Peacock’s ‘The Undeclared War’ is a cyber-thriller that is set in the near future where a lethal cyberattack from Russia brings the UK cyber security to its knees. The show follows a rather believable premise and makes use of familiar political turmoils to deliver a story that leaves the audience disturbed and dumbfounded at the same time. It doesn’t pull any punches and serves a raw picture of the way our society works now. Fake news, Twitter trolls, and spewing of propaganda all over the Internet to sway public opinion are just the tip of the iceberg of the themes that the show explores. To top that off, it leaves us on a cliffhanger of an ending. If you want to make sense of that, we’ve got your back. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Undeclared War Plot Synopsis
Saara Parvin joins GCHQ as a part of the student experience. She hadn’t expected to do much on her first day, but things take an exciting turn when a cyber attack by the Russians leads Saara to impress her boss by finding something in the code that everyone else had neglected. It later turns out that what she found is just a fragment of what’s actually been planned for the country by Russia’s FSB. While GCHQ tries to keep the country safe from cyber attacks as well as politically balanced in a time when the public’s anger increases toward the government, several factors come into focus, all at once, and things take a turn for the worse.
In between this, Saara grieves the sudden death of her father and struggles with her sexual identity while trying to figure out whether she wants to stay with her boyfriend or leave him completely. The difficult equation with her family also makes it an emotionally tricky situation. In between all of this, a friend from the past shows up to tell her that everything is going to get much worse from here.
The Undeclared War Ending: Does GCHQ Stop Russia’s Cyber Attack?
While things had started on the defensive for the GCHQ, they become particularly dire in the last episode. In Vadim’s backstory, it is revealed that the FSB had been concocting this well-laid-out plan of bringing the UK to its knees in a matter of weeks for a very long time. Their multi-tiered plan is not dependent solely on the malware. They have also employed Twitter trolls and fake news to further their cause. And every step of the way, GCHQ does exactly what’s expected of them, which is what FSB had been banking on all this time.
Around the general elections, the FSB cleverly uses Russian Global News to create more unrest in British society. With a calculated move, it also uses BBC to make it look like the elections were rigged. Meanwhile, GCHQ, convinced that they have resolved the malware issue, launches a counterattack of its own. FSB makes full use of it and paints the UK in a bad picture, especially after its break-up with NSA following the leaks. The fake news of violence and destruction around Russia due to an “unmotivated” attack by the UK leads the latter to be isolated by its allies.
While all this happens, the malware continues to do its real job. It keeps pouring data out of GCHQ right to FSB. After giving much thought to the situation, Saara asks Gabriel for his help. As expected, he sees something that she and everyone else in GCHQ had missed. The code that they thought was garbage turns out to be the very thing leading to the leaks. Gabriel comes up with an algorithm that separates actual garbage from the one masquerading as it and points out the exact point from where the leak had been happening all this time. In a brilliant move, he also manages to stop the leak. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve won.
Knowing that they can’t get anything more out of the malware, FSB drops it and moves on to the next phase. While GCHQ is busy taking a breath and handing over the war reigns to the army, the Russians bring down all their military comms and hack their nuclear submarine control system. This leads Danny to ask for help from the NSA. Soon enough, it is revealed that an unidentified aircraft has entered their airspace, but there’s no way of knowing whether it’s real or not. It looks like GCHQ has been checkmated on every end by FSB. But there’s one rook who changes the entire game.
Vadim never wanted to be a part of FSB, but his intent to stop them strengthens further when he discovers that they are planning to wage another war. He warns Saara about it at Harrowgate, but despite that, it looks like GCHQ is not able to break whatever trap FSB has laid out for them. In the end, he knows that the option to let GCHQ figure things out on their own is gone. So, he not only tells them that their CCTV has been hacked, but he also shows them the exact plan that Russia has in mind for them. On top of that, he dumps terabytes worth of the code that FSB had been using to subdue them.
All of this put together brings GCHQ back in the game just in time. So, while the situation is still at a very critical point for the UK, it looks like now GCHQ has enough to go on with. They can use the code to bring back their comms and get their nuclear submarines back into their own control. There is also the question of the unidentified aircraft, but with the military back in action, that situation can also be handled. The show leaves us on a cliffhanger, not showing us how GCHQ will clean its mess. But it leaves us with the hope that Vadim’s selfless act just might save an entire country from being destroyed.
What Happens to Vadim?
It would have been so easy for Vadim to do what was expected of him. He could have stuck to his job in FSB and let everything unravel in the UK. But he chooses to take charge of the situation, and in the end, despite knowing what will happen to him if he is found, gives away as much as possible to GCHQ. He also sends them the video which details Russia’s plans for the enemy. He sticks around to translate it for them, but then Misha finds him. The last we see of Vadim is him turning off his camera. What happens next is not revealed.
There are only two ways that this can turn out for Vadim, and one of those possibilities is very unlikely. Most probably, now that Misha has caught Vadim red-handed, he’ll hand over Vadim to their superiors. His act will surely be considered the highest form of treason, especially considering that without Vadim’s help, FSB’s plan would have worked pretty smoothly. So, this means certain death for Vadim and doesn’t spell good things for his family either. All in all, Vadim is doomed, something he knew the moment he sent the video link to Saara.
While realistically Vadim’s chances of dying are much higher than his survival, we can’t help but hope that by some miracle things turn out okay for him. After all, we don’t really see him die. We don’t even see him get arrested. So, maybe, Misha opens the door but doesn’t realize what Vadim has been doing. This could give Vadim a chance to come up with an excuse, which he probably already has, as he must have considered the possibility that someone might walk into the room while he was on the call with GCHQ. While Misha doesn’t look like a fool, there is a fraction of a possibility that Vadim succeeds in explaining away the video call and goes back to work, just like nothing had happened. But that’s just wishful thinking, and even if Vadim manages to get away at this time, FSB will eventually figure out who helped GCHQ and that’ll be the end for him.
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