the episode, Kate goes through the “Cinderella Thing,” as it’s dubbed by Kate, with a photo shoot for British Vogue to keep her job and sway the public so Ganon can’t fire her. It’s a great political move, and we finally see how Kate is going to survive and navigate the trials and tribulations of the season.
Kate also reveals that Hal is leaving and not coming back after she is set up in London. Stuart confronts Hal over this, and they have a quick chat about what a divorce would mean for Kate’s potential VP position, which she still doesn’t know about because she hates the public-facing part of the job. They try to work together to get Kate where she needs to be.
During the photoshoot, Hal gets into the back of the car and is drugged via needle to the neck. He passes out, and the car drives away.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
This episode is such a strong start for The Diplomat. Few shows have shown the ability to balance chaotic anxiety and witty banter and humor like The Diplomat’s first episode. It makes the show so enjoyable, and I don’t hate any characters yet. I’d call it a success.
Written by Bryce Olin