Traitors Episode 1 sets the scene of a paranoid post-World War 2 Britain and a rousing performance from Emma Appleton, who gets an early thumbs up.
This recap of Channel 4’s Traitors Episode 1 contains spoilers.
The day has come. Channel 4’s (soon to be on Netflix internationally) much-anticipated spy-thriller Traitors, a 6-part drama set in 1945, is here. Traitors Episode 1 details the landscape from the first-minute – giving us a slight presentation of America’s concern of the threat of communism, followed by a sweaty and pressured cabinet office member getting the brutal assassination treatment in the middle of the night.
Episode 1 quickly introduces us to Feef Symonds (Emma Appleton) going through a pretend interrogation by a group of actors playing Nazis. She’s interviewing for a Civil Service job during the closure of World War 2. Her love life consists of snuggling up to American Peter McCormick (Matt Lauria) and wondering when she will adopt the accent. Traitors plays the situation where she is heavily besotted by this man, who has a wife back in his homeland, and behind her back, is molding her to be a spy for the US Government, who seem excited by her opportunity to join the Civil Service.
Feef does not hide the fact she is a Tory and reveals it proudly in her interview, with the interviewers hammering the point that Civil Servants have to be politically neutral. But for Feef, her family are politically opinionated. Traitors Episode 1 presents a character clearly not defined by her politics on the first impression, but then is utterly shocked when Labour win the new government, uttering her annoyance that the socialists won, making dinner jokes to a fellow Labour politician who is baffled by her arrogance. Traitors Episode 1 paints a picture of how this character could become a spy.
Peter takes her to someone to begin the initiation after a wild night of enjoying each other. The Americans believe that communism is taking over the government. Due to her allegiance with the tories and the dismay of the government win, and induced by the late night heat of her American counterpart, she agrees to spy on her government, setting up the rest of the 6-part drama nicely.
Traitors Episode 1 manages to inject the dullness of what it must have been like to work such a job for the Civil Service, with an employee discussing moisture to a considerable degree. But Feef is driven by excitement, almost taking the spy role initially with a smile – receiving flirty secret messages from Peter. In a moment of realization regarding her position, reality hits her cold, with the news of America dropping the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. At least we know the character has morals, but she is soon swayed back with Peter’s sweet words.
What I found most profound in Traitors Episode 1 is the American’s belief that the British were not strong enough, and even with the risk of their government withdrawing intelligence from England, they are insistent that the next enemy is the communists. Peter, convinced the spy objective is off, decides to tell Feef she is no longer assigned, but his colleague is irked by this motion. The next scene shows Peter on the floor, his condition unknown.
Feef attends a Labour celebration party where she enjoys the company of the Americans who give her instructions to get closer to the Cabinet. It’s strange because the man giving her this instruction was told earlier that the Americans do not require hard intelligence in the UK, but continued to ignore the consensus anyway.
In an exciting turn of events for the character, Feef seems moved by her Labour friend’s speech in parliament. Will she be a spy that is split down the middle with her allegiances? Traitors Episode 1 is deliberately straightforward with the story so far, managing to combine many elements without muddling the plot. It’s also apparent early on that this will be Emma Appleton’s series – she stole the first episode.
You can check out our thoughts on the next episode of Traitor by clicking these words.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.