Keri Russell, known for her exceptional acting skills, is back on the screen with her new Netflix drama “The Diplomat.” The show follows the life of Kate Wyler, the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and her husband Hal as they navigate their personal and political lives.
The show is created by Debora Cahn, a veteran writer of “The West Wing” and “Homeland,” and follows a similar format to those shows. It’s a talky drama built on the foundation of discussions and disagreements about foreign policy. The show is more “The West Wing” than “24,” and while it may not appeal to people looking for something to casually watch while doing something else on their phone, it’s perfect for those intrigued by what makes the political world tick.
What makes “The Diplomat” stand out?
It is the undeniable chemistry between Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell, who play the power couple thrust into world-shaping events after a missile attack on a British carrier in the Persian Gulf. Russell’s character, Kate Wyler, is the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, sent there to make sure the plans of the hawkish U.K. Prime Minister align with the interests of the United States. She is also on a shortlist for a potential opening in the Vice President’s office, making her troublesome husband Hal as much of a liability as an asset. Hal is a political shark, a power player who makes moves off the grid that could get a potential Veep in trouble. The two were planning to separate, making things even more complicated in the public eye of international politics.
Most of “The Diplomat” takes place on U.K. soil as Wyler navigates the choppy waters of political responsibility and personal drama. The writing on the show is excellent, and the rhythm is sometimes off, sacrificing pacing for personal drama, diving in and out of relationship issues, and throwing off the tonal balance. However, some whiplash is intentional, and the show is about how the people keeping us from nuclear annihilation also forget to button their shirts the right way or suffer heat rash from the stress. It’s about how ego, grudges, and resentment have impacted history in ways we may never fully understand. The show is sharp and fun to watch, with characters who are so clearly smart even as they make dumb decisions.
Keri Russell’s performance in “The Diplomat” is incredible, and she transcends the material as the increasingly complex Kate Wyler. Russell has been in the industry for years, starting off in Disney’s “The Mickey Mouse Club” and making her name playing the title character in “Felicity” at the turn of the millennium. However, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that she starred with Matthew Rhys in “The Americans,” playing one-half of a couple of KGB spies deep undercover in Reagan’s America. Russell blew everyone out of the water with her performance, and it must have been a sweet reward for years of keeping the faith in the business and in herself.
In “The Diplomat,” Russell showcases her range as an actress, playing a character who is both powerful and vulnerable. She handles the intricate political discussions with ease and brings a level of emotion to the personal drama that is both heart-wrenching and relatable. Russell’s chemistry with Rufus Sewell is undeniable, and the two actors play off each other perfectly, making their relationship feel both authentic and compelling.
Overall, “The Diplomat” is a show that could run for years if it finds the right audience. With a little tonal fine-tuning and ironing out of the timing of a season’s narrative, the show could easily fix its issues and become a hit. The show is a must-watch for everyone who loves political drama.