In this episode, society and individuals continue to unravel. People don’t need confirmation that the Hard Sun files were telling the truth, they instinctively know that something’s going on, and that this is the explanation. But Elaine didn’t release all of the science, so everyone is turning to other realms to explain what’s happening. Hard Sun graffiti is becoming ubiquitous, with “What is Hard Sun?” joining “Hard Sun is coming” all over London. Bargaining and questioning are joining anger and denial as the characters work their way through the stages of grief and dying.
Episode 2 touched on the Hard Sun Truthers, who believe that there’s a scientific explanation and want it released. This episode begins to explore the religious and philosophical ramifications. Hard Sun is beginning to take on the guise of biblical prophecy. Through a delusional serial killer, a stubborn priest, and the Old Testament story of Job, it explores the ways religion rationalizes catastrophic events that happen to the masses, and bad things that happen to good people. Religious motifs dominate the episode.
The episode begins with the rain pouring hard enough to start Noah’s flood, as we watch a man in a hooded black raincoat walk into a phone booth. “What is Hard Sun?” is scratched into the glass in the side of the booth. The man calls a suicide hotline, where a woman, Jamie, answers. “Why do you do this?” he asks her in an ominous voice. “Do you think your goodness will save you when the end comes?” Then he asks her not to hang up, and she promises not to.
Renko questions a mob goon, Corday, about a murder he’s confessed to. Corday has an immunity deal and is confessing everything he’s ever been involved with in regards to the Nicholson family crime gang. Gregorian, the murder victim, was staying at one of the Nicholson’s hotel’s and they sent him one of their best prostitutes. Gregorian killed the girl, supposedly accidentally, but Nicholson won’t tolerate that kind of treatment of his girls. He sent Corday in to sanction Gregorian, and when Corday was done, he put the body through an hachoir industriel (industrial mincer), then fed it to the dogs.
Meanwhile the body of the original murder victim, Petra Andrée, was found in the trunk of the car of rival gang boss Spencer Coleman, who was eventually found guilty of her murder. Corday claims no knowledge of how it got there. Elaine shows Corday a photo of Hicks and Butler, and asks if he can identify them. He denies knowing them. Elaine suggests that Corday called them in to help him clean up the mess, and they framed Spencer Coleman. She asks who he’s more afraid of Hicks or the mob?
It’s still pouring as Hicks waits for someone outside and Jamie ends her shift at the crisis hotline. She walks to where her motorbike is parked under an overpass, but it won’t start. The man in the black raincoat walks by, looking like the Grim Reaper with the hood up and the coat flaring out behind him. He passes by her and she thinks she’s safe, but then he reappears right in front of her, reaching out for her.
Elaine waits in her car for someone late at night on a hillside overlooking the city. Will Benedetti joins her to talk about Hard Sun and the ways that he’s not dealing with it. Elaine tells him that worrying so much about something that won’t happen for another five years is narcissistic. He says he’s not thinking about himself, he wants to know what Hard Sun is and what it means. He’s thinking about the cultural loss, that everything ever created by human beings will disappear without a trace. As with the rest of Hard Sun, Elaine insists that the loss of human cultural creations doesn’t bother her. She and Will come to a stalemate in their argument, so they jump on each other and have sex instead.
I totally get the idea that they’re desperate to live while they can, and prove they’re still alive, and they can only talk about this with each other and only trust each other. But I didn’t feel much passion or chemistry between them to make it believable that Elaine would suddenly drop her mile high walls and climb on top of a near stranger.
Hicks gets up in the morning, but decides to let his pregnant wife sleep while he makes his own coffee. Later we see him with a take out coffee cup. The guy can’t even be honest about coffee.
Jamie’s body has been dumped on the sidewalk in front of the stairs to a busy subway station, on a busy street, a very public place. Hicks is disgusted that she worked for a suicide hotline, asking how she got up in the morning. Elaine says, “By not existing, the same as every other morning.” That says a lot about Elaine’s coping mechanisms.
George and Herbie give Elaine a hard time once again for being cynical, and accuse her of assuming the worst about people. Yeah, wonder why she’s found it simplest to shut down, with supportive guys like these three on her side.
Herbie says that it’s worse that it looks. Jamie’s scooter is still parked near her office, the engine having been tampered with. The Grim Reaper walked her half a mile at gunpoint to this busy intersection, and no one paid any attention. He stabbed Jamie, but left her on the side of the road still alive. Hundreds of people drove past her and ignored her, then she died.
What was that about not assuming the worst of people? Jamie was a 26 year old middle class professional woman, dressed in virginal white. She was young, attractive, well-groomed and dressed, non-threatening, and covered in her own blood. If no one helped her, who would they help?
Elaine gets a message that Daniel is in trouble. She leaves to go to the hospital. Herbie didn’t even know she had a son.
The Grim Reaper goes to a church filled with gorgeous stained glass. we get some beautiful shots of the glass, the church, and the Reaper in the church. Then a priest, Father Dennis, comes out to find the Reaper in the sanctuary and addresses him by name, Thom. Thom has been abroad and wants Dennis to listen to his confession.
