Who are the women of Collateral?
Collateral follows the murder of a pizza delivery man and the group of detectives, witnesses, and family caught in the aftermath of his death. The man, Abdullah Asif, is thought to be a Syrian refugee, which complicates the implications of his murder. In an age of heightened border security and terrorism-induced paranoia, there are a number of motives that might propel the assassination of an immigrant, especially a Syrian seeking asylum.
Although Asif is Collateral's victim, he's also its MacGuffin; his murder is a vehicle for political and social commentary about the status of rife-with-tension Britain at odds with the European Union. Sometimes this commentary is a bit of an ear-sore. David Mars (John Simm) -- a Labour politician who vehemently challenges the xenophobic border laws his party propagates, and whose ex-wife (Billie Piper) was a witness to Asif's death -- adds little to nothing to the story outside of his soapbox monologues about the dangers of isolationism, which can feel a bit preachy. (His wife is also something of a needless accessory, though the show's title seems to reference the satellite stories of those caught in the web of Asif's murder, from any relative distance.)
It's the more insular characters who give weight to this particular story, and all of them happen to be women. Carey Mulligan's Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie, who's assigned to the case, is the story's main focus. She's no-nonsense, but instinctive in the way her male colleagues are not; her sensitivity, though limited, is enough to keep her glued to answers, even if it means sleepless nights. She's also seven months pregnant and a former Olympic pole vaulter, details that may feel incidental, but inform the character's interiority and complexity. Female detective stories are often centered on their lead's anonymity, so it's a welcome change to see a woman who lives beyond the borders of her profession.
We also spend time in the head of our "villain," Sandrine Shaw (Jeany Spark), Asif's murderer who's more than some faceless assassin. She's an Army Captain suffering from intense spells of PTSD, whose fragile emotional state is preyed upon by an illegal immigration ring. The horrors of war are just the beginning for Shaw, who's tormented by her superiors, by her indiscretions, by a loveless family. She's a different kind of killer than we've ever seen, because it's through a different light; much of the pain inflicted on her is by virtue of her sex.
Then there are Asif's sisters, Fatima (Ahd) and Mona (July Namir), who are thrown in a detention center for their illegal status and who carry with them more than one devastating secret -- not to mention his pizza delivery boss Laurie (Hayley Squires); a drug-addled witness to his death named Kae (Linh Xuan Huy); and Kae's girlfriend, Jane (Nicola Walker), a female priest doing battle with the church. Their relationship to Asif's death varies in importance, but individually, they add up to Collateral's larger message of social hierarchies, perspectives on the refugee crisis, and the calamitous undervaluing of the female experience.