This Collateral review contains spoilers. This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Collateral Episode 3
Collateral’s message of shared humanity and compassion towards strangers, as expressed via the attitudes of Kip, Jane and David, is shored up by its use of symmetry. By drawing parallels between characters from vastly different backgrounds, this drama emphasises similarity and unity over difference and division.
After episode two told the stories of working class Laurie and upper middle class Sandrine in tandem, episode three drew parallels between Sandrine, Fatima and Mona. The two Iraqi women, like Sandrine, are sisters to a dead brother whose death needs to mean something to their surviving family. Sandrine’s brother Michael was killed fighting “for his country” in a war; Fatima and Mona’s brother Abdullah was killed fleeing his country in a different kind of conflict. Two of the three women are victims of rape, and all of them are struggling with the trauma they’ve experienced—one as a soldier, the others as illegal migrants.
More superficially, Fatima and Kip also shared a parallel in episode three in the life-defining video footage both women kept on their mobile phones. Kip sharing hers along with a simple appeal for Fatima’s trust lead to the discovery of Fatima’s video, a real breakthrough for the murder investigation. Fatima confiding her thwarted plans to study at university to Kip also brought the two women into narrower alignment. Fatima and Kip, though not fellow countrywomen, are now closer to being peers than seemed possible when they first met in episode one.
It’s as though Collateral has dramatised the now-famous words of Jo Cox, MP that “we are far more united and have far more in common than things that divide us.”
The sentiment is clearly laudable, but that remains this series’ most objectionable quality: it’s a dramatisation of stances and philosophies rather than recognisable characters. Don’t the truest-feeling dramas tend to reveal human inconsistencies and struggles with an advertised worldview, not thoroughgoing embodiment of it? In Collateral, characters are the thing they say they are and seem to be.
Even an actor like Nicola Walker, whose naturalism is usually irrepressible whatever the role, is stymied here by having to embody a rigid posture rather than a flesh and blood person. Everybody in Collateral makes grand pronouncements on the state of the country (a place where people are good, says Mona; in danger of becoming nasty, says David; somewhere everything comes down to doing deals, says Linh…). Conversations play out like prepared audience statements on Question Time: would the panel agree that a vicar’s personal life is irrelevant to her ability to do her work? How can the interminate detention of vulnerable people be justified? Shouldn’t we do more to extend the hand of welcome to visitors to our country?
Even if your personal answers to those questions tally with those of the drama (yes, it can’t in its current form, and of course), you still feel lectured at rather than thoughtfully entertained.
Thriller-wise, there was some real movement by the end of episode three. We’re no longer dealing simply with the murder of a pizza delivery driver, but a complex MI5 surveillance operation on a band of UK-based people traffickers including a double agent whose life is in increasing danger the closer the police come to discovering them.
Fatima told the truth—Abdullah was killed because he could identify the British, ex-military trafficker getting rich on human transport (that Thames Barrier scene was roughly as nuanced as as The Simpsons’ depiction of the Republican Party Headquarters). An ex-army friend of Sandrine’s father, Peter Westbourne (Richard McCabe) told Sandrine that Abdullah was a terrorist. She killed him as an act of revenge for her personal losses, not knowing that Westbourne was in fact using her to tie up a loose end that might lead to the discovery of his callous operation.
Kip was right, a soldier didn’t kill Abdullah to protect a human transport chain – she did it under a false, venal pretext thinking she was acting in the interests of her country. The commentary on the Iraq war can’t go unmissed.
Elsewhere, it looks likely that gambling addict Karen was also in the pay of Westbourne’s trafficking ring. Like The House That Jack Built, she was the one who ordered the pizza that drew out the target who was going to expose the rat… Laurie’s guilt over her involvement led her to church, Karen’s seems to have led her to a casino.
The episode ended with an armed Sandrine stalking her rapist, once again taking matters into her own hands. Her sexual exploitation plotline is the trickiest element to make sense of in this series. If there was a point being made about the vulnerable animal beneath an army uniform in that baffling scene of her waking up nude and standing in front of the parade, it was shouted out by the overwhelming sense of gratuitousness.
It’s far from perfect as drama, Collateral. Its political conscience has a habit of getting in its own way. What is unimpeachable about it though, are the conversations it wants to start.