Thom starts his confession by reminding Father Dennis of the violence and murder in the bible, including the murder perpetrated by God on his chosen ones as retribution for their crimes, and the torture God put Jesus through. Then Thom talks about the horrors he saw while doing aid work overseas.
Thom: I saw families floating, face down, dozens of them. Hundreds of them. How many drowned babies have you held in your arms, Dennis?
Father Dennis: Thom, I’m sorry.
Thom: You ever think that it might be a lie? The God of murdered children and drowned babies?
Father Dennis: God is the only thing I am certain of. It’s everything else that’s a mystery.
Thom: I just wanted to know he’s there. Don’t you think it’s cruel, to hide himself from a man cradling a dead child?
Father Dennis: He only had one son on earth without sin, Thom, but never one without suffering.
At this point, Dennis is growing tired of the conversation. Then Thom confesses that he hurt someone, a young woman.
Thom: I wanted to see what He’d do. She was so innocent, so I wiped her from the face of the earth, just to see what He’d do. She was so frightened, Dennis, but he did nothing. All he had to do was show himself, or strike me down, and she’d be alive now. Imagine it. Imagine the vanity of that. The cruelty of it.
Thom establishes that Father Dennis can’t reveal anything about his confession, no matter what. Father Dennis affirms that it’s true. Thom is glad that Dennis now has to share the burden of knowing the truth with him, “God doesn’t care” being the mirror of “science has no explanation or solution/cure.”
Father Dennis: Thom, you’re in pain, but you don’t want to hurt anyone.
Thom: If he’s there, let him stop me.
Thom pulls out a knife and threatens to stop Dennis from following him. Then he spits on the sanctuary floor hurries out as Father Dennis watches in horror.
Thom psychologically snapped while doing aid work somewhere with major, continuing, uncontrolled flooding. Could this be related to Hard Sun? An early event cause by the phenomena? Either way, it’s caused Thom to lose his faith, which is what grounded and sustained him in a difficult world. Now that it’s gone, he’s trying to get it back in a way that’s so concrete and unshakeable that he’ll never be able to doubt again.
The police look for leads in the search for Jamie’s murderer, including having the radio ask for bystanders with information to come forward. Charlie revisits the scene as it’s being cleaned up. Father Dennis is also visiting the scene, with a distressed, guilty look on his face. It’s probably uncommon for priests to gawk at crime scenes, so Charlie notices Dennis and follows him back to the church.
Elaine meets with a hospital administrator, who shows her security footage of Grace visiting Daniel. Grace impersonated a social services employee, and her credentials checked out. Daniel sits with her calmly at first, then she says something that enrages him. He throws furniture and tries to kill Grace before the orderlies restrain him.
Elaine is taken to see Daniel in his locked cell. She’s locked in alone with him, which seems unwise, given that he’s already tried to immolate her. Daniel asks who Grace was, and Elaine tells him that Grace is someone who wanted to hurt her by using him.
Daniel says that Grace told him that Elaine could never love him because his father raped her. Elaine admits that her pregnancy with Daniel was the result of rape, but says that she’s always seen Daniel as her baby. She knows where the father is.
Daniel: So why not tell me?
Elaine: It’s not because I’m scared of him or anything like that. It’s the opposite of that.
Daniel: Did he hurt you?
Daniel: Do you hate him?
Elaine: I used to.
Damiel: Because of what he did to you?
Daniel: Am I like him?
Elaine: No, you’re not like him.
Daniel: But I hurt you too.
Elaine: Yeah, but that was because you’re ill, not because you’re like him.
Daniel: What is Hard Sun?
Elaine claims she doesn’t know. Daniel accuses her of lying. She tells him she’ll never lie to him. Grace showed him Elaine’s failsafe video that says if any harm comes to her, the rest of the Hard Sun file will be released, and everyone will learn the truth. He asks her what the truth about Hard Sun is. She still says she doesn’t know and refuses to say more.
Daniel gets one of those evil, sick, crazy smiles that you’ll recognize if you’ve ever known someone in the midst of a paranoid psychotic episode. It’s scary as h*ll, especially if you’re the target and there’s no easy escape. And Jojo Macari is scary good at it as he slides a razor blade out from between his teeth. If you go back and watch their conversation closely, you can see his mouth moving oddly at times as he moves the razor blade around.
Elaine and Daniel fight over the razor blade. Elaine ends up with a gash on her arm, and Daniel makes several gashes on his own arm before the orderlies can get in and get to him. Elaine sits on the floor and cries, holding her arm as it bleeds, and ineffectually trying to calm Daniel.
Grace is bizarrely obsessed with that file and the flash drive it’s on. She’ll do anything, no matter how disturbing, and kill anyone, to get the original back.
Father Dennis goes back to his rooms in the church and calls Thom. As soon as Thom answers, the church secretary shows Charlie into the room and Dennis has to hang up. Charlie notices that Dennis (Dennis tells Charlie to call him that) has two phone, which Dennis explains as one old and one new, but is more likely to be his normal phone and a burner for calling Thom.
