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The Diplomat–Tact Needed

In this new Netflix series, The Diplomat is part comedy, espionage, politics, combined with a troubled marriage thrown into an action-packed eight-episode drama. The drama takes place mainly in British embassies and cabinet offices with plenty of tense negotiations and suspicious deaths in both England and the US.

The opening scene focuses on a bombed British warship off the coast of Iran. Who bombed the ship and who is trigger-happy enough to cause a world war over it? Enter US Ambassador Kate Wyler (Keri Russell from “The Americans”) who is determined to use reason and diplomacy over testosterone-driven fever dreams of war and victory at all cost.

In the first few episodes Ambassador Wyler navigates politics while thwarting an international crisis by convincing the British Prime Minister that Iran is not to blame. Kate draws upon her background as a Middle East analyst. Loosely modeled on Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Wyler is a superhero in a pantsuit.

Backroom deal-making and broken promises add realism as Ambassador Wyler tries to weave her way through a duplicitous labyrinth of politically motivated war-mongering in order to accomplish her mission.

However, the heart of The Diplomat is not espionage but a marriage between two highly ambitious and competent diplomats. The conjugal struggles between Kate and her husband, former Ambassador Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Father”) are sizzling and realistic.

Although tensions rise between the Ambassador couple, their relationship never crosses the line into sabotaging each other’s political ambitions, but they come close. Kate has much to focus on: her disintegrating marriage; power-politics with a misogynistic, somewhat unhinged Prime Minister , and a charismatic Foreign Minister (David Gyasi) to whom she is attracted.

Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell reveal exceptional chemistry in all their scenes together: often venomous arguments as well as a very physical and exhausting battle of wits and punches. Both seem to be enjoying the tussle, the unfiltered conflict and sexual re-engagement, and most of all, positioning themselves against each other with restraint, often unfiltered sexual manipulation, and intellectual dueling. Sometimes irritating as the husband who mansplains, Rufus Sewell is also on perfect pitch in
showmanship as Hal, against a formidable foe embodied in Keri Russell as Kate. No “Taming of the Shrew” in this Kate but no tact is needed either.

Recommended and highly entertaining with a shocker of a finale! Superb writing and dialogue.

Availability: Netflix streaming

Note: Both Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell as well as the writers interviewed diplomats who informed their portrayals of US ambassadors.


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