This Collateral review comes from Den of Geek UK. It contains spoilers.
Collateral Episode 4
By closing on the same song and shot with which it opened—the door slamming on a pizza oven as seen from inside—Collateral left us on a bleak note of fatalism. Three people had been killed over the past four days, but its world kept spinning. The owners of that pizza place, probably sunning themselves in Boca Raton, are still making a profit. Peter Westbourne’s lackeys may have been arrested, but he got away. Conclusion: the money and the power survive by using people up along the way.
Abdullah, Laurie and Sandrine were all casualties of greed, specifically, Peter Westbourne’s. Less a character than a personification of the kind of conscienceless avarice that risks other people’s lives for money, Westbourne escaped every consequence of the mess he made. Abdullah and Laurie were murdered as “loose ends”, British intelligence lost Berna’s invaluable aid, and Sandrine killed herself.
It was a subdued, reflective ending. Characters who’d strived to do good went either unrewarded or punished. Kip failed in her negotiation with Sandrine, finally going home to sleep but doubtless not to an easy rest. Jane was unfairly forced to sacrifice the woman she loved for her vocation. David (whose story with Karen fitted least neatly into this jigsaw) had to sacrifice his place in the shadow cabinet in order to stick to his principles. After Abdullah though, it was Sandrine whose sacrifice was the greatest.
Sandrine’s sad story was told well in episode four. It paid off for this hour to stick so closely to it, from her confrontation with Major Dyson’s wife to her conversation with Kip through the hotel room door. Yes, it would have felt fairer and more viscerally satisfying to see her take down Dyson directly, but her approach didn’t break rank and did for him all the same.
Rank, status and needing to project the appearance of being always in control were all factors in Sandrine’s death. Watch the scenes between her and her mother and the stifling Britishness of it all seemed to be suffocating. Sandrine wasn’t only destroyed by Westbourne, or by the guilt of having been used to kill an innocent man, but also by the grief and trauma she’d experienced before shooting Abdullah.
Until now, Collateral’s tendency towards polemic has distanced us from feeling a great deal about its characters. It’s hard to have pathos about, essentially, points being made in a grand debate. The episode may have begun with political grandstanding (fitting at least, for an MP meeting his party leader) but it ended with real sorrow.
Jeany Spark conveyed Sandrine’s bitter struggle movingly. The sadness of Sandrine’s situation—a distant mother, an adored father, wanting to be good—was well established by the direction, performance and writing. I held my breath through Kip and Sandrine’s scene, which, like the rest of this series, showed the excellent control of director S.J. Clarkson.
Thematically, episode four brought things together satisfyingly. The name Collateral made absolute sense in a drama all about characters attempting to use whatever they had to make deals. Some deals, like the one Abdullah tried to make with Westbourne, or the one Major Dyson tried to make by coercing Sandrine into sex, ended badly. Others, like the one that Kip, through a mixture of instinct, cleverness and nerve, bluffed her way towards for Fatima and Mona, had happier resolutions.
In the end, there was much more to celebrate about Collateral than to lament. For one, it features more women in positions of power in a single drama than I can remember seeing perhaps ever. Ten years ago, even five, it’s unlikely that the roles of Kip, Sandrine, Jane, Berna and Deborah would all have been written or cast as women. Other primetime dramas take note. Collateral makes it look easy because it is easy. Write women, cast women, and employ women behind the scenes.
Another thing Collateral made look easy was creating a woman character whose motivation for being a good police detective wasn’t rape trauma (is that even allowed? Has anybody checked the rules?). Kip Glaspie’s somewhat whimsical backstory refreshingly involved her being a failed competitive pole vaulter rather than a rape survivor. A plea to crime drama writers: more pole vaults, fewer rapes. Thank you.
It wasn’t all sober sadness and bleak fatalism. There was one happy ending: that of Fatima, Mona and the new baby, British citizens all thanks to the sacrifice of their brother and the keen mind and manoeuvring of Carey Mulligan’s likeably cool, smart DI Glaspie. TV might feel already saturated with detectives, but it could stand to see a few more like her, and a few more shows with the conscience of this one.