Charlie turns on the charm and they have a seemingly pleasant conversation. He brings up the need to confess that people often feel, and that they both run into in their line of work, then asks if he’s seeing that in Dennis right now. Dennis denies knowing anything relevant about the crime, and refuses to let Charlie look at his phone, or anything else. He’s a cagey old guy, for someone who appears benign and mild-mannered. Charlie gives Dennis his card before he leaves.
Dennis calls Thom right back and arranges to meet up with him, while Charlie the super sleuth hides behind a tree near the church. He calls Mishal and asks her to look for any connection between Jamie and father Dennis. he gets off when he sees Dennis leaving the church, St Mary of the Angels. Charlie follows Dennis, wearing his expert stealth disguise of a grey knit cap. Dennis is completely fooled and never notices Charlie.
Dennis goes to the shipping container storage area of the docks, and finds his way into an old, abandoned building. Luke 21:25 is spray painted over the top of the door to the main hall. As Dennis enters from one side, The Grim Reaper strikes a dramatic pose in the opposite doorway.
They meet in the center of the room, in a shaft of light. Thom literally hisses at Dennis. He questions whether Dennis brought the police, but Dennis says he’s alone, because Thom made him alone.Thom asks why Dennis wanted to meet. Echoing Thoms’ words about the bible during his confession, Father Dennis asks:
Dennis: Have you read the story of Job?
Thom: Of course.
Dennis: I mean really read it. Because when it comes to punishing the wicked, and rewarding the just, it disagrees with every other book in the bible. Job loses everything. Not despite the fact that he’s a good man- because he’s a good man. His children die at the whim of the God of Drowned Babies. ‘I cry out aloud but there is no judgement,’ he says. And at the end of it, at the end of this cry of absolute desolation from God’s silence, God speaks. ‘Where were you when I founded the earth?’ He says. ‘When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’ So Job gets his answer, Thom. And the answer is, ‘Who the h*ll do you think you are?’ So stop this. Put down that f*cking knife, get down on your knees and for God’s sake, let me help you.
As Dennis has been telling his story, Charlie has been making way up the stairs and through the building to them. He was standing outside the door and heard the end of the story. Now Thom stares at Dennis for a moment, then grabs him and holds a knife to his throat. Charlie, who’s about to be three for three on police tactics, walks into the room yelling “Police, that’s enough!” He brandishes his badge in front of him like laser beams will start firing from it at any moment.
Do Brits really have that much unquestioning respect for authority, that most murderers will stop mid-crime at the sight of a badge? Charlie couldn’t sneak up behind the guy, or run up and knock Thom’s arm away with his baton?
And are they really trying to convince us that Charlie is the Job stand in, the good man who will lose everything because of God’s pettiness? Charlie will lose everything because he’s lying to and betraying absolutely everyone in his life. If anyone in this story is Job, it’s Elaine. She was a lost, afflicted child and then gave birth to a lost, afflicted child, while God shrugged and let it happen.
Thom doesn’t stop, at any rate. Charlie pulls out the big guns and tells Thom to put the knife down a few more times, because armed assistance is on the way. He continues to hold his badge in front of him at arms length like it’s Captain America’s shield. Thom backs away from Charlie and puts the knife away so that he can pull out a professional looking garrote. Someone’s been shopping on the internet.
Thom tightens the garrote around Dennis’ neck, pounds him on the head with the knife handle, then drops him and runs. Charlie has to choose between saving Dennis and chasing Thom. He stays with Dennis, frantically searching for something to cut the garrote with. He finds some sort of blade on the floor that works and cuts Dennis loose in the nick of time. Thom is long gone. Geez, you’s think they’d at least issue the police Swiss Army knives with all of the tool attachments so they’d be useful in a crisis.
Charlie and Elaine watch Mishal announce to the press and public that they’re looking for Thom (except they don’t know his identity), then Elaine shows Charlie a picture of Grace from the hospital security footage and asks if it’s the same MI5 agent who kidnapped him. It is, and he tells Elaine that she’s also been talking to Mari.
Elaine questions why, but Charlie tells her to drop the act. They both know she thinks he killed Alex. He doesn’t actually deny killing Alex, though he makes it seem like he did. What Charlie says is that he loved Alex, and Alex’s family are his family. He goes on to say that he feels the same way about everyone else on the team, including Elaine. If something were to happen to her, he’d take care of Daniel.
Elaine says that Grace is probing for their weak spots and trying to bring them down. She won’t stop until she succeeds. Charlie asks what they should do about it. Elaine suggests they kill Grace. Charlie doesn’t buy it, and assumes it’s a trap to see if he’ll kill someone who’s gotten in his way. He doesn’t go for it.
He goes to Simone’s ultrasound for the baby. Hailey is there too, and for a moment they’re a happy family looking forward to the future with their healthy baby. It becomes bittersweet for Charlie, because he knows their happiness will be short-lived.
Thom rides a bus and sings a church song in Latin. After a minute he asks if anyone will sing along, but the other passengers are silent. He pulls out a knife and begins making slices in his forearm while quoting the bible. A man comes over and talks him down, then takes the knife away. Thom pulls out a second knife and stabs the Good Samaritan in the torso over and over again. No one tries to help, they all run away.
