The following contains major spoilers for The Diplomat.
Netflix’s buzzy political drama The Diplomat almost feels like it came out of nowhere, rocketing to dominate the streamer’s Top Ten list within days of its April premiere. But, if you’ve seen the show, it’s easy to understand its appeal, a welcome throwback to the fast, quick-witted character banter of shows like The West Wing mixed with the wild plot twists of Homeland. (This isn’t an accident, by the way—showrunner Debora Cahn worked on both.)
The first season of The Diplomat ended with a bang—literally. Much as the series’ first episode began with the attack on the HMS Courageous which was the reason Kate Wyler (Keri Russell) was reassigned to London, the season finale concludes with a car bomb that seems poised to reshape the series headed into its second. Or, at the very least, make the stakes a whole lot higher. (Thank goodness Netflix already renewed it, is what I’m saying.)
As we look toward season 2, The Diplomat has a lot of ground to cover, ranging from the fate of several key characters to the looming threat of global war. Here are just a few of the stories the new season will likely focus on and the questions it needs to answer.
Who Survives the Car Bomb? And Who, If Anyone, Is Going to Die?
The biggest question heading into season 2 of The Diplomat is who survives the car bomb that goes off in the closing moments of the first season finale “The James Bond Clause.” With four different characters at risk, it seems unlikely that all of them will make it to season 2 alive, if only so that The Diplomat can remind viewers that despite all its fast-talking deal brokering, this is a fictional world with real (and dangerous) stakes.
MP Merritt Grove is almost certainly a goner, as he was standing closest to the vehicle when it blew up. (And is, let’s face it, the most expendable character.) Hal, on the other hand, is almost certainly safe, if only because The Diplomat doesn’t work nearly as well without the estranged but still deeply compelling relationship between the Wylers at its center. Not to mention the fact that I can’t believe the show would be willing to let star Rufus Sewell go just yet.
But even a badly injured Hal could easily complicate things even further in the Wylers’ marriage, which Kate has repeatedly said she’s determined to end. Does she still feel that way if her husband has almost died? (I mean, we saw how she reacted when he was kidnapped in an earlier episode. The love there certainly isn’t dead.) Plus, let’s not kid ourselves: Hal would absolutely milk the brave terrorist attack survivor angle for all it was worth.
Serious injury also seems the most likely fate awaiting the U.S. Embassy’s deputy chief of mission Stuart Hayford, who still feels like too important a character to lose this early on in the show, particularly since his presence gives Kate a much-needed sounding board/confidante who isn’t either of the men she’s sexually attracted to. (Plus, I’m very interested in seeing how a near-death experience is going to impact his relationship with now ex-girlfriend Eidra Park.) Unfortunately, if any The Diplomat regular is going to bite it, it will probably be poor Ronnie, who we know just enough to be sad about losing, but whose death wouldn’t unravel or derail any major story threads.
Did Prime Minister Trowbridge Really Orchestrate An Attack on His Own Troops?
Sure does look like it! Most of The Diplomat season 1 was focused on trying to figure out who was behind the bombing attack on the British warship HMS Courageous off the coast of Iran. Forty British service members died, and U.K. Prime Minister Nikol Trowbridge is desperate to bring the culprits to justice—and to burnish his own political credentials in the process. But as the investigation continues, and suspects are assumed and discarded—Iran, Russia—it seems more likely that the call could very well be coming from inside the house.
While on a diplomatic trip to Paris to arrange the arrest of Roman Lenkov, a Russian mercenary and war criminal believed to have carried out the initial attack, Kate is informed by a French minister that the U.K. (read: Trowbridge) has changed its mind, and now plans to simply have Lenkov killed instead. This revelation gives Kate some pause, as even in the extremely dramatic and often unrealistic world of The Diplomat political assassination is still a big no-no.
But, who would benefit from Lenkov’s death? Certainly not Russia, who was offering him up as a sign of their good faith, and proof that they weren’t officially behind the bombing. Kate realizes that the only person that wins with Lenkov out of the picture is whoever actually did hire him, as dead mercenaries can tell no tales. And the only person that could be is….Prime Minister Trowbridge himself. After all, he’s basically been agitating for war since the series started, all in the name of keeping his own power and boosting his poll numbers by giving the United Kingdom a supposed “enemy” to unite themselves against. This is basically treason, but Trowbridge has been such a dirtbag that I don’t think anyone is going to be too surprised if it turns out he really is behind it all.
