Synopsis: When Canada dissolves its sovereignty and merges with the United States, disgruntled former Prime Minister Tom McLaughlin schemes to subvert American politics from the inside out by running as the next presidential candidate. But first he will have to deal with the conniving incumbent President Stanfield and a pesky British journalist that is on to his game.
The Trojan Horse 6.75
eyelights: the cast. the production. the political machinations.
eyesores: its unrealistic core notion. the ending.
Following the success of ‘H2O‘, it’s hardly surprising that its producers would be interested in continuing down the same road; nothing entices more than success, especially one’s own. But how could one directly continue that story? Where could they possibly take its characters?
In comes ‘The Trojan Horse’, ‘H2O’s 2008 sequel, which takes us two years after those events to find Tom MacLaughlin awaiting the results of a national referendum that will decide whether or not Canada is to merge with the United States, breaking itself into six new states.
Soon considered a citizen of the world’s most powerful country, MacLaughlin decides to run for the Presidency of the United States. Except that a British journalist discovers that the whole thing had been planned for years and that he’s rigged the game with the help powerful friends.
It’s up to her to put the pieces together and stop his master plan from becoming a reality.
When I first saw this miniseries, in 2011, I bloody hated it. I can’t remember exactly why, but I rated it one of the worst viewings of the year, on par with the abominable ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘. An overall feeling of disgust stuck with me ever since. I expected that going in this time.
Strangely enough, after seeing the ambitious but incredibly flawed ‘H2O’ this time around, ‘The Trojan Horse’ compared much more favourably. The direction is much stronger, as are the performances and the writing; it is a much more professional production all around, which was relief.
Where the picture falters, however, is in its overall vision of how the events would transpire. While at least this time the plot takes the matter to the electorate (a serious omission in its predecessor), it doesn’t explain what led to this or show the constitutional talks with the provinces.
Surely, it would be more difficult than a mere referendum. After all, some provinces may not want to join the United States. In what way would a referendum mean joining the U.S. wholesale? It doesn’t make sense. It also doesn’t make sense that a mere 51% vote would decide the matter cleanly.
I know that some people believe that a simple 50%-plus-1 vote is democracy, but I contend that in matters of greater significance, like tearing apart a country, it should be more decisive – otherwise, it means that HALF MINUS ONE are against the decision and are being forced into it.
In any event, this is where ‘The Trojan Horse’ begins. After the American Flag is hoisted upon the top of the Peace Tower, a disturbing sight to say the least, begins the real story: MacLaughlin’s contrived ascension into the political stratosphere, and the machinations that surround it.
MacLaughlin, as we’ve all discovered in ‘H2O’, is an untrustworthy character, a manipulator of people and events. With his team, this time he’s designed election software to give him the edge, gets his ex, a wealthy U.S. Senator, to join his campaign, and even fakes his own death.
To say the least, he’s a morally bankrupt individual, willing to go to any length in order to attain his goal. And, thanks to Paul Gross, he’s as captivating as he’s despicable. This time, Gross reeled in his performance just enough to inject pomp and passion, but not to chew up the scenery.
At least, until the very end.
Meanwhile, Greta Scacci invests her character, Helen Madigan, with enough authority and conviction that we can’t help but root for her. Granted, her reporter is the only true hero the picture has, but she is instantly likeable and exudes intelligence to boot, even if she’s just a distraction.
You see, unlike in ‘H2O’, wherein the CSIS agent is unraveling the conspiracy before us, here we are already aware of many of the details, as MacLaughlin’s story is played out simultaneously with Madigan’s. We are basically waiting for her to catch up, as we know she inevitably will.
At best, one could say that she provide another side of the same coin.
At worst, one might say that she exists merely to provide the audience with thrills, as she goes underground to continue her investigation; given the powers she is going up against, her life is in danger and she finds herself escaping far too many attacks – and far too conveniently.
Another significant player in this teleplay is the current President of the United States, incarnated to perfection by Tom Skerritt. His main objective is not only to retain the Presidency, but to get his country into the Middle East – and much of his plans revolve around this end.
As a deeply religious man, he sometimes has to purposely ignore what his operatives are doing to attain this goal. They consult, speak in broad terms, and maintain plausible deniability in the many ghastly decisions that are made to justify their military intervention in Saudi Arabia.
This adds a third layer to the picture and it’s a good one, as unoriginal and questionable as some of it is. By throwing the three elements together, the audience always has something to sustain its attention. And if one aspect doesn’t appeal, then surely one of the other ones will.
But it’s all contrivance after contrivance (as perhaps politics tend to be) and it doesn’t seem realistic – especially since MacLaughlin conveniently seems to leave far too many clues and loose ends around for Madigan to find and put together. The fact that even she’s not disposed of is incredible.
It just seems like they haven’t really thought things through properly (i.e. the characters and the writers), because there are times where mere bystanders could see that something is up – like the assassination attempt, wherein the bullet’s actual trajectory would be different than the one claimed.
The worst of these plot contrivances comes at the tail end, when Madigan waits until the very last second to confront MacLaughlin (instead of going public, for instance) and, in a ranting fit, he reveals his whole megalomaniacal plan to her, much like a James Bond movie arch nemesis would.
Or, Dr. Evil, if you prefer.
The consequences of this would be too revelatory here, but they are beyond words and reason. Even if one were to accept MacLaughlin’s preposterous boast to Madigan, it’s hard to imagine an ending more ridiculous and inexplicable than the one that we were forced to accept in ‘The Trojan Horse’.
Interestingly, it left the door open, if only a smidge, for another follow-up, but there hasn’t been one yet. I have no idea where the writers and producers could possibly take the character next (The U.N.? The World Bank? In space?) but I would be perversely curious to find out what would be next.
Although ‘The Trojan Horse’ is by no means a great picture, I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed it far more this time out. Perhaps I’ve seen a lot worse since, perhaps my expectations have adjusted over time, or maybe I’ve grown cynical enough that its politics don’t surprise me.
Whatever the case may be, I found it entertaining enough. And sometimes that’s plenty.
Dates of viewings: Oct 9-11, 2015