The police have been holding Father Dennis in custody since his encounter with Thom earlier in the day. Now Charlie and Elaine interrogate him, trying to impress upon him that lives are at stake. They show him photos of Thom’s two victims, alive and dead. Father Dennis is compassionate toward the victims, but he won’t break the privacy of the confessional. He might as well be God in the Job story, standing by, refusing to intervene.
Thom confessed to the murders in the confessional, but he assaulted Dennis separately. Couldn’t Dennis talk about that aspect of it and ID Thom as his assailant? The only thing Thom confessed to was killing Jamie. Anything else Thom says or does should be fair game for Dennis to report to the police. Unless this is some sort of tribal thing where Thom is part of Dennis’ flock now and Dennis must protect him at all costs. Or is Dennis waiting to see if Thom gets a sign from God? Maybe it’s just bad writing?
The team can’t find any connection between Dennis and his assailant. Elaine offers to beat it out of him, which is out of character and presumably part of her plan to get Charlie to talk about Alex’s murder. Charlie asks her if she has a minute to talk, and they go to their usual diner.
It’s raining again. The question of who’s good enough to get on the ark and who’s going to drown is looming. Charlie’s not going to leave it to chance.
Charlie: Look, the, uh, the reason I nipped off earlier…(shows her picture of ultrasound). It’s Simone’s 20 week scan. It’s my baby girl. People say it all the time, but you know, it’s not until- until it happens to you that you realize, well, you realize it’s a miracle. And all this thing you’re going through with Daniel, that’s horrible. You know, you want to protect him, and you do whatever you can, I get it. You and I, we don’t trust each other and we both know it. But the truth is that none of it matters. Cause what matters is what’s coming, and how we look after the people that we love. So this is me, trusting you. Don’t take me away from my family, Elaine. Please, not now. Not with what’s coming (sobbing). They need me. Please.
Thom walks into the sanctuary of Saint Mary’s, and sits down in one of the front pews to contemplate the statue of Jesus.
Elaine interviews Spencer Coleman, head of the Wandsworth crime organization. She asks if he’s heard of Butler and Hicks. He says that he was wrongfully accused of killed Petra Andrée because Butler and Hicks framed him. He admits to having committed many other crimes, but he didn’t commit that particular murder. Elaine provokes him to the point where he tells her the truth.
Coleman: Butler was a d*ck, but he was decent enough, as coppers go. He wouldn’t have nothing to do with fittin’ me up (framing me). He came to me and told me what Hicks was planning.
Elaine: What happened?
Coleman: Butler said he’d speak to [Hicks], give him a chance to pull back from the edge.
Elaine: And if Hicks refused?
Coleman: Butler was gonna grass. [Turn Charlie in as corrupt.]
Elaine: So what happened?
Coleman: I don’t know. That was the last time I saw him. Luckily for Hicks, a couple of days later, Butler was found floating face-down in the canal.
That does make Charlie sound guilty. But when Elaine gets back to her car, she calls DCS Bell to inform him that there’s no evidence that Charlie killed Alex. Bell knows she’s lying, but can’t convince her to change her story.
Charlie arrives home to find Grace waiting for him on the sidewalk. He’s near panic as he gets out of the car, but she wants to make a deal this time. She tells him that they have the same problem, Elaine Renko, and plays him part of Elaine’s interview with Coleman. Grace confirms Elaine’s deal with Bell- if she gets Charlie for the murder of Alex Butler, Daniel stays out of prison. Grace reminds Charlie that if Elaine gets him sent to prison, then his family will have to face what’s coming alone. He asks her exactly what Hard Sun is, and she answers, “The end.”
Charlie was ready to trust Elaine when Grace approached him, but Grace preyed on his fears and twisted the truth. He’s seen how ruthless Grace can be, and regardless of what might happen in five years, she’s a threat to his family now. He may or may not think that Elaine will betray him, but he knows that Grace is a dangerous person to have as an enemy. So he betrays Elaine, and asks for his family to be kept safe in return. He’s absolutely being ruthless, self-serving and betraying everything he’s said to Elaine over the course of this episode, but there are these extenuating circumstances as well.
Grace wants Charlie to figure out where the flash drive and the original copy of Elaine’s failsafe video are so that she can neutralize them. With them gone, Elaine is no longer a problem. I really wish they had come up with MacGuffins that made more sense, or would drop the whole flash drive thing. We’ve seen the file copied onto at least 4 other devices. The original hacker probably had other copies as well. There’s nothing special about the d*mn flash drive any more.
I don’t know why Grace cares about Elaine’s video either, other than as a clue to where the flash drive is. For that matter, why haven’t the protagonists made multiple copies of the Hard Sun file and stashed them in various safe places? If their safety depends on having a copy of the file, they should ensure they’ll always have one. I’d leave copies with multiple lawyers who are on retainer with instructions to make the file public if they don’t hear from Elaine or Charlie in a certain amount of time.
A shrine has spontaneously popped up in memory of Jamie in the spot where her body was found. A news reporter is doing a story on camera, as Thom approaches and adds the ceramic head of Jesus from the statue in St Mary’s to the shrine. Then Thom rolls his circle scarf up over his face to reveal a drawn on face. He pulls out his biggest knife yet, then grabs the reporter and forces him to his knees. Thom tells the cameraman to keep filming, or the reporter dies. He says, “The Hard Sun is coming, and I am its messenger,” and slits the reporter’s throat.
