Netflix's The Diplomat Is an 'Intellectual Whirlwind'

Keri Russell shines as Kate Wyler, opposite a 'first-rate' Rufus Sewell
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2023 1:25 PM CDT

Five years since she last played a Russian spy in The Americans, Keri Russell is back on TV and killing it. The Diplomat, an eight-episode Netflix series from showrunner Debora Cahn (The West Wing, Homeland), finds Russell (lead actor and executive producer) on the US side as a longtime State Department operative tasked with preventing an "apocalyptic" war. Here's what critics are saying:

  • "The intricacies of the plotting are ingenious, the pace brisk and the binge-ability factor high in what is a sophisticated show with a sterling cast," writes John Anderson at the Wall Street Journal. Russell is "magnetic" as Kate Wyler, a Middle East expert who's shocked to find herself assigned as ambassador to the UK. What she doesn't know is that her husband, Hal, played by a "first-rate, revelatory Rufus Sewell," has suggested her to replace the current vice president, who is about to resign in scandal.
  • "At last, here's a new series that remembers how to operate like an actual season of television," writes Coleman Spilde at the Daily Beast, suggesting you put your phone away before you watch. Why? The Diplomat is "a riveting, intellectual whirlwind ... with characters entrenched in layers-upon-layers of complex detail before they've even had a chance to tell us what their names are." As Kate, Russell is "fantastic," Spilde adds, making you forget "that you were watching a scripted television show."

  • Russell delivers "a knockout performance" in this "instantly engrossing, beautifully filmed, sharply written and wonderfully acted" series with "a generous sprinkling of humor" to boot, praises Richard Roeper at the Chicago Sun-Times. The Diplomat slowly reveals "insights into the personalities and motivations of Kate and Hal—but also the supporting players," he adds, noting "the only major complaint we have is the eight episodes go by too fast, leaving us wanting more, now."
  • Emily Tannenbaum was left missing The Americans, however. Yes, Russell is "stellar," and she and Sewell "project a level of casual intimacy that takes some scene partners years to cultivate." But compared with FX's offering, The Diplomat is a "less gritty spy thriller and more soapy workplace drama," Tannenbaum writes at Variety. It "never really lands on a consistent tone, struggling to find the right balance between its biting social commentary and attempts at grounded bureaucratic drama."
(More television review stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.