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Ties that bind (and break)

  • 27 June 2023
‘Diplomacy never works . . . until it does’, says former US Ambassador Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell) and husband to current US Ambassador to the UK Kate Wyler (Keri Russell) in an episode of the Netflix hit The Diplomat* (2023).

His point is that diplomacy is spending time with people that make your blood curdle, beating your head against a brick wall, hearing no over and over again, but persisting. This is because just occasionally the no becomes a yes, and the prize of a new trust is worth every second of the hours spent in fruitless meetings, depressing hotel rooms and talking with people you’d prefer were in jail.

Who to trust and how far to trust them is integral to this rollicking eight-part series, which is in turn smart, comedic, thrilling, aspirational, as well as showing the tedium of politics and ceremonial activities.

The question of trust is ever-present in the Wyler marriage. It is soon apparent Kate wants a divorce; what is not clear to me is why. The Wylers are intimate in ways that most married couples could only dream about. They understand each other’s likes and dislikes, complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, share values and are sexually compatible. As for the traditional reason for moving on from marriage – adultery – Hal does not cheat.

Neither of them are perfect. Hal Wyler doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s always a few steps ahead of everyone else in the game of politics. He loves the limelight, the speeches, the gladhanding. Kate is different. Also, smart and good at what she does, she prefers to work in the background. Hal thrives on chaos and Kate likes to be in control, but they know each other – the good and the bad.


'Have I been conditioned to expect too little, or has she been conditioned to expect too much?'  

All TV shows/movies require some suspension of disbelief to become invested in the story. If you think about it too hard you realise six young people on minimum wage jobs would never be able to afford large loft apartments in central New York and remote country towns are not populated by young, handsome, single men eager to romantically pursue the out-of-depth newcomer. However, Kate Wyler’s desire to be rid of Hal is a step too far for me. I don’t buy it; so, while I thoroughly enjoyed The Diplomat as entertainment, it hasn’t deeply engaged me.

My attitude, however, has perplexed my