What Is Hard Sun?
Having the characters who have full access to the Hard Sun file claim ignorance as to what starts the extinction is getting really dumb at this point. It was plausible that Elaine and Charlie didn’t look closely at the file on the beach, and that Will only skimmed parts before deciding to publish. But now that it’s been published and it’s 5-6 weeks later, it’s getting ridiculous. Why would they think it’s real without enough evidence of the cause to make it believable? Why would they all have risked everything for what amounts to a rumor?
Professional and amateur astronomers all over the world should be confirming or disproving what’s in the file, even without having seen it. If “Hard Sun” is something huge enough to cause imminent mass extinctions, then dedicated hobbyists would be discovering it on their own, just like they do with near space objects. Never mind what professional astronomers would be able to accomplish. Even if it has to do with the depletion of the ozone layer and an increase in solar radiation reaching the earth, weather hobbyists and climate agencies from all over the world would be noticing the changes already. Those charts and graphs showed changes occurring in stages over five years, not a sudden event, despite the countdown clock at the end of each episode.
There’s really no point to Grace’s skulduggery. She should just hire everyone to work for her and make them sign non-disclosure agreements.
The Elon Musks and Richard Bransons of the world would be on top of dealing with this thing as of yesterday. We’ve got five years, after all. It only took about that amount of time to go from practically no space program to walking on the moon. We could build space arks or giant underground bunkers, or both, in five years. Just get the private sector started, with literally nothing to lose except their lives.
A Little Character Analysis of Charlie, Elaine and Grace
As the season continues, Elaine is becoming more of a problematic character. The writers really can’t decide whether they want Elaine to be the nurturing mother, and now sex toy, to all of the hurting men on the show, or the caustic truth teller who forces everyone to face reality and their own flaws. They’re trying to have it both ways, so they can say she’s “complex”, because that’s the typical male fantasy of “complex”– lots of sex, always sympathetic and understanding of men, bad*ss fighter, and very few other emotions. We almost never see Elaine even speak to another woman, and never when one of them isn’t working.
Elaine is practically a hollow shell when she’s not doing her job or thinking about other people, and this episode she told a black man, Will Benedetti, that he should act the same way. Great message for women and minorities, writers. Thanks. It’s not narcissistic to worry about where you’ll be in five years. It’s modern life.
She’s protecting the f*cked up men in her life so hard that she has no emotional energy left for herself. She probably hasn’t fully processed her rape or Daniel’s attack. But she is great at deciphering what’s going on around her, since all of her attention is turned outward toward other people, especially men, like a good woman. 🤢😡
This episode explores the fact that immoral people are often successful and never punished for their actions. Some of the bargaining that’s going on is deliberately at the expense of others. Charlie Hicks stands at the center of the moral ambiguity, pulled in one direction by Simone, Hailey and Elaine, his better angels. Elaine, in particular, doesn’t give in to corrupting influences. On Charlie’s other side, opposite Elaine, is Grace, who slithers through the narrative like the snake in the Garden of Eden, exploiting whatever weaknesses might help her get what she wants, consequences be d*mned.
While Elaine is emotionally shut down (“not existing”), she is who she is, take it or leave it. She dresses in loose, boyish clothes, and doesn’t bother with being overly polite or solicitous. She’s been through h*ll and survived, but still has a giant heart. Her brusqueness turns some people off, probably because they don’t appreciate it in a woman. But she sees, speaks and acts on the truth as much as she possibly can in her complicated world.
Because Elaine’s come to terms with her choices, she accepts the reality of Hard Sun the most easily. She doesn’t try to rationalize the truth away, but she may be doing some serious compartmentalizing. You do have to wonder if the weight of her burdens will get to her at some point, since she is without trustworthy allies and has crushing pressure from her job, the situation with her son, and being one of the few to know the truth.
Grace dresses like a feminine business executive and never raises her voice. She’s always polite and outwardly socially acceptable. But she is absolutely ruthless, willing to cross any line, right up to killing an innocent pregnant woman and her unborn child if it gets her what she wants. She says the most horrible things, offering people Faustian bargains, or threatening their families if they don’t give her what she wants.
Grace has a talent for targeting weaknesses, and no remorse about the damage she does. We don’t know anything about her personal life yet, other than that she has daughters. She may well be a psychopath, since she’s shown little evidence of caring about morality. One thing is for sure, she has a high need to be in control of her environment and the people in it, as a coping mechanism to deal with the uncertain future.
The writers are playing a confusing madonna/whore game between Elaine and Grace, wherein Grace seems like the good girl and Elaine seems like the bad girl, but the opposite is often true. As I pointed out earlier, the important thing about both of them is that they revolve around Charlie, the movie star of our show. That makes them both Eves (or maybe an Eve and a snake) according to the Metawitches list of tropes women are often reduced to.
As with Elaine, we are missing large pieces of Grace’s puzzle, though it makes more sense for an MI5 agent to be shrouded in mystery. It also means she’s a one dimensional character, with a single motivation and goal, even though it’s obvious that there’s so much more to her as a person. Credit for that goes to the performance of Nikki Amuka-Bird, who gives Grace a depth that isn’t necessarily in the writing.
