A Review of 'Secret City' Season 2 Episode 3 - "Pale Horse"
This review of the Australian Netflix series contains spoilers.
The episode begins with Caroline Treloar (Laura Gordon), the rogue drone operator, being held in detention and brusquely told to pretend to her dad that she is in Hawaii. She is interrogated throughout the episode, and later on we find out she has killed almost 450 people!! Harriet (Anna Torv) shows the missile strike footage to Karen Koutoufides (Danielle Cormack) and then gets carted off for a chat with the toad-faced head of secret services Vaughn (Justin Smith) who we haven't seen much of so far in this season. The spylord is always lurking in the shadows, like an Aussie Stephen Rea.
Karen shows the missile film to Defence Minister Hellier (Joel Tobeck), who seems to be pretty bent, as demonstrated by what happens next: The home of the boy who gave Harriet the video is raided and all Karen's electrical devices are impounded (luckily not the USB drive). Karen later makes the best response possible, giving the footage to the TV news.
We then go to a deal between a woman and Sami, Mina's husband (Robert Rabiah). He hands over the money and seems to be expecting a delivery of guns in return. Vaughn is watching everything on a spy camera from his office. He can do everything from the luxury of his armchair it seems.
Meanwhile Harriet does the rounds, first of all meeting up with soldier Sullivan (Rob Collins) and then Mina (Louisa Mignon) in secret. She agrees to take a birthday present for Mina's daughter, but realises she has got roped into their arms dealing operations because the present also contains a note for Sami about the arms deal. In a slightly confusing turn of events, the daughter goes into the garage, finds a gun and fires it. Mina busts in to get the gun and then armed police turn up to arrest her. This sequence defies logic, but I suppose all that matters is that Mina is no longer a fugitive. She gets grilled about the murder of Bailey, but it seems unlikely she killed her, since as she says, “I didn't want her dead I wanted answers.” She also tells Vaughn about the Rabbit... he doesn't seem to know who that is, but he might well be the Rabbit himself!
In a funny twist, it turns out the woman doing the arms deal with Sami is actually Vaughn's wife Helen Wu (played by Renee Lim)! The spylord confronts her about the deal, having watched her mooning around in their apartment all day on hidden cameras. And then we see that Thomas is now spying on them with the same cameras! That's a tragic but believable mistake from Vaughn, to leave the home cameras rolling when he leaves his work. Who will guard the guards themselves?
We then return to the politicians: Karen is bedding a lobbyist, the Defence Minister is getting grilled on TV about the missile strike, and, as you might imagine, the PM is hopping mad that he didn't know about the highly secret weaponized drone program, a black ops enterprise shared with the USA. I would have immediately sacked General Lockwood and thrown the US ambassador out of the country, but of course it's politics as usual. The PM does at least ground the missions of the Pale Horse project.
Harriet gets the contents of the smuggled note translated from Arabic, which gets her to the meeting between Sami and Helen Wu in a car park. The deal goes bad and someone shoots Sami and his buddy. They are dead! Crikey!! Harriet freaks out and drives off, understandably getting the hell out of there. This felt like the natural climax of the episode, when it is revealed that Vaughn was the shooter, but that's not it by any means.
The closing minutes are quite intense, jumping around between the different narrative strands: Robbie gets released from detention, finally; Caroline stays locked up; Harriet takes a long shower; the Defence Minister does a press conference outing Pale Horse as a top secret training exercise (not the full story) and claiming that the drone strike was an accident. Thanks to a by-election win, Karen's power increases so she gets to talk to the PM. When she goes to meet him with Harriet, who is that coming out of his office with General Lockwood but Helen Wu, now in her military garb. Harriet looks pretty freaked out by the coincidence. By now, this viewer is not surprised at all by another twist.
Thoughts and Predictions
All in all, this was a great episode! Things are coming together very nicely for the audience in terms of general excitement levels. I am most certainly hooked! The story continues to surprise. So what will happen next... I could see Harriet getting abducted by the shadowy Rabbit organisation. Is Catriona Bailey really, really dead? Can a gunshot to the head really finish her off?? She is tough as old boots, but I doubt this show will go in a supernatural direction. Although do not forget that in episode one Harriet described her as a cockroach that would survive the apocalypse.
I am now not sure what to think about Karen, she seems quite happy to sacrifice her morals to advance her career by leaking the missile video without checking with Harriet (no real surprise there). This is definitely a strength of the show, to introduce characters and then to complicate our opinion of them as more details emerge. Take Thomas as well, just what is he up to? So far he has been so squeaky clean; now we see another more devious side to him.
Last, who or what is the Rabbit? At this stage I have the feeling we may never find out.