H2O (2004) and The Trojan Horse (2008)   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul Gross as Tom McLaughlin

H2O (2004) and The Trojan Horse (2008)

Starring

Paul Gross as Prime Minister/President-Elect Thomas David McLaughlin

Guy Nadon as Deputy Prime Minister/Prime Minister/Solicitor General Marc Lavigne

Leslie Hope as Sergeant Leah Collins, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Martha Henry as Julia McLaughlin

Philip Akin as President Monroe

Kenneth Welsh as Randall Spear

Callum Keith Rennie as Daniel Holt

Greta Scaachi as Helen Madigan

Martha Burns as Senator/Vice President-Elect Mary Miller

Tom Skerritt as President William Stanfield

Clark Johnson as John Neelon

Saul Rubinek as White House Chief of Staff Rafe Kott

Rachael Crawford as National Security Advisor Colleen Howell

3 hours per miniseries on DVD

The fragility of civil liberties and national sovereignty constitute the backbone of H2O and its sequel, The Trojan Horse, both excellent Canadian miniseries.

It is 2004, and Canadian Prime Minister Matthew McLaughlin dies during a canoeing trip.  This is an assassination, not an accident.  In the immediate aftermath of this death, Deputy Prime Minister Marc Lavigne, a conscientious man, assumes the nation’s helm.  Within a few weeks, however, the late Prime Minister’s son, Tom, wins leadership of the party (which, although not named, is presumably the Conservative Party), becoming Prime Minister in his father’s place.

Tom McLaughlin, who has dictatorial tendencies and contempt for the concept of the nation-state, is the beneficiary of an international corporate conspiracy to assassinate his father and to install him in high office.  McLaughlin the younger, who learns the identity of those who plotted his father’s murder, protects them and blames Islamic terrorists, transforms Canada into a police state, and seeks to compromise Canadian sovereignty.  Tom, who creates disorder in order to increase his power, dangles a carrot in front of the United States government in exchange for U.S. help to restore order in Canada.  That carrot is water, which Canada has in abundance, and which the United States needs desperately.  The sale of this water will line the pockets of those who conspired to assassinate McLaughlin the elder and to install his son.

And so Canada descends into chaos as patriots resist their Prime Minister and his administration.  McLaughlin frames innocent people and plots the murder of inconvenient persons.  The U.S. President, concerned about the “Canadian Crisis,” sends in the military, takes over Canada, and transforms McLaughlin into a puppet.

Two years later, in 2006, after his term as Prime Minister, McLaughlin and Lavigne watch television coverage of a Canadian referendum about whether to convert Canada into six U.S. states.  The vote is 51% to 49% in favor of annexation, and Republican President William Stanfield celebrates with his aides.  The resentful McLaughlin, however, conspires with international corporate leaders, spy masters, and heads of government to defeat Stanfield, who is up for re-election in 2008.  Presumably, President Tom McLaughlin will do their bidding, thereby selling the United States down the river intentionally.  Indeed, McLaughlin says privately that he will take the U.S. away from the Americans because they took Canada away from him.  Yet this fact does not mean that he is anybody’s pawn.

President Stanfield is a true believer in the neoconservative cause.  Secretary of Defense during the Canadian Crisis, Stanfield regards the annexation of Canada as a great achievement, for he believes in asserting American power, not in practicing international diplomacy.  Those who conspire with McLaughlin to make him President regard Stanfield as a bully, and they are correct in that assessment.  Yet they are amoral, as is McLaughlin, whom they regard mistakenly as a would-be puppet.

In 2008 a seemingly random shooting at a London law firm sets events into motion.  Among the dead attorneys is the son of skilled investigative reporter Helen Madigan, responsible a few years previously for breaking the story about yellow cake nuclear material from Niger.  Her maternal grief in hand, Madigan begins to investigate the causes behind her son, and the London C.I.A. station chief, who is in league with McLaughlin and his conspirators, sends John Neelon, one of his professional assassins, to murder Madigan.  However, Neelon, who has no moral qualms about killing avowed threats to the United States, discovers that the order to kill Madigan did not come from Langley.  So he protects and assists her instead.

The main international backstory in The Trojan Horse concerns Saudi Arabia.  The People’s Republic of China is attempting to destabilize the kingdom and to control the Saudi Arabian oil supply, a fact which would, if successful, hurt the United States greatly.  President Stanfield perceives the need to secure Saudi Arabia much the way the U.S. secured Canada in 2004, but McLaughlin and other international players deny him a pretense on which to invade.  Stanfield, who speaks of righteousness in public and in private, confides in his amoral Chief of Staff, Rafe Kott, who conspires without Stanfield’s knowledge to create a pretense for an invasion, which might lead to what Stanfield would consider the greater good.  The fact that innocent, Christian children might suffer and/or die in the name of the “greater good” does not concern Kott.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin plots to win the White House honestly before selling out the United States.  Apparently, the purpose of the murder in London had been to cover up the existence of a computer program intended to rig the results of the 2008 Presidential Election for McLaughlin (without his knowledge) by altering results in voting machines.  The last Canadian Prime Minister stages an assassination attempt, fakes a coma, pretends to have a religious conversion, and remarries his former wife, Texas Republican Senator Mary Miller, whom he convinces to run for Vice President with him on an independent ticket.  He campaigns on the “Spirit of Independence,” which, coming from him, is a lie, of course.

After watching both miniseries I conclude that sympathetic characters are difficult to find.  Tom McLaughlin’s battle axe mother, Julia, comes to mind, as does Leah Collins, the intrepid Canadian federal agent from H2O.  Marc Lavigne is an honest broker in both miniseries, and one cannot help but side with grieving mother Helen Madigan in The Trojan Horse.  Furthermore, Senator Mary Miller, the manipulated wife, Senator, and running mate from the second miniseries, is a sympathetic character.  Most characters, however, seem to be either amoral or immoral.  And, at the end, it falls to Senator Miller to set in motion the necessary, if not pretty, salvific deed.

These riveting miniseries are skillfully acted, shot, directed, and edited political thrillers one will enjoy watching.  The violence is neither gory nor gratuitous, the occasionally strong language does not detract from the plot (indeed, it seems like what the characters would say), and the story carries the viewer along well.  Everything in these cautionary tales seems plausible, and therein resides their scariness.  And if the plot feels far-fetched, let us remember that odder events have unfolded in history.  Samuel Clemens commented once that the difference between fiction and non-fiction is the former has to make sense.

KRT

Posted May 21, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Reviews

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