These recaps first appeared in our Boobs on Your Tube column, but have now moved to their own standalone post because Vigil’s available to stream on both sides of the pond!
Like many, I’ve soured on the typical police procedural so the idea of adding another to my TV viewing schedule wasn’t appealing. But then I read that Vigil is a British police procedural which, unlike the American variety, feel less like police propaganda and more like thrillers (see also: Luther, Prime Suspect and The Fall). Plus, on top of that, there are lady gays… and not just any lady gays, mind you… Anne Lister and Maia Rindell.
Yeah, okay. I was sold. I binged the first four episodes of Vigil in one night.
Vigil Episodes 101-104
Suranne Jones is DCI Amy Silva, one of the best investigators in the Scottish Police Service, who’s sent aboard a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the HMS Vigil, to investigate a sailor’s overdose. But what’s initially meant to be a three day trip — and, unbeknownst to Silva, an investigation in name only — turns into a multiweek stay filled with obstruction, intrigue, espionage and murders (yes, that’s murders, plural). Stymied by a crew unwilling to recognize her authority, Silva relies on her Detective Sargent, Kirsten Longacre (The Good Fight‘s Rose Leslie), to provide information from the parallel investigation she’s running from the shore.
Though Amy and Kirsten spend most of the season separated, their relationship — which, apparently, remains a secret from their colleagues — remains a fixture of the show. To sneak information past the Navy’s prying eyes, Kirsten sends details of her investigation to Amy aboard the Vigil using the shorthand that they’ve developed over the course of their relationship…her father’s favorite song, the book she read, as Amy cuddled against her in bed. Lonely and isolated on the Vigil, Amy thinks of Kirsten often, recalling how they met, when Kristen first impulsively kissed her and when Amy return that kiss, with intention. But that nostalgia masks the truth: Amy and Kirsten were on the verge of a break-up before Amy was dispatched to the Vigil…and the distance (and this murder) may be the only thing keeping them together.
Vigil Episode 105
Some years ago, Amy Silva was in an accident. Swerving to avoid a head-on collision, the car Amy was travelling in — with fiancé and his daughter, Poppy — plunged into murky water. Only able to save one of them, Amy pulls the daughter from her seat and ensures that they’re able to escape the water-logged sarcophagus. Her fiancé died that day (and his daughter stripped away from her soon after) and Amy’s been walking around, carrying that guilt and trauma ever since. So, sufficed to say, being aboard a nuclear submarine, leagues under the sea, is the last place that Amy Silva wants to be.
(Well, maybe the second to last place…I’ll get to that in a minute)
Despite that, though, Amy persists in trying to solve the murder of Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke. At each turn, the mystery deepens: exposing another man behaving badly but not the murderer. Finally, though, Amy puts together the pieces: Burke was killed by the Vigil’s chef, Jackie Hamilton, in exchange for the release of her son from an Indonesian prison. But when she goes to confront Jackie, she finds her dead and is tackled by the sub’s coxswain, Elliot Glover. He rushes her out of the area, warning that Hamilton has released an airborne contaminant. Once they seal off the area and rinse off the residue, Glover and Amy determine that Jackie was likely killed by sarin and someone needs go back in to secure the nerve agent. Glover volunteers and Amy insists on going in too…she wants to get a look at the crime scene before it’s awash with bleach.
Glover secures the sarin but a tear in his protective gear exposes him to the gas and Amy has to drag him to safety. She races to dispose of the sarin canister in the torpedo tube and then collapses on the floor from exhaustion. A masked man peels off her gear and tosses the evidence she collected in the disposal as well. A weak Amy tries to protest and the masked man — Matthew Doward, who boarded the Vigil to replace Burke — knocks her out and stuffs her inside the torpedo tube (!!)…which is now filling up with seawater (!!).
Meanwhile, on land, Kirsten and the Scottish Police step up their efforts to find the traitor aboard the Vigil. But when Kirsten notices that it’s Poppy’s birthday, she takes a gift, on Amy’s behalf, to Poppy and her grandparents’ home. They know exactly who Kirsten is when she rings the bell: Poppy’s seen the pictures on Amy’s phone and Amy’s told the grandparents about her. Poppy’s grandmother sends Poppy to her room so that she can find out more about the woman seeking joint custody of her granddaughter. Kirsten’s mind is blown by this — flashbacks reveal that Amy fiercely resisted Kirsten’s efforts to meet Poppy and she knew nothing about Amy’s custody efforts — and notes that she and Amy aren’t together anymore. Once alone in her car, Kirsten cries, mourning the life she never knew she almost had.
