When we left off with Babylon, we were given the lay of the land: protagonist Liz Garvey (played by Brit Marling) is faced with the daunting task of bringing the London Metropolitan police department into modern times with a more strategic and fast-paced communications system. As the show continues to unfold, we’re finding that this is also a show about how reputation and digital communications are going to play an important role in the PR transition the Met is making.
In the next episode, Liz suggests that the police department launch its own online network that would go straight to the people. Commissioner Richard Miller at first suggests that it “sounds like state-owned media.” But she convinces him firing back: “When you throw mud we all get dirty. My name. My reputation.” In other words, when he backs off of good ideas that would help the department, it makes everyone look bad.
Perhaps taking a cue, the Commissioner wants to get out in front and leak that Deputy Mayor Delgado’s son has been arrested for smoking and possessing pot. After word gets out, we learn that he had more pot than we thought, taking it up to possession with intent, which means they have to search the Deputy Mayor’s home. The cops thought they would do the Deputy Mayor a solid with a heads up on a small infraction and it would be good for a favor later. Instead, they’ve made him angry and now he has to face the media with the news of the search.
Liz suggests that the Deputy Mayor turn this around, telling the media that he supports law enforcement even when it’s enforced upon him. Deputy Mayor Delgado suggests that Liz is a valuable asset for giving him this novel piece of advice, perhaps the first time she’s heard something positive since she touched down in London.
More importantly, the Deputy Mayor’s compliment is likely also reassurance that keeping her course and pressing for the online network — or “Metwork” — is worth a try. At this point Commissioner Miller has second thoughts and shuts down the idea instead.
Notable quotable from this episode:
Liz: “You are obsolete Finn. You are a solar powered fax machine.”
Finn (who’s vying for her job): “Fuck you.”
We open the next episode with a bomb threat against the Thameside Exhibition Centre but there’s no evidence on the premises. We’ll come back to this.
In the meantime, the Deputy Mayor offers Liz a job. When she turns it down he says that there’s a “volcano of molten feces” that’s about to erupt beneath Miller and she should jump ship. On cue back at the office, Miller apologizes for undermining her and allowing others to do so as well. “You should be able to run your department independently of me,” the Commissioner says. How many times have you wished someone would say that to you?
“My job is to turn your thoughts into reality,” he adds.
Miller says he’s going to move forward with “Metwork” after all and ask Finn for his resignation. He follows up all of this with a kiss on the cheek that was a little more intimate than we would expect. Consider all of this a bit of foreshadowing.
Meanwhile, Liz has got to diffuse a situation in which Deputy Commissioner Charles Inglis, who had been shopping and got a call from his sick wife, was caught walking out of the shop without paying for a bottle of shampoo. He’s bald and the sick wife has the flu. Liz thinks this story has legs not only because of who’s involved, but the “comic angle.” (True.)
Back to the bomb threat, a civilian walks past a cop on his mobile (we’re in London, remember) who talks about the “bomb threat” and subsequently tweets about it. Liz suggests the Commissioner go to the Centre as a show of authority. On their way, he tells her there will be a story in the national media the next day revealing, with photographic evidence, that he had an extramarital affair. There were “incidents” at Scotland Yard (the other woman is a department physiotherapist) and his wife doesn’t know about it. Miller gets angry when Liz presses for more information.
“I just need to know what battles we can and cannot win. Anything true is going to come out. Anything untrue I have to squash,” says Liz. She promises to “do what she can” to kill the story.
Liz calls the reporter, Caroline Carey, of course to no avail. With no other alternative, she says she has an exclusive about misconduct “at the highest levels of the police,” offering Inglis. But that’s not all. The journo wants “Metwork” dead and first dibs on any exclusive.
Because things can always get worse a man is sent to the hospital with injuries from the bomb and his wife begins criticizing Miller on Twitter. So as we said, things can always get worse.
Also, turns out the Commish has been lying. Amy the physio wasn’t the only affair he was having. Caroline also saw a Facebook post in which the Miller’s sister-in-law got a warning not to go to Thameside because of the bomb, puts one and one together and realizes Miller is having an affair with his wife’s sister! I repeat: The Metropolitan Police Department’s Commissioner Richard Miller ended one affair but continues to have another with his wife’s sister Georgia.
“Was I next? Are there any women in your life who you don’t try to fuck?” asks Liz. Good gracious. Take that Scandal.
With this, Miller decides not to let Liz move forward with the Inglis shampoo story. Did we mention that Liz has hooked up with her old boyfriend who seems to always have drugs on hand and now Liz is dipping her finger in some white powdery stuff? And then Miller takes a step into the Thames and gets pulled out the next morning? And Assistant Commissioner Sharon Franklin had a fling with Richard six or seven years ago? It’s a lot.
So now the press is reporting that Richard committed suicide after multiple affairs. When Liz tells Finn she knew about the affairs and the story and tried to kill it, Finn wants to know why he wasn’t consulted.
“I’ve known Caroline Carey for 15 years… Don’t you think I have a file full of dirt on hacks like her?” he says. He advocates for supporting Inglis while letting Miller’s rep go down the toilet, even as Liz wants to rebut the cascade of stories now being written about Richard. Finn sees his opportunity to push Liz out and “suggests” that no one would have a problem with her resigning. Especially now that there are allegations that she was having an affair with Richard getting published.
Also in the media: the police shoot a Black teen dead in front of a nightclub and a cop takes a gun that was in the teen’s waist and places it in his hand. And there’s ongoing search for that bomber.
Out of breath? “Is this turning into the worst week in Scotland Yard’s history?” the news asks. You think?
Ultimately, Liz takes the initiative to go on the air with Sky News unexpectedly to respond. And she gets the win, squahsing negative talk about the dead teen and stating that she will continue on as head of PR and giving hope that somehow, some way, she’s going to get the department on a winning path by solving the huge issues they’re dealing with.
As a PR, the show presents some interesting scenarios. You’ll find yourself wondering how you would handle things in Liz’s position. If you’re watching, let us know what you would do. We’re genuinely curious.