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Spoilers: The Ending of 'Hijack' Is So Bad!

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 3, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 3, 2023 |


I will grant that Apple TV+’s Hijack is good summer television in the sense that it is dumb, Idris Elba is very good-looking, and the finale is sillier than a ’90s Roland Emmerich film. I suggested in my original review of the series that it was a Gerard Butler movie disguised as an Idris Elba TV show, and I stand by that. A big problem with the series, however, is that Elba did not lean into how over-the-top it was. He tried to ground a story that took place 30,000 feet in the air. Elba left a lot of unchewed scenery on the floor.

Allow me to set the stage: Elba plays Sam Nelson, a corporate mediator flying from Dubai to London in an effort to rekindle his relationship with his ex-wife. En route, his plane is hijacked. The flight is 7 hours long, and the 7-episode series follows a real-time format like 24. There are characters on the ground played by recognizable actors (Archie Panjabi, Eve Myles) who are mostly wasted. The motivation behind the hijacking is largely a mystery until the finale. Indeed, while there are a few moments of drama, the situation itself changes little between the time the hijackers take control of the plane in the premiere and the last-minute surprise at the end of episode six when a passenger named Amanda, not previously involved in the story, whips out a gun, shoots the pilot, locks herself in the cockpit, and takes control of the plane. You go, Amanda!

That’s where we are when the finale begins. The hijackers, by this point, have completely lost control of the situation, and the passengers collectively subdue and restrain them. So, as the plane approaches London, a mysterious woman is in control of the plane, no one knows what her plans are, and the passengers are restless. Meanwhile, on the ground, we find out that the hijackers are being controlled by nefarious figures who have henchmen to ensure that the hijackers do their bidding by threatening to kill their family members. I’d say more about these nefarious figures, but there’s nothing to them: They’re generic organized crime figures, cartoon cutouts.

We also finally learn the lame motive behind the hijacking. The bad men short-sold the airline stock and earned money as shares took a nosedive after news of the hijacking got out. The whole thing was a goddamn short-sell gambit, a profoundly anti-climactic reveal. We watched seven hours for a short sell!?

As the plane approaches London, a bad man named Edgar is supposed to text Amanda (who has some experience as a pilot) and tell her to land the plane so her daughter would be safe. Edgar — who is having the time of his life holding his phone out in the middle of nowhere and watching the airline stock tumble as his portfolio skyrockets — is killed by the henchman of another bad man, John. John, who had been pressuring Edgar to text Amanda, did not bother to text Amanda himself and tell her to land the plane.

That left Amanda, alone in the cockpit, with no instructions. Without guidance, she believes she has to crash the plane into London to save her daughter. There’s a lot of drama involving two politicians debating about whether to shoot down the plane before it arrives in London. The younger female politician risking her career opts against shooting down the plane and wins the argument against the older, male politician at the end of his career who wants to shoot it down.

Good thing, because Sam Nelson — as he tells Amanda — “does this sort of thing for a living. I close deals. I get people to do exactly what I want them to do. I find ways to make them change their minds,” which is a strange thing to say to a woman whose mind you’re trying to change. Sam’s big plan is to tell Amanda that, if he were in her situation and the bad people were going to kill his kid if he didn’t crash the plane, then he’d crash the plane, too. Then he says to Amanda that, if she’s going to crash the plane, the passengers need to know so that they can call their family members. Unfortunately, one very sad, lonely passenger on the flight has no one to call. Aww.

But that’s not how Sam changes her mind. The brilliant thing that Sam says to Amanda is this: “They’re going to kill your daughter no matter what.” Land the plane, or crash the plane, and her daughter will die. That does the trick. Amanda figures that if her daughter is going to die anyway, she may as well not crash the plane into the middle of London. Let’s save these people. Fuck it! Why not?!

So, she lets Sam into the cockpit. They have to pull off some maneuvers where there is very little runway so Sam has to yank up on the brakes as soon as they land like in a Looney Tunes cartoon, which causes the plane to slide on its nose. The engines blow up but everyone lives. Hooray! Meanwhile, Amanda — who murdered the pilot and nearly crashed the plane into London — walks free because she had negotiated an agreement with authorities on the ground to let her go if she safely landed the plane. She just walks home, probably puts a TV dinner in the microwave, and watches an episode of The Weakest Link, and the authorities are totally OK with it.

Everyone else gets off the plane, the hijackers are arrested, but Sam stays behind to take it all in, reflect, and really be in the moment. He also wants to retrieve a gift he wