The Diplomat (Season 1) Recap & Ending Explained: Debora Cahn’s ‘The Diplomat’ is a new Netflix series that follows a political crisis like a slick thriller. Keri Russell graces the screen, yet again, to fill The Americans -sized hole in her fans’ hearts. Earlier this year, she was also seen in the Apple TV+ climate change drama, Extrapolations, albeit for a small role. Now in The Diplomat, she effortlessly plays the role of Kate Wyler, who has to juggle her high-profile job with the complications in her personal life. Rufus Sewell plays her husband – Hal Wyler and the narrative navigates an international crisis amidst their shaky relationship.
The Diplomat (Season 1) Recap
Episode 1: The Cinderella Thing
The season begins with a shot of an explosion on a British aircraft carrier on the coast of Iran, where 25 of the UK’s sailors get killed. Back in the US, we meet a diplomat duo – Kate (Keri Russel) and Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell). Hal gets a call saying that Kate is supposed to meet with US President William Rayburn (Michael McKean) for a briefing at the white house with regard to that attack. This is surprising to her since Hal is often asked for such things, not her.
Alas, Kate meets the president and White House Chief of Staff Billie Appiah (Nana Mensah), that appoints her as the ambassador in London to deal with the matter as the UK’s ally. She was already on her way to Kabul, Afghanistan, to deal with the matter she has expertise in. Nevertheless, she accepts these new orders and gets on a plane with Hal to Winfield.
Meanwhile, Billie tells her ex, Stuart Heyford (Ato Essandoh), to tag along with Kate. Apparently, Kate is being considered for the Veep position but has no clue about it. Billie wants Stuart to check if she is a viable candidate. Before her meeting with the president and the British PM Nicol Trowbridge (Rory Kinnear), Kate gets briefed by the local team. They suggest doing a photoshoot, which she rightly finds unnecessary. She is more concerned about her work. Later, she asks Hal to check if her armpits smell not to let anyone smell her anxieties. It is clear that she is on the edge of this sudden responsibility of a high-profile job.
Kate soon enters the London Embassy office to meet Eidra Park (Ali Ah), CIA chief of station, to brief her on the latest updates about the carrier. Back at Winfield, Hal clearly does not handle being the wife in this situation where he is not even offered a car. He calls Kate to intervene. She tells him not to make matters worse for her. Meanwhile, she is brought to meet Foreign Secretary Austin Dennison (David Gyasi) and PM Trowbridge.
Kate realizes UK’s worry that the US President has indirectly threatened to bomb Tehran. She suspects that Hal is pulling some strings from the back. Anyhow, as the current Ambassador, I decided to get in touch with Secretary of State Miguel Ganon (Miguel Sandoval) not to let the issue go out of hand. Ganon does not take her suggestion seriously. Afterward, when she goes to pay respects to the dead soldiers, she notices Hal and realizes that he sneaked out. She finds him talking with Meg Roylin (Celia Imrie). Stuart reveals that she has a bad rep and that Kate should not be seen with her. For some reason, Hal still wanted them to meet.
Later, Stuart realizes that Ganon is trying to get Kate fired. However, considering Billie’s plan to rope in Kate for the Veep position, he shares this news with her. Kate agrees to the Cinderella Thing i.e., the Vanity Fair photoshoot she was asked to do earlier since it will become indispensable. By the time, she and Hal come out all dressed up, Stuart figures out that they are planning for divorce. It is not right for a VP candidate. He questions Hal, and we learn that Hal knew about Kate being considered for the Veep position. However, when Hal walks out and gets in a car of a stylist, he gets drugged and driven away.
Episode 2: Don’t Call It a Kidnapping
As the title suggests, Kate does not want Hal’s disappearance to be called a kidnapping. Turns out, he was taken away by the Iranians to tell that Iran did not attack the ship as per the earlier suspicions. Hal has a word with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Shahin about it and is to alert that any provocation from US/UK will be considered an attack. Back in Winfield, the discussions begin. If not Iran, then who bombed the British ship?
Eidra decides to use Hal’s story as third-party sourced intel. Eidra and Stuart are in a relationship but keep it a secret. PM makes some fiery remarks at the funeral of the lost lives, which starts Islamophobic attacks in the country and adds complications to an already complicated situation. President Rayburn decides to meet Trowbridge, and Kate understands that it would look bad for the US, past Trowbridge’s remarks. She grows more suspicious about Hal’s angle behind everything. So, she sneaks out to call her old associate to check Hal’s past record with Iran.
Later, Kate confronts Hal about going behind her back to establish contact with Shahin in Iran through his contact in Italy. Afterward, she meets Dennison and gets Hal’s help to convince him that Iran did not do the bombing since they called off an assassination to show good faith. But it does not create the necessary impact. Later, right when the President’s plane is about to land, Hal reveals to Kate that she is being considered for the Veep position, which is why they both are in London to check if she is capable of the responsibility.
Episode 3: Lambs in the Dark
Kate is shaken by Hal’s revelation. Still, she proceeds with her mission and alerts the President that the PM’s recent speech can malign US’ relationship with Iran. Meanwhile, Billie, Stuart, and Hal reveal the scam that the current Veep has gotten herself into, which is why, Kate is looked at as a viable option. Billie tries to convince her for this role, considering how she tackled a difficult situation earlier. Besides, Kate won’t even have to campaign. Hal and Billie know that it is not her strong suit. Kate, however, is not convinced by their appeal.
Eidra learns about Kate’s call with her ex-colleague and finds it out of command. She questions Kate about it and says how the CIA and MI6 share such details. Kate shares that she did not mean to insult Eidra. She did it out of her distrust of Hal. So, Eidra grills Hal about it and tells him to write down all that Shahin told him to avert the crisis. Then, Eidra apologises to Kate. On the other hand, during his lunch with the PM, the president promises to send a carrier group of ships to the gulf to save a sinking carrier.
Kate speaks with Dennison about it. He confesses that there is no sinking ship and that ‘the house is on fire’. So basically, the PM got the US strike force into the gulf which makes them look like they are preparing for war. Kate and Eidra try to explain to Billie how Trowbridge is using the US to indirectly send a message to Iran. Later, Kate learns that Hal knew about her Veep position possibility and agreed to the divorce right before a month. She gets angry at him for keeping it a secret and gets into a fight with him.
It turns ugly, and despite her messy state, she approaches the President to tell him that he shouldn’t send the ship to the gulf. She makes him agree by saying he is too old and frail. Alas, her manipulation works, and he accepts to do what she asked.
Episode 4: He Bought a Hat
Deidre says that she does not have enough data to prove that Iran is not behind the attack on the boat. The PM gives a speech and shares how the US president is backing out from helping with the ships. Kate is still not ready to be a Veep and wants to divorce Hal. Since it is impossible for a Veep candidate, Stuart suggests an alternate arrangement for their marriage. Kate learns that someone has called the Iranian ambassador Novichok for a meeting. So she gets in touch with Dennison to be present at the meeting.
Despite Kate’s surprise presence in the room, the Novichok writes down the name ‘Roman Lenkov, Russian Mercenaries’. So, she and Dennison figure that the Russians are behind the bombing. But Iran did not want to openly reveal this information since it would jeopardise their relationship with their allies – Russia and the Kremlin. Novichok starts feeling uneasy before even taking the cup of tea. Soon after, he collapses.
Kate does not want to be seen there and thus, runs to the next room. She sneaks out but rushes back to tell Dennison that Novichok needs to be taken to the hospital and declared dead, over there. Now they both are aware of Russia’s involvement but cannot disclose it because Novichok died right after telling it. So, they decide to get the word out in some other way.
Episode 5: The Dogcatcher
Kate gets called ‘The Dogcatcher’ since she leashed the dogs of war i.e., stopped a possible war in the Gulf. Now, with a likely war between the US and Russia, Eidra and Stuart talk about having a baby. The medical results of the Novichok aren’t out yet. So they don’t know how he died. Dennison is also considered a suspect in his death.
On the other hand, Stuart and Kate work on their ‘Hug, Pivot, Bear’ agenda for her upcoming meeting. ‘Hug’ means to show that US and UK are still together. ‘Pivot’ means to shift the needle from Iran to Russia without issuing an apology to Iran. ‘Bear’ is a symbol for Russia and the step is about handling the matter with Russia. During the meeting, Kate makes the mistake of mentioning that Novichok died before drinking the tea. She should not know this since she was supposedly not in the same room when he collapsed.
Dennison brings her out of the room and shares that the PM is looking to break the US-UK alliance since he considers the friendship to be fatal. Surprisingly, PM Trowbridge drops by at the meeting and shares that he would listen to nothing besides an aggressive attack against Russia. Basically, he wants to stay true to his words and considers a violent display crucial. Dennison and Kate’s efforts to convince otherwise, keep failing. So she makes a list of targets from Russia for bombing and gives it to the PM. Her surprisingly bold gesture impresses the PM but shocks Dennison.
On the other hand, Hal spends the day with Dennison’s sister, Cecilia, whom he earlier believed to be Dennison’s wife. They roam around the gardens and get together naked in the waterbody. But right then, Hal confesses that he cannot get erect for anyone besides Kate. Later he tells about it to Kate, says that he can lay low as her wife in her Veep equation. He also suggests she get intimate with Dennison. Meanwhile, the medical results of Novichok reveal that he wasn’t poisoned but suffered a heart attack.
Episode 6: Some Lusty Tornado
Dennison does not like Kate’s bombing suggestion. She argues that it would make Trowbridge rather not consider it. Dennison thinks it would rather propel him to make an attack. Hal points out Kate’s initiative as a part of her bigger plan. He notices that Kate has been drinking non-stop and hasn’t eaten much. So they go into the kitchen and steal some food. Trowbridge finds them right outside and joins them in their feast.
Kate decides to make use of this opportunity to suggest Trowbridge, a way to send their message across to Russia without a bloodbath. Since the UK has access to Russia’s dirty money, Kate believes they can make an impact by limiting it. Right after, she goes back to her room to prepare a plan with her skilled staff. She asks for Dennison’s assistance and says that they make a great team. He takes the cues differently and confesses that he is attracted to her. She tries to wrap up that awkward moment by noting that she did not mean it that way.
Stuart goes back home to ask Eidra for more intel on Russia’s attack. She thinks someone broke in and approached Stuart with a gun. Alas, upon realizing why he made a surprise visit, she reveals that Russia is possibly aware that they know Russia is behind it. Deidre is trying to find a diplomatic solution and says that she will share it the moment she finds it. The next day, Kate asks Dennison to approach the PM with their plan while she approaches Ganon. While Dennison isn’t ready to do so, she makes him accept while simultaneously revealing her interest in him.
Upon meeting Trowbridge, Kate realizes that he has changed his mind overnight. He shares a bombing target, and Kate finds it odd. She believes someone suggested it and realizes it would be his former advisor, Maggie Roylin. She decides to meet Maggie herself to try to put a stop to Trowbridge’s destructive plan. Since Ganon is about to land, she summons Hal to pick him up from the airport. Hal realizes that Ganon took two more hours to reach London from DC and finds it suspicious.
Kate meets Maggie to learn that Trowbridge does not want to lose his PM position. He is trying to show an act of unity to get through the Scottish referendum, and an attack on Russia can demonstrate his will. But Kate decides to look for a rather diplomatic path. So with Maggie’s help, she hatches out a new plan to target the Lenkov group since the Kremlin hides having any relationship with them. They are acting as Russia’s mercenaries in Libya to try to restart a war that the UN settled where Libya is asking for help.
So UK’s intervention would look like their help to Libya and not as a war crime. It would satisfy Trowbridge, would not incite a war, and will also be good for their image. Back in her meeting with Ganon, he outrightly rejects her plan. By then, Hal finds out that he made a stop to get hold of his honorary degree. In short, Ganon is eyeing the presidential position and, thus, obstructing any progress that will look good on Rayburn’s resume.
Dennison is angry at Kate since she went behind his back to meet Maggie. Still, they work it out, and their romantic tension becomes evident. Meanwhile, Hal pokes Stuart to find some intel from his ‘CIA girlfriend’ alluding to knowing about his and Eidra’s relationship. Turns out, he finds out about it just then. On the other hand, Kate feels energized by her recent success, and it seems like she is reconsidering her decision about the Veep position. Later at a party, Dennison and Hal keep trying to impress her. Cecilia makes Stuart notice that and comments on how Kate has both men in her pocket.
Episode 7: Keep Your Enemies Closer
Kate and Hal try to work out some balance in their relationship. Eidra and Stuart decide to wait until Russia plan to work out before going public about their relationship. Later that day, Kate is supposed to have a meeting with the Russian ambassador Oleg Balakin about their plan to take action against Lenkov in Libya. When she gets inside the room, Balakin starts to loudly share his criticisms to make the people outside the door believe that they are having a heated conversation.
Simultaneously, he slips a note to Kate to go to a café. She sneaks out to meet a woman who shares that Lenkov will be staying in his daughter’s villa during a certain period. So it is clear that the Russians are handing over Lenkov as a scapegoat. Eidra still wants to proceed with their plan since Lenkov is a bad guy. Kate is meanwhile made to go to the Oval House to share the change of plan. But Ganon makes her look silly in front of a room full of people. Agitated by that, she goes out to have a drink with her old friend, who reveals that Kate’s constantly shifting professional plans have resulted in over 35,000 people from Afghanistan not receiving the help that they could have – if she had been in Kabul according to her earlier plan.
Back in London, Billie tells Hal that the president is planning to fire Ganon. Hal meets his old associate, and it becomes clear that he is interested in replacing Ganon as the new secretary of state. Soon after, Kate returns to London to learn that the PM is angry that Ganon backed off from their plan just minutes after he was going ahead with it. She is left with cleaning up the mess that Ganon left behind. Due to all of this, she feels deeply embarrassed. Besides, she is annoyed by not being able to do the work in Kabul she wanted.
