Sam Nelson and the passengers have managed to wrestle control from the hijackers but an unexpected obstacle now faces them with the perpetrators’ ‘Plan B’ now locked in the cockpit and steering the plane towards London. As Sam begs ‘Amanda’ to stop the apparently suicidal journey, tensions also rise on the ground.
Governmental forces have minutes to decide whether to shoot Kingdom 29 out of the sky to avoid casualties on the ground and cartel forces secure hostages to enforce compliance. As Sam tries to save the passengers, Daniel tries to save Sam’s son Kai, but with time and fuel about to expire, the plane is about to leave the sky… one way or another.
On paper, there was little to distinguish Hijack from a multitude of other thrillers, but in flight it proved itself able to soar, often subverting cliches as well as celebrating them and consistently keeping things smart as well as tense. As good as 24 at its best and consistently clever, this has been a show to watch from the edge of your bulkhead seat throughout. For the most part the tension doesn’t let up and though, as an audience member, you’re going to presume that Kingdom 29 will land, reasonably safely, there don’t seem to be many guarantees beyond that, especially as the clock and the fuel begin to run out.
Idris Elba has given us a Sam Neslon who is smart, quick and pretty good at risk-assessment – less in-your-face than the average genre hero and certainly more cautious than some of the archetypes in Elba’s feature-film outings… but he’s now in the unenviable position of having stopped the immediate hijack only to lose control of the plane to an unexpected element. There’s only so much he can do with the main hijackers incapacitated, the passengers panicking yet with no access to the flight cabin and an ‘x’factor’ in the pilot seat as the plane nears London. Sam knows that there will be those that will be advising the governmental powers-that-be to bring the plane down forcefully before it can cause further casualties on the ground.
Holly Aird’s Amanda – the ‘Plan B’ who took control of the plane at the end of last week’s chapter – remains at the controls, causing some confusion given that main hijackers (the latter not having a clue she was involved). It’s not immediately clear if she’s a true-believer or yet another passenger that has had their family threatened/taken hostage to secure their compliance. Thankfully, it’s the latter and though she looks like a tough cookie, Sam manages to get through to her given the fact that she is a mother and that whether they crash or not, the cartel will likely kill her daughter. It’s cold but likely true. Amanda, flying the aircraft on vapours, manages to land the plane, skimming over the rooftops as it desperately seeks the runway… all with some significant damage but no further casualties. I’m not entirely sure that the assurances of Sam and the Home Secretary will follow through on her complete amnesty – she may have been acting under duress, but she killed the pilot in cold blood and one suspects that means she’ll be serving some time when it’s all said and done.
On paper, there was little to distinguish Hijack from a multitude of other thrillers, but in flight it proved itself able to soar, often subverting cliches as well as celebrating them and consistently keeping things smart as well as tense. As good as 24 at its best and consistently clever, this has been a show to watch from the edge of your bulkhead seat throughout….
The drama on the ground and in the corridors of power remain just as tense. The delightfully forthright Eve Myles as Alice stands her ground at Air Traffic Control to try and keep Kingdom 29 in the air and fending off distractions foreign and domestic. Last week the Whitehall politicians were essentially passing the buck as humanly possible but with the very real option of having to shoot down the plane before it gets too close to the capital, both the Home Secretary (Neil Stuke) and Foreign Secretary (Hattie Morahan) essentially both try to do the right thing – taking opposing views from each other about launching missiles but both willing to fall on their swords. Max Beesley’s Daniel comes into his own as he races towards Sam’s apartment, realising that Sam’s son Kai is in danger from the cartel’s ‘cleaners’. There’s some tense moments while he tricks them out into the open and it leads to a thawing of his relationship with Kai that’s been bristly since the outset.
Even well into this last hour of almost real-time drama (not a slave to that format, but keeping the episodic timings down to a similar countdown) Hijack really doesn’t ease up and it’s hard to think of another show that’s cranked up the tension so expertly this season. Whether it be the naturally claustrophobic confines of the plane (filmed in situ, though thankfully not at 32,000 ft) or the collisions between agendas being played out elsewhere, the series has been a solid masterclass in making the drama both time-driven and character-driven and only going out of that ‘discomfort zone’ when some exposition has to be applied or obstacle noted.
Quibbles? For a series that’s been remarkably and admirably streamlined, there’s a few items of excess baggage… but only of serviceable weight. Archie Panjabi’s Zahra, a major player in the opening salvo, is largely there to look concerned this week with little to add to the mix. (In a network format, 15-20 episodes would have been too long to sustain everything, but likely would have given time and space to showcase some more passengers who ultimately became window-dressing here). The two cartel leaders, so powerful in the penultimate episode are now little more than a distraction as the emphasis for the whole reason behind the hijack is revealed as financial – with the cartel leaders’ release just an added bonus. This effectively means that Edgar’s sinister presence (essayed by Simon McBurney) is little more than a cackling money-maker who is unceremoniously ‘taken out’ by his partner John (Ian Burfield with minimal dialogue) and his lackey and with the surviving kingpin vanishing away, seemingly unpunished, so far). The ‘Amanda’ aspect of having a Plan B cranks up the danger, but one wonders how it would have played out if the hijack had gone as originally planned. Equally, NOT bringing in the co-pilot for the final approach seems designed to crank up the tension, but it’s easy to let that go in the moment. There’s also a sequence right at the very end of the episode that feel like an unnecessary flourish with Sam and Stuart (Neil Maskell) left on the plane to face each other down which adds nothing to the real resolution except a few minutes of added screentime and a ‘hero’ moment that’s already been earned.
All that being said, there’ll be few viewers who have been along for all the ride that don’t feel reasonably satiated by the time the credits roll.
It’s difficult to say whether, on a narrative level, it makes sense to see Sam Nelson in action in another crisis again, though – let’s be honest – Jack Bauer had years’ worth of bad days and John McClane couldn’t get through a Christmas without slaying some sleigh-bells. Certainly, Idris Elba has been at his most compelling, giving us a smart and savvy operator rather than a default physical action hero and there’s certainly the possibility that we could follow his negotiating tactics through a different scenario… as long as he stays away from airports and stock-exchanges.
- Production Design / VFX9