Grace wants to provide the country with stability and normalcy for as long as possible, believing that is the way to hold onto as much happiness as possible. Like Scary Hagrid in episode 2, she’s trying to freeze reality at a happier point in time, in her case the moment just before she read the Hard Sun file. She doesn’t want to allow people or the culture to go through the natural emotional cycle of coping with grief and dying that we see happening already, instead she wants to keep everyone stuck in denial with her. She and Scary Hagrid want to live in a fantasy world that no longer exists, and will kill to protect their fantasy.
Grace always talks to Charlie and never to Elaine, even though Elaine is the one who has what Grace wants. She’s trying to figure out how to get to Elaine, but can’t find any leverage other than Daniel, who’s unstable and closely watched. Threats of physical violence are the only tool she has against Elaine, as we saw with Daniel and the razor blade.
Charlie, on the other hand, speaks the same language as Grace, the language of control and manipulation. He frames people, lies, coerces, cheats and steals as part of his normal, everyday life. Now, with an unavoidable global crisis looming, he’s barely keeping his veneer of decency in place. He’s completely open to her suggestions.
But he also betrays everyone and anyone easily, as soon as he’s offered a better deal. Grace will need to keep him on a tight leash to make sure he follows through on their deal. Charlie has no way to ensure that Grace will actually provide protection for his family, and I can’t imagine that she will.
This is what Elaine understands instinctively about Grace, but hasn’t figured out about Charlie yet. His plea for Elaine to let him stay with his family while the world falls apart got to her. His crocodile tears and need to protect his baby moved her. The problem for Elaine is, his need is genuine, but his trust in and loyalty to her isn’t. She should note that he made that whole speech about the entire office essentially being his tribe and family, and how even their loved ones are his responsibility. But that didn’t stop him from killing Alex and sleeping with Alex’s wife.
Charlie’s ideas about love and loyalty are twisted. The narrative hasn’t given us any hints as to why, whether that’s just his genetic temperament, or it’s caused by the way he was raised, or a nature/nurture combination. After being raped as a young teenager and as a result having a son who’s severely mentally ill, Elaine’s probably got some issues in that regard as well. She’s very loyal to Daniel, and seems to be developing loyalty to Charlie, even though both hurt her badly.
Unlike Grace, Charlie does seem to have a deep understanding of morality. It’s important to him to be able to think of himself as a good person, not just to appear good to others. But somewhere along the way, he became a corrupt cop and a bit of a vigilante.
He hasn’t had a chance to speak for himself yet, so we don’t know why he was working for the Nicholsons, framed Coleman, or killed Alex. He could have been undercover and discovered something that would implicate the wrong person, so now the higher ups are trying to frame him. Alex may have been bought off, or about to kill Charlie for other reasons, so that his murder was self-defense. Or he could have been an abusive husband, and Charlie killed him to save Mari and Owen.
Until Charlie trusts someone enough to tell them the truth, we won’t know what really happened. But he is sleeping with his dead best friend’s wife while his own wife is pregnant, and he did rob a mob boss moments before a police raid, taking advantage of inside information. His treatment of Elaine has been questionable. We’ve watched him routinely lie to everyone.
I believe him when he talks about loving his wife and daughters, and having familial love for his extended circle. But it’s clear that for Charlie, love and protection don’t include loyalty, faithfulness or honesty. That gives him control of his relationships, since he’s the only one who knows the truth.
Where Elaine gives up control and focuses externally, and Grace focusses completely on external control of the larger world, Charlie is focussed on being in control of his little tribe. He manages information and expectations in the office and both homes to attempt to keep everyone happy. He’s observant and sensitive enough to see issues as they arise, then troubleshoot to nip them in the bud.
Charlie’s social skills are developed enough that most of the time people don’t even realize they’re being managed. He’s able to weaponize his people skills and use them in subtle ways that can be useful for a cop, or very damaging to a family. He relies on his ability to manipulate everyone in his life, and it’s likely that it will eventually be his downfall, since he doesn’t realize just how much his manipulations are snowballing around him. Chances are that he’s taken his lies and deceit much further than he ever intended to.
Do You Think Your Goodness Will Save You?– Religious Motifs and Themes
Episode Title Bible Verse- Luke 21:25
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.
The title bible verse is an obvious metaphor for whatever cosmic disaster Hard Sun is bringing, and the devastation of humanity it will bring with it. The disappearance of the oceans is part of several end of the world scenarios, so that’s an interesting addition to the verse.
This week’s episode questions whether the Judeo-Christian God is that cosmic source, or if He at least cares that this is happening. The question of whether He could or will stop it is implicit in Thom’s actions. If God notices one man killing a few good people, and desecrating sacred spaces, surely He’ll notice that all of the people He made in His image, and His chosen people, are about to die.
The problem is, sometimes God is the one who hands down the suffering and disaster, as in the case of Noah’s flood and the story of Job. The Judeo-Christian God, as depicted in the Old Testament, is wrathful, arbitrary and unpredictable. He usually has better things to do than to worry about His earthly creations.
