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Vigil finale recap – a thrilling white-knuckle voyage

·8-min read

Farewell, then, Line Of Das Booty. The submarine saga’s sixth and final episode was a white-knuckle voyage which answered many, although not all, of our questions. Let’s dive down to reconnaissance depth one last time …

First Endeavour. Now morse

As we returned to the navy’s most accident-prone sub, the sarin-style airborne hazard had been neutralised but DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) was still stuck in a flooded torpedo tube. Was it about to become our heroine’s watery grave? The BBC’s advance publicity for this finale included no mention or pics of Silva, slyly dangling her death as a possibility.

When reinstated “XO”, Lt Cmdr Mark Prentice (Adam James), arrived on the missile deck to check the deadly device had been safely jettisoned, dastardly sonar operator CPO Matthew Doward (Lorne MacFadyen) lied that Silva had gone to shower and that he was expelling her contaminated deep-dive suit. Luckily, Prentice needed it, so promptly emptied the tube of water. Phew. He’d inadvertently saved Silva’s life, but she was still trapped.

Many commenters predicted that Silva would survive thanks to her knowledge of morse code. When she began banging for help, Prentice returned to investigate and found her just as she was passing out from oxygen deprivation. “Doward!” she gasped to her rescuer, who’d saved her life for the second time. “He’s the reason Burke was killed, to get Doward on the boat.” There was a quick break for a tactical chunder and the game was afoot again.

Ailing coxswain survived assassination attempt

Having been exposed to the nerve gas, coxswain Elliot Glover (Shaun Evans) was in critical condition. With Russian vessels closing in and Vigil on her own, though, there was no way of evacuating him for specialist care. If Glover died on board, said Cmdr Neil Newsome (Paterson Joseph) grimly, so be it.

Time for traitor Doward, now stalking the boat like a maritime Terminator, to tie up loose ends. Glover was the other person who knew he was the Russian spy, so Doward snuck into the sick bay and tried to smother him. In the second fortuitous interruption of this episode, he was foiled by the arrival of Prentice and medical officer Lt Tiffany Docherty (Anjli Mohindra). Phew again.

‘They’ve tried to disable us. Now they’re hunting us’

Up on the Star Trek-style bridge, Newsome watched the radar in dismay as Russian vessels converged. HMS Vigil had no intel nor orders, at least until the comms wire was fixed by engineer Gary Walsh (Daniel Portman), keen to make amends for his earlier crimes.

Rear Adm Shaw (Stephen Dillane) learned that the USS Delaware was in the area and called for assistance from Britain’s Nato ally, asking the Americans to open Delaware’s missile caps. As he vividly explained: “I’m hoping they’ll shit their uniforms and realise they’re not unopposed.” It worked. The Russian vessels dispersed, although uniform soilage was unconfirmed. One problem solved – several still to go.

Anyone know a good plumber?

Before fugitive peace camp leader Ben Oakley (Cal MacAninch) could reach the Chinese consulate, DS Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie) swooped in to arrest him for conspiracy to murder fellow protester Jade Antoniak (Lauren Lyle). Longacre leaned on him for access to the photo which got Jade killed. She realised the Russian asset was “Burke’s replacement, the one who flew out with Amy” but couldn’t alert the crew. Yet.

Back on Vigil, the increasingly desperate Doward’s next move was to open the ballast hull valve so the sub was suddenly taking on water at a tonne a second. With the weight dragging it down, it was emergency stations for the umpteenth time this series. The crew had 10 minutes before the boat became too heavy to get back up.

‘Apprehend him if you can. Kill him if you can’t’

As Prentice dragged Silva to safety, Doward arrived on the scene, carrying a knife – and it wasn’t for making a plate of sandwiches. Telling Amy to run, Prentice took on Doward and put up a decent fight until he was overpowered and viciously stabbed, not once but four times. The spy really had gone full psycho.

Doward set off in pursuit of Silva, who fled down dimly lit corridors in a vest, channelling Ripley from Alien – especially when she managed to twat him over the head with a fire extinguisher. However, the bleach used to neutralise the toxin was burning her lungs. Doward had a gas mask, giving the armed man a further advantage.

In the nick of time, engineer Adams (Tom Gill) managed to close the sabotaged valve and Walsh restored comms. The boat immediately received the message that Doward “should be considered an enemy combatant” and Newsome ordered a manhunt.

