Collateral Episode 2 Review

The investigation builds in day two of Collateral. Spoilers ahead in our review…

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This Collateral review contains spoilers.

Collateral Episode 2

Episode two of Collateral includes two songs – Jerusalem, sung by a group of drunk, braying soldiers in dress garb, and Big Yellow Taxi, sung by Joni Mitchell. Both about building things on green and pleasant land, the first is an anthem of nation, the second is an environmentalist protest. One looks forward to a future heaven on earth, the other laments the destruction of one that already existed.

Collateral is also a lament. It’s protest drama. Through the common-sense compassion of Carey Mulligan’s Kip, it protests the inhumanity by which people become items ‘processed’ at places like the Essex detention centre. And through the paired stories of Laurie and Sandrine this episode, it laments the human casualties caught up in operations and power structures bigger than the individual.

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As Fatima and Mona are transported to Harsfleet, director S.J. Clarkson shows us concrete, barred windows and barbed wire. This isn’t a prison, they’re told, but everything else says different. “It’s a lot like the slaughterhouse, you need to calm the animals,” breezes one custody officer in a later scene. “What a depressing place,” concludes Kip, echoing what Clarkson’s camera has already told us.

Kip’s partner Nathan (Nathaniel Martello-White) is given the less endearing task of voicing indifference. “What’s depressing about it? It’s clean, it’s warm, it’s decently run, what’s your problem?” he asks, before delivering a line commenters in certain internet pits consider a win-all argument to any call for empathy towards people seeking refuge in England. “You want them all staying with you?”

“If anyone does come to this country to do harm, then I want them behind bars,” answers Kip. “But I want the innocent ones treated like human beings.”

Discussions like the above, in which opposing sides in an ongoing national debate are staged between two characters, lose Collateral the naturalism that might help to sell its message. Audiences flinch when preached to, and Collateral came too close to preaching too often this week. With only four episodes and a real breadth of ambition—it’s a detective story, a political story, a state-of-the-nation story, a character story—there’s perishingly little time for nuance.  

The villainy of monstrous Major Dyson (Robert Portal) and the sneering hostility of MI5 operative Sam Spence (John Heffernan) may have verged on the cartoonish, but there was subtlety elsewhere. The hour’s best scenes were the quiet side-by-side telling of Laurie and Sandrine’s stories, two characters dealing with the aftermath of the shooting, and who were preyed upon by forces more powerful than them.

Seeing on the news that her victim was thought to be a Syrian refugee, Sandrine (Jeany Spark) panicked that she’d killed the wrong target (“I need to know. Did I get the right one?”). Learning that Fatima and Mona, and therefore Abdullah, are Iraqi and not Syrian, may or may not rest her mind. Unless the target really was Mikey, whose £20 weed deals seem unlikely to be troubling whichever throwback spook it is operating under cover of ‘Pimlico Travel’.

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Sandrine’s mandatory therapy session, through much of which she lied, provided a glimpse at how war can change soldiers. The attack in Afghanistan left Sandrine traumatised and angry. “Everything makes you suspicious. You become like an animal,” she told her counsellor. To her, returning to normal life after losing her friends and colleagues so violently feels like a betrayal. The scene pushed us towards the idea that whatever motivation she had to be the marksman in Abdullah’s killing, it must have been about honour or revenge, not greed or indifference. At least, as far as she thought. If Fatima is right and Abdullah was able to identify an English people trafficker, Sandrine may have been as much a pawn as Laurie, Mikey or any of the smaller players in this global conspiracy.

Sandrine’s counselling session was mirrored by the cup of tea shared by Rev. Oliver (Nicola Walker) and Laurie (Hayley Squires). The sole carer for a dying parent, Laurie was also painted as a character driven by necessity and not greed. “My mum is my life,” she told Jane, as she grappled with the guilt of having sent Abdullah to his death. Did she know that’s what she was doing? “There’s knowing and there’s knowing… there’s feeling,” was her evasive answer. In the end, both women were punished. Sandrine was coerced into sex and Laurie was killed, needless victims both.

What of Collateral’s most captivating character, Billie Piper’s Karen Mars? Was she in on the plan? Having grown up in Beirut, perhaps she, like Sandrine to judge by those uniform photos in her quarters, is from a military family. Could the two women be linked?

That’s a question for Kip Glaspie. Speaking of whom, I Googled it, Kip: Boca Raton is in Florida, USA. Apparently, it translates to ‘inlet of thieves’…