Thursday, April 20, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Diplomat' - Kate Shifts Expectations When a Foreign Service Assignment Changes Locations in 'The Cinderella Thing'

Netflix's The Diplomat - Episode 1.01 "The Cinderella Thing"

After a hostile attack on a British vessel, seasoned diplomat Kate Wyler assumes a new role in the UK that puts her skills - and marriage - to the test.

"The Cinderella Thing" was written by Debora Cahn and directed by Simon Cellan Jones

Kate was expecting an ambassadorial appointment in the Middle East. She has extensive experience navigating those complicated and critical relationships. Situations are constantly evolving and require a representative of American values who can quickly adapt. Instead, she is sent to serve in an acting capacity in London. That relationship is vital as well. It typically requires a different skillset. She approaches the job with certain expectations. And yet, she can't be rigid over what it truly entails. The Americans and British need to remain closely aligned. The world already believes a British ship was attacked due to the country's alliance with the United States. The intelligence community immediately suggests the Iranians are the culprits behind this disaster. Kate is sent to the embassy to serve as a critical response. She delivers the message that the current U.S. President is taking this situation seriously. It's a different touch than what the British usually get. Hal notes that the London embassy is typically led by a well-connected donor to the president. It's a political appointment instead of an elevation of a career member of the foreign service. The latter is the line of work Kate and Hal have devoted their lives to. He previously served as an ambassador. She was deputy chief of mission. This promotion for her was long expected. And yet, she constantly lives in her husband's shadow. His comments are picked up and make international headlines. She has yet to prove herself. People trust her. They see big things in the future. Part of this story is merely reacting to the latest geopolitical incident. Another crucial element is Kate being elevated for the possibility of replacing the current Vice President. She's not a politician. She doesn't possess that charm to inspire potential voters. Instead, she is committed to the actual work. She understands the strategic interests of the region and the ways in which protocol dictates behavior. She wants to hit the ground running. She wants a say in her agenda. She doesn't want to go through the motions of the ceremonial aspects of the job. She seeks to use her influence to foster a relationship with the British Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Those dynamics are vital. They must be nurtured so the two countries can continue to rely on each other no matter what crisis erupts elsewhere. So much is at risk because of Hal's constant meddling. He believes he understands what this job requires. And yet, he has no idea what luxuries his wife had when she held this position. The roles are reversed. He's accustomed to a certain amount of access and importance. He's pompous and arrogant. He expects so much respect to be given to him. He aims to charm. He succeeds at it. People seek out his advice. He's not in charge of the mission though. It's up to Kate to set the narrative for how this partnership will evolve during these next few months.

The job has certain expectations Kate didn't realize. She's not thrilled about the numerous speeches she will have to give. She doesn't enjoy wearing dresses. She doesn't want to present as the American princess inspiring the next generation of women. She doesn't want to be that role model. Her presence disrupts the notion of this job. She's asked to sit in on calls that the prior ambassador didn't. She has access because people have high standards for her. It's all about managing those expectations. She doesn't want to rule out Iran as the culprit behind the bombing. She knows how the hardliners in charge will react when any piece of evidence points in their direction. She doesn't have much time to impress people. That's not even what this premiere is meant to accomplish. It highlights the delicate balance of diplomacy. Kate and Hal are asked to serve regardless of which political party is in power. The Secretary of State is already trying to have her removed. She isn't given the opportunity to make an impression. The British leaders are already annoyed because it seems like the Americans are leading the response despite the British suffering the casualties. Kate has the contacts to potentially aid in the search. She knows that must be the priority. She pays her respects. Hardly anyone notices. Hal sucks up all the oxygen in the room. It's immediately understandable why Kate wants a divorce. He insists his charms will win her back at some point. That has always happened before. It may happen again because the twist reveals the conspiracy hits a lot closer to home than anyone realized. Kate orchestrated this photoshoot in order to make her presence known. She needs to live openly in order to stand firmly in this new power. She can't shy away from that. She has the expertise to lead when crucial decisions must be made. She wields influence over this key geopolitical relationship. However, she also has to serve as the representative for what's possible through the American perspective on the world. She gets caught up in the moment. She's conveniently busy when Hal is drugged and abducted. That will more than likely make this situation much more personal. The clashing of the two ambassadors defined the immediate conflict. They carry the same name and title. Hal has all the experience. Kate is new. She is trusted with this responsibility. Everyone lifts her up with greatness. Of course, she doesn't have a voice in the conversation about the possible vice presidential appointment. That should factor into things. All it takes is an image to change minds. Others see that. That's still a concern for the future. Right now, everything shifts because over forty British sailors are killed and the husband of the ambassador has been taken. The latter aims to ground everything in Kate's perspective even though it's inherently more soapy than an elevated take on the natural drama of the conflict.