Vigil Episode 106
Last we saw our protagonist, she was trapped inside a torpedo tube, struggling to keep her head above the rising water. Outside, the sub’s saboteur, Matthew Doward, increases the tube’s water pressure but is interrupted by the sub’s Executive Officer (ExO), Mark Prentice. Hoping to retrive Amy’s suit from the torpedo tube, Prentice releases the water from the tube…but, for some reason, he doesn’t immediately go open the hatch. Her life now threatened by the finite amount of air in the tube, Amy bangs against the tube to alert anyone to her presence, to no avail.
Back on land, Kirsten and her team intercept Ben Oakley, a Russian asset who posed as a whistleblower, before he can claim asylum at the Chinese embassy. She arrests him and questions his involvement with Peter Ingles, the Russian spy. He proclaims his innocence, at first, but when Kirsten assures him that the forensics team will tie him to the spy and the death of a local activist, he relents. Kirsten unlocks Ben’s phone and recognizes Ingles’ other asset — the one aboard the Vigil — Matthew Doward. She reports the name to the Navy but Doward’s already cut off the sub’s communication with the mainland.
Still trapped, and oxygen-deprived, Amy starts to remember moments with Kirsten and Poppy. She remembers Kirsten telling her she loved her but being unable to say it back…including once when she drew, “I love you” out on Amy’s naked back. It sparks an idea and Amy uses her flashlight to bang against the tube, sending a distress signal (in Morse code). Up in the control room, a petty officer hears the banging and the ExO volunteers to go investigate. Realizing that his plan will be discovered if Prentice finds Amy, Doward excuses himself from his sonar duties. He creates another distraction for the sub’s crew: this time, opening up some valves and attempting to sink the ship from the inside.
Short on air, Amy whispers an apology to Kirsten and closes her eyes. Prentice arrives and pulls her out of the tube just in time. Before she can fully regain her footing, Doward interrupts, with a knife in hand, desperate to keep his identity a secret. The ExO orders Amy to run while he tries to hold off Doward but she struggles in her weakened state. She makes her way through the sub — into a section still rife with bleach fumes from decontamination — but Doward is close on her heels. Thankfully, though, communication aboard the Vigil is restored and word gets out that Doward is a traitor. Members of the crew dispatch to track him down and one finally does: unfortunately, Doward takes advantage of the distraction and holds Amy at knifepoint. Doward returns to the control room with Amy and orders the Vigil to surface. The Captain seemingly follows the command but the quick jolt takes Doward off his feet and the crew is able to subdue him. Amy places him immediately under arrest for the murder of Mark Prentice…not exactly the most subtle way to tell the crew they’ve lost their second in command.
Amy returns home, changed. She invites Kirsten along to visit Poppy and, just before they go in, Kirsten shares the details of her last visit. Amy admits that she got scared and apologizes to Kirsten for hurting her. Kirsten asks plainly, “do you love me?” and Amy answers tearfully, “yeah. I love you.” It’s a cute ending for the pair…and I’m surprised how invested I am in the outcome, given that they spent 99% of the show apart. Fingers crossed for a second series.
Vigil is available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Peacock in the US.
Truly some high quality queer yearning between these two!! And the submarine setting allowed for some fun and tense and twists on the usual detective plot. Really enjoyed this show!
I’ll never sour on British or any foreign police procedural. American ones are shit. Canadian are ok. It’s rare I watch any American-made show really. Most bore me. Yellowjackets is the lone exception right now. Everything else I’ve watched over the last few years is Foreign. This show was OK. Could’ve been better. I’ve seen better. Was entertaining enough. Won’t give it a second watch though.
Didn’t know about this show. Saw the article, went and binged-watched all six episodes (didn’t get any sleep tonight😅 but thankfully it’s the weekend so I can sleep in😆) Really liked the show. And came back here again to read the article. Thanks for the recommendation💖
Binge-watched this last year and it was such a fun thriller
Natalie, really sorry didn’t actually make it beyond the opening paragraph of your article, because it’s Rose Leslie. It’s Suranne Jones. I must immediately depart now and binge all the available episodes, multiple times.
Thank you for bringing this to my starved for WLW heart!
This is false advertising! They don’t make out! I watched 6 episodes about a submarine for them to touch foreheads!?!?!?