NB: SPOILERS INSIDE
Collateral picked up a hefty 3.2 million audience share alongside some high praise from critics for its debut episode last week, with a star-studded cast and topical script making it an immediate Monday night favourite for viewers. It was pretty clear from the conclusion of the initial episode that writer David Hare wasn’t taking us down the conventional route for a police procedural, as we knew both the murder victim and murderer before the running time was up – resulting in the show being less about who but why they committed the crime. With a handful of episodes left and the narrative shifting on in real-time, it certainly wasn’t hanging around this week to get the various plot threads back into motion.
We get a proper introduction to Captain Sandy Shaw (not that one) this week, and it’s immediately clear that her actions from last week’s episode weren’t known to the instructing officers at her base – indicating she may be a rogue agent that committed the murder for means beyond the requirements of the army. It’s intimated early on that her commanding officer – the odious Major Dyson – is sexually harassing her and her colleagues, but she knows nothing will be done about it with the Army hierarchy the way it is. Moreover, she’s also dealing with trauma from a previous tour in Afghanistan, her icy demeanor with the appointed Army psychiatrist betraying the anger she feels at her responsibility over certain actions that occurred under her watch in the Helmand province – resulting in the death of her best friend Elisabeth. The graphic demise of her colleague clearly weighs heavy on her, as does the duality of her role as a soldier trying to return to normal life. “You’re trained for danger,’ she says “…but you become an animal”.
Meanwhile, Glaspie goes to interview Abdullah’s sisters again – but they have been moved without her consent from their hotel by the immigration authorities to a deportation centre. It’s a long line of impenetrable red tape to get anywhere near them, even for the police, so they re-focus their attention on Laurie. Bilk follows her trail, but she’s missing – and after chatting to Mikey at the pizza parlour it’s revealed that Karen Mars lied about paying by card when the credit slip for her order isn’t present in the till’s takings.
Elsewhere, Laurie seeks solace at Jane’s church, and they talk about her situation. Laurie’s mother is dying and she can’t get financial aid to help her. Laurie can’t grasp she sent Abdullah to meet his fate – “there’s knowing and then there’s knowing…there’s feeling” she says – and it’s clear there’s much more to her ordeal than we know – especially with two men lurking in a car watching her every move. Glaspie and Bilk visit Laurie’s mother and search the flat, finding a bundle of money among her belongings. Bilk tracks back to the pizza parlour and follows Mikey to the nightclub where he used to deal drugs from; he subsequently delivers a pizza containing an “extra topping” of the narcotic persuasion to Karen – clearly the order she was expecting the night before – and Bilk catches Mikey bang to rights. In the ensuing interrogation with Glaspie and Bilk, Mikey takes the rap for Laurie by saying the dealing scheme was his idea only.
The investigating unit gets there first real break when a shell casing left at the scene turns out to be British Military standard, confirming their suspicion the hit was professional. This seems further compounded when they finally get to interview Abdullah’s sister Fatima, but not without oily MI5 agent Spence sitting in on proceedings. He’s adamant Fatima isn’t who she says she is, and their back and forth about the minutiae of Syrian streets makes for a tense scene. Fatima is insistent Abdullah was killed because he had proof the people smuggling them into the country were English. However, Spence is having none of it and accuses Fatima of being Iraqi – and that there will be no deal for asylum without a full confession on who Abdullah really was – and who he was working for.
Dyson spies on Shaw making a phone call where she asks “did I get the right one?”. He then steals the phone whilst she’s absent from her desk, and calls the number – which connects to a company called Pimlico Travel, the same company that is in contact with the men hunting Laurie. Could this be the firm who purchased the pizza parlour, or worse, be the organisation smuggling people into the country? Either way, Dyson is more interested in using the phone as a means to blackmail Shaw into having sex with him – and in a grim juxtaposition of two women at either end of the social spectrum being horribly abused, we see him force himself on her whilst elsewhere Laurie is abducted and brutally murdered.
It was a thoroughly horrifying way to end what was a whirlwind episode, with a significant amount of characters constantly in play but never feeling imbalanced. Hare has plenty to say again about the state of the nation and although last week’s episode felt a little overstuffed with politics, here he made it pay off in the personal sense of how it affects real human beings – whether it be Laurie’s mother slowly suffocating in a dingy flat or the women detained at the immigration centre with no hope of appeal – without it feeling like being preached to. Crucially, the plot feels increasingly impenetrable the more we know – the reason for Shaw killing Abdullah became even more inscrutable this week and like any good murder mystery, piecing the puzzle together is half the fun. Much like last week, I’m still as baffled as to where it will go – but equally just as hooked.
For our review of Episode One, click here