What that means for season 2 is another question entirely. How do you accuse a sitting Prime Minister of what are essentially war crimes? And how do you prove it if you do?
Trowbridge Probably Also Had Merritt Grove Killed
Though former MP Merritt Grove initially seems to be a fairly innocuous target for an assassination attempt, it appears as though the Tory politician may have had some insider knowledge of some of Prime Minister Trowbridge’s less-than-savory actions. If that’s the case, it also stands to reason his sudden desire for a meeting with Hal Wyler was to leak that information to the Americans.
Given that he was likely one of the few people who could corroborate the theory that Trowbridge was involved in setting up the attack on the HMS Courageous, his death will definitely make it all the more challenging for Dennison and the Wylers to prove their accusation that the PM was behind it all. He may have been their only real source that could corroborate his involvement.
Will Kate and Hal Stay Together?
For all that The Diplomat is a political thriller, its primary narrative driver is the messy relationship at its center. Hal and Kate Wyler banter, fight, kiss, and make up over the course of what feels like almost every episode of the series’ first season. That they genuinely love one another is evident, but whether that means their relationship is actually good for either of them is an open question.
When they’re both “on”—joining forces to work sources, run down leads, or hash out complex political qustions or geopolitical endgames—they’re unstoppable. But their passionate personalities come with toxic edges, and their mutual professional ambitions means their individual goals often feel in conflict with one another. Kate’s afraid she’s nothing without Hal beside her; Hal’s not great at playing second fiddle to anyone, even someone he loves. They use and abuse and hurt each other, but are also clearly the most important figures in each others’ lives, even when they’re flirting with other people.
Season 1 of The Diplomat ends with Hal’s fate uncertain, both in terms of whether he’s still alive (j/k of course he totally is) and how Kate will respond to her husband facing such a close near-death experience. Will it make her realize she doesn’t want a life without him as badly as she originally thought? Or will it solidify her desire to end things? The outcome is uncertain, but it seems clear that Hal and Kate’s relationship (as well as the chemistry between stars Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell) is a big part of the series’ overall appeal. It feels like a mistake to count the Wylers out just yet.
Will Kate Act On Her Attraction to Dennison?
Although the Wyler marriage is clearly far from over—despite what those participating in it might say—Hal isn’t the only romantic option presented for Kate in season 1. She and Foreign Secretary Austin Dennison (David Gyasi) have some serious sexual tension and their positions as advocates for two competing global superpowers repeatedly put them in a variety of close, emotional, and high-tension situations. Plus, they’ve both basically already admitted that they’re attracted to each other, but various international incidents seem to keep getting in the way of them figuring out whether they want to do anything about it. (Not to mention the fact that Kate keeps insisting her marriage is over, despite repeated evidence that is…probably not entirely true.)
Heading into season 2 however, it’s still fair to wonder whether Dennison himself is entirely trustworthy. Though he claims he had no idea that Trowbridge was planning to have Lenkov assasinated, as Foreign Secretary, he would have had to sign off on the order to do so. Now, given that the Prime Minister is a proven and extensive liar, there’s every chance he went around Dennison, giving the order without his approval or somehow faking that it had been given beforehand.
But, this is The Diplomat and almost everyone has betrayed everyone else’s trust in some way, so there’s also an equally decent chance that Dennison did know about the PM’s plans, and is simply lying to Kate about it. (A suspicion at least partially born out by Merritt Grove’s determination to go around everyone in his own party to meet with Hal, if only because it implies the rest of the Tories were at least somewhat aware of Trowbridge’s motivations.)
Could Kate Become Vice President?
In the midst of all the Lenkov and Trowbridge drama, it’s easy to forget that, at least at the moment, Kate’s still on the shortlist to become Vice President in the Rayburn administration. She’s clearly proven her smarts and ability to get things done, but questions still abound about whether she even wants the job, let alone what her life might look like if she said yes to it.
Hal would almost inevitably have to be part of any ascension into that level of politics—-this is America after all and a divorced woman would never be allowed to be second in command on her own. But, there’s also the problem of what she now knows—or at least suspects about Trowbridge’s apparent desire for World War III. As she’s said before, she’s got bigger fish to fry at the moment, but the looming question of her political future is still very much present in the background of the show.