Dennis tries to explain this to Thom, but Thom is looking for a New Testament God who will act as a loving, protective parent. His time as an aid worker has destroyed his faith in that god and thus his sense of security and his place in the universe. The Hard Sun theory is merely a veneer he can slide over his own psychological and spiritual issues, a convenient platform on which to base his killing spree. Without Hard Sun, he’d find something else to use as an excuse to act on his insane level of anger and despair.
The episode begins with a downpour worthy of Noah’s flood, and with Thom walking the streets in his Grim Reaper raincoat/black robe. The rain may be triggering in some way, because the disaster he brings up during his confession to Dennis sounds like the results of a catastrophic flood. Thom specifically describes it in terms of mothers with babies in arms- the madonna and child, one of the most sacred and innocent images. It sounds like the relief organization Thom was working with was either too late or just didn’t have the resources to deal with the size of the disaster.
Thom has been seriously psychologically damaged by what he encountered. He and Dennis appear to have been friends before Thom went abroad, and Dennis acts as though Thom’s actions are totally out of character for him. Now Thom has returned home from his life changing experience and is looking for answers. Like a soldier returning from war, nothing about normal life makes sense to him any more. How can God allow some people to live in such comfort while other die such horrible deaths?
Christians turn to their faith when they need support, but all Thom sees is a bible full of terrible, violent stories of the murder of innocents. Suddenly those stories are real to him in a way they never were before. His eyes have been opened to a level of suffering he’d never witnessed up close and in person before, and he doesn’t know what to do with his feelings. He wants to feel in control again, so he tries to force answers out of God.
It’s one thing to read about events like the biblical stories, and another to see massive floods, earthquakes, and plagues. It would be difficult to witness the reality of what Noah’s Ark means, for example, which is that most of the babies and children on earth died, the mothers and other hardworking adults, the frail elderly people who’d lived their lives the best way they knew how. Even though it’s hard to believe they deserved it, everyone but one family died in Noah’s flood, if you believe the story in the bible is true. Real life floods work the same way.
Within the episode, we have the images of madonnas with children who are dead and dying, Jesus suffering, Jamie as an angel in white who’s turned into a fallen, dead angel. Thom himself is a reference to Doubting Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles who was skeptical of the resurrection until he saw Jesus and felt Jesus’ wounds for himself, giving him the proof he needed to believe again.
Thom is drawn back to St Mary of the Angels over and over again, the church of the mother and the church of the heavenly spirits. We’re shown its stained glass windows and elaborate altar. Thom sits in meditation, but also desecrates the sancuary, literally spitting on God. Thom dares God to stop him, and when God doesn’t, he symbolically declares God dead by decapitating God’s son.
Jesus saved us from our sins by dying, but was resurrected. Traditionally, if you want to make sure someone stays dead, you either burn them up, or decapitate them. Thom may also be declaring himself, symbolically the Grim Reaper/Death, as the new god. He puts his offering of Jesus’ head at the shrine of a dead girl, then kills someone else in a very public, almost biblical, way, like a priest making an offering or a god announcing how things are going to be from now on. The old god is dead, make way for the new god.
We’re left at the end of the episode with the question of Noah’s flood, which killed the wicked and not so wicked, and spared the chosen few on the arc. But how did God choose who survived? We’re also left with Job’s question of “Why me?”-, and the answer: God and the universe are bigger than that, and not everything is about you. Father Dennis told Thom to get down on his knees and let Dennis help him. In response, Thom forced a man to his knees and slit his throat. He doesn’t accept the answer that he’s too insignificant to warrant God’s notice.
Thom is determined to keep killing, in bigger and bigger ways, until he gets God’s attention. He forgets that God can work through people, as does Father Dennis.
But Thom does seem to be asking the right questions. Is Hard Sun God’s judgement? Who deserves to be on the ark/have the best chance of survival? The rich? The good? The innocent? The well-connected? The intelligent and skilled? We’re already seeing characters making deals to leverage their chances of survival, some without even realizing that’s what they’re doing.
And we have competing belief systems, with religion answering the questions one way, while the flash drive, in the shape of a rocket, the symbol of the peak of scientific achievement and an escape from a dying planet, holds the plans for scientific methods for survival. Since Elaine mentioned internment camps in her failsafe message, it’s a safe bet that some groups will be favored over others in the government’s plan to deal with the end of the world.
The next verse in the book of Luke, 21:26, isn’t so hopeful either. Wonder if there will be a reference to that at some point. It would be a great way to start season 2:
26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
It’s the End of the World as We Know It Part 2
Let’s talk about solar evolution! As I’m sure you all know, stars have a life span and a life cycle. These vary somewhat according to the size of the star. The largest stars live only hundreds of thousands to millions of years, then go supernova.
Our star, the sun, is 4.6 billion years old, and is expected to live to be 10 billion years old, so it has ~5.4 billion years left. Mind, that’s the sun, not the earth. The sun will go through many changes and phases along the way that will devastate the rest of the solar system. Over the course of its life, the sun is growing and brightening due to the processes happening inside, causing its core to get hotter. After billions of years, it will eventually expand out to the size of Venus’ orbit and become a red giant star, at which point it will take up more space, but have less mass, less gravity and be significantly cooler.