By the time CPO Tara Kierly (Lois Chimimba) found them, Doward was holding a knife to Amy’s throat. Demanding to be taken to the control room, he told the captain to surface and make contact with the Russian vessels. Newsome cunningly ordered the sub upwards on full power, jolting it enough to knock Doward to the floor, where he was overpowered by Kierly and Lt Simon Hadlow (Connor Swindells). Silva arrested the scowling baddie for Prentice’s murder. And breathe.

Happy endings for some …

Glover recovered and was reunited with his family in hospital. No more consorting with the medic, please, coxswain. Hadlow, Walsh and Kierly all refused medical evacuation, preferring to stay and see through their mission until HMS Vanquish took over in three days’ time. Silva reassured the grateful Newsome that she’d report her findings on Doward, CPO Craig Burke (Martin Compston) and chef Jackie Hamilton (Anita Vettesse) but nobody else – meaning the likes of Walsh were in the clear.

Having realised her feelings for Longacre, Silva finally said she loved her and wanted to try again. After an affecting tear-streaked snog, Longacre looked on proudly as Silva was reunited with stepdaughter Poppy (Orla Russell). I’ve got something in my eye.

… Unhappy endings for others

Lt Cmdr Erin Branning (Lolita Chakrabarti) visited Prentice’s family to inform them of his heroic death. The righteously angry Longacre told Oakley “You’re going to prison for a long time” for his role in Jade’s murder.

Doward confessed that his task was to force Vigil’s evacuation. Russian boats would be waiting nearby to claim credit and influence the upcoming vote on Trident’s funding. As Longacre said: “Russia dupes Britain into scrapping its nuclear deterrent? That’s modern warfare.” Narcissistic Doward assumed he’d be extradited in a spy-swap but instead MI5 put him “in a cage where you shit in a bucket”. That wiped the smug smile off his face.

MP Patrick Cruden (Stephen McCole) hoped the spy scandal would force warheads out of Scotland but, outmanoeuvred by Shaw, reluctantly agreed to keep it out of the press. The wily admiral proceeded to publicly blame the sinking of the Mhairi Finnea trawler on a rogue Russian sub, spinning it to make nukes look crucial to “a new kind of peace-keeping under the sea, the battlefield of tomorrow”. The establishment won. The constant cold war continues. For now.

An uneven, but satisfying, ending

This was very much a denouement of two halves. We had 35 minutes of race-against-time tension, then left the submarine for 20 minutes of narrative wrapping-up on land. It wasn’t an entirely successful climax but it was a largely satisfying one, leaving few loose threads hanging.

Sure, Vigil had its flaws. There were too many soppy flashbacks and the plot became confusingly convoluted mid-series. Implausibilities included Doward’s killer rampage, Silva’s ever-expanding remit and that tin of deadly nerve agent being casually carried around in a carrier bag. But do we really need strict factual accuracy from a Sunday-night thriller? It might have been preposterous at times but it was preposterously enjoyable, too.

Submarine-speak decoded

The Russian boats laid “sonobuoys”, expendable sonar sensors which deploy upon impact with water. There was also mention of “AMS 1” (one of three auxiliary machinery spaces onboard) and “the hover” (a system based on blowing of ballast tanks which enables submarines to hover at a fixed depth).

Notes and observations

  • Rejoice, pet lovers. Despite all our pessimistic predictions, Silva’s cat survived the series.

  • How eerily prescient to have a Russian agent releasing toxic gas in the same week that the 2018 novichok attack in Salisbury hit the headlines again.

  • Rose Leslie out-acted Suranne Jones for much of the series but Jones demonstrated her range in those closing scenes.

  • Lots of circularity in this finale: Longacre drove Silva to an important rendezvous and we ended on a video message from Burke, like the series opener. Silva’s ascent of the sub’s ladder also echoed her descent in episode one.

  • Over on ITV, Endeavour concluded its three-part series as well. Double withdrawal symptoms for Shaun Evans fans.

Will there be a second series?

There were no official announcements at the time of writing but a sequel is very much possible. Creator Tom Edge has said he would be “up for it”, while actor Anjli Mohindra teased that there had been “conversations”. With ratings hitting 9m overnight and 10.2m consolidated, making Vigil the BBC’s biggest new drama of the year, something tells us Beeb execs will be banging on World Productions’ bulkhead door.

Thanks for your wit and wisdom over these past five weeks, Vigilantes. It’s been a genuine joy to watch along with you. Before you’re dismissed, do leave your last thoughts and theories down below …

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