Episode 8: The James Bond Clause
The next day, PM Trowbridge suddenly accepts Kate’s plan to arrest Lenkov despite calling her an embarrassment earlier. Now, she needs to seek the French ambassador’s approval since the arrest is happening on their land. Before she leaves, she allows Hal to do a speech at Chatham House instead of her. On the other hand, Eidra wants to turn Hal into a CIA asset and realizes that it is not possible since Kate is being considered for a higher-level position. Eidra learns that Kate is supposed to be the next Veep and that Stuart will be joining her. It angers her that Stuart kept it a secret, and it affects the future of their relationship.
Kate meets the French ambassador with Dennison, who purposefully override her in the conversation so that the ambassador would be frank with her as a victim of his neglect. So, Kate gets a chance to meet with the ambassador at Louvre to share her plan. Meanwhile, Stuart tells Kate that Hal has waived the Chatham House rule during his speech. According to that rule, anything that the speakers say can be cited, but the source cannot be mentioned. Since Hal waived that rule, people can call him directly.
Annoyed by it, Kate soon realizes that Hal is trying to replace Ganon. He makes a point about the importance of diplomacy and gets to have drinks with Tory MP Meritt Grove. It also implies Hal’s relation to the White House, even though, at the moment, he has none. So, she confronts him for using her Veep position charade as a tool to fulfill his professional ambitions. She tells him not to join Merritt for a meeting and tells him that she’ll have her office cancel the appointment. So, she seeks comfort from Dennison while she feels terrible about her failing marriage despite her several attempts to make it work.
The Diplomat (Season 1) Ending Explained:
Who wanted to get Lenkov killed and why?
Stuart meets Hal and tries to cancel his meeting with Merritt. However, Hal does not budge, and Stuart tells Kate that he will try to keep their meeting brief. Meanwhile, Kate goes to meet the French ambassador at Louvre to seek permission to arrest Lekov on their soil. She says that her sources found that the Brits have announced an assassination, not an arrest, and are not okay with letting the French police take the matter into their hands. So, she rejects her request.
Devastated by this revelation, Kate questions Dennison why he lied to her about the orders. He says that he was also unaware of the kill order, even though it would have needed his permission as a foreign secretary. Dennison goes through his records to see if he missed an email regarding such a meeting. By then, Kate figures out what may have happened and throws both of their phones back to the security guard.
Then, Kate repeats – ‘A dead Lenkov is only good for the people who hired him’ – meaning his death benefits those who hired him. She figures Trowbridge hired Lenkov so that he could blame another nation for this attack and to go to war. Through that, he will be able to get his act of unity for the UK, thus maintaining his public image.
Are Hal Cooper And Stuart Really Dead at the End of The Diplomat?
Meanwhile, Hal is insistent on getting at least half an hour of meeting with Merritt. He tries to convince Stuart that he won’t prove to be a threat as Kate believes he would be. Before Hal can reach the restaurant, Stuart sends Ronnie to meet Merritt to inform him that Hal is not coming. Merritt gets angry since he does not want to meet anyone from their embassy but only Mr. Wyler. While he reaches his car, Stuart and Hal try to reach him from opposite ends. Right when they are next to the car, Merritt opens the door, and a bomb goes off.
The season 1 finale of The Diplomat leaves the question of Hal’s survival after the explosion unclear. The last image of Hal before the explosion shows him at a safe distance, leaving room for the possibility of his survival. The show deliberately leaves his fate unknown to create suspense for a potential season 2, which has not been confirmed by Netflix. In the final episode of the season, Kate receives shocking news from British officials, likely about the deaths of Martin Grove, Ronnie, and possibly Stuart. Merritt Grove, a new character who appeared briefly in the season’s final episode, had a short on-screen appearance.
Will There Be A Season 2 Of ‘The Diplomat’ On Netflix?
The finale of Season 1 of The Diplomat left us on a cliffhanger note. Hal, Stuart, and Merritt’s futures are still uncertain, considering the sudden, brutal attack. It is unclear who made it happen and also why Hal so badly wanted to have this meeting. All of it adds to more questions than answers, and there is so much to unravel in this context. Besides, Kate’s realization leads her to the feeling that she and Dennison are being used merely as tools by Trowbridge to fulfill his mission. There is real potential in how she will handle this matter, also in case she does become a Vice President as per Billie’s plans.
Although Netflix has not officially announced whether Debora Cahn’ The Diplomat will be back for a Season 2, the aforementioned narrative threads are enough to make it seem highly likely. Besides, it is getting both critical acclaim and love from the audience – making it one of the most-watched series from its first week. So, we can certainly hope to see Keri Russell reprising this role for another season.