From PBS Space Time: The Death of the Sun:
The red giant sun is so large and luminous that it only has a tenuous hold on its outer layers. It’s been blasting its own mass into the solar system and great winds through both red giant phases. As it loses mass, its gravitational hold weakens, and so Earth’s orbit expands, perhaps eventually taking it out beyond Mars’ orbit, if the sun doesn’t overtake it first. But it’s a race. By now the red giant sun fills most of the sky, and it’s getting larger. Earth is wreathed in the searing stellar winds. On the one hand, these diminish the sun’s hold on us, expanding our orbit. But on the other hand, drag from these winds may also slow our retreat. Earth’s own gravitational pull creates a tidal bulge in the sun that may increase its gravitational hold on us. Or the sun may just expand too quickly and too far for us to escape. Theoretical models are still not entirely settled.
That last sentence is important for our purposes. It’s important to remember that these are all theoretical models, and we are talking about science fiction. This is a story in which the creator decided to say, “What if I took present day Britain, and pretended that XX cosmic disaster was happening, even though in real life it could never happen or won’t happen for millions or billions of years?” It’s pretty amazing how many people lose sight of those 2 concepts. Theories aren’t facts, and TV shows are fiction, not meant to be taken as reality.
So, now that we’ve established that, what are the implications for the earth when the sun evolves toward becoming a red giant? Phys.org explains it better than I could:
An increase of the sun’s luminosity by 10% over the current level doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but this small change in our star’s brightness will be pretty catastrophic for our planet. This change is a sufficient increase in energy to change the location of the habitable zone around our star. The habitable zone is defined as the range of distances away from any given star where liquid water can be stable on the surface of a planet.
With a 10% increase of brightness from our star, the Earth will no longer be within the habitable zone. This will mark the beginning of the evaporation of our oceans. By the time the sun stops burning hydrogen in its core, Mars will be in the habitable zone, and the Earth will be much too hot to maintain water on its surface.
This 10% increase in the sun’s brightness, triggering the evaporation of our oceans, will occur over the next billion years or so. Predictions of exactly how rapidly this process will unfold depend on who you talk to. Most models suggest that as the oceans evaporate, more and more water will be present in the atmosphere instead of on the surface. This will act as a greenhouse gas, trapping even more heat and causing more and more of the oceans to evaporate, until the ground is mostly dry and the atmosphere holds the water, but at an extremely high temperature.
As the atmosphere saturates with water, the water held in the highest parts of our atmosphere will be bombarded by high energy light from the sun, which will split apart the molecules and allow the water to escape as hydrogen and oxygen, eventually bleeding the Earth dry of water.
Where the models differ is on the speed with which the earth reaches this point of no return. Some suggest that the Earth will become inhospitable before the 1 billion year mark, since the interactions between the heating planet and the rocks, oceans, and plate tectonics will dry out the planet even faster. Others suggest that life may be able to hold on a little longer than 1 billion years, due to the different requirements of different life forms and periodic releases of critical chemicals by plate tectonics.
Rising temperatures and changes in the atmosphere are expected to make photosynthesis impossible and thus wipe out plant life. This will begin with trees, in about 600 million years. Some scientists theorize that the loss of plant life would result in the extinction of all multicellular species by ~800 million years from now, as both food and oxygen disappear from the biosphere.
Are we having fun yet?
All of this shows that mass extinctions from solar evolution really aren’t as far away from the present time as the bare fact that the sun is half way through its life span would have you think. 600 million years doesn’t feel like very long, in geological time. The sun will have increased in brightness by 5% in that amount of time, an amount that could have catastrophic effects all by itself.
Now let’s go to our fictional “What if?” What if the theories about the timeline of solar evolution are wrong? We’ve only been observing astronomical processes for a short period of time, obviously no one has watched the entire process play out in real time. What if something goes wrong within our sun, and the process accelerates for some reason? Maybe we wouldn’t know why, but we’d spot the trend of solar change, and understand what it meant. What if our star started going through some previously unknown, cataclysmic process, quickly and without warning? Surely no one can think that we know and understand everything there is to know about the stars.
Here is the opening sun graphic for Hard Sun, which has been interpreted as showing a geomagnetic storm, and then used to dismiss the premise of the show:
They could be illustrating the same thing. Not just a particularly strong, but typical, solar storm, but a dying sun wreaking havoc on the earth at a pace no one expected. A sun that’s larger and closer, so it takes up more of the sky, with a more chaotic solar surface that leaves Earth struggling to survive. As mentioned earlier, some stars have brief lifespans, relatively speaking, much shorter than the time our sun has already had. What if it turned out that our sun’s life span is much shorter than anyone predicted? Hard Sun could be taking the idea of the sun reaching the red giant stage, thus becoming larger and closer, and playing out how that would affect modern Britain, making it happen quickly because storytelling works better that way.
For episode 4, we’ll look more closely at the effects of solar evolution, and other cosmic disasters, on the biosphere, as we discuss the Habitable aka the Goldilocks Zone of the solar system and what it would mean if earth stopped living there.
Unless otherwise credited, images courtesy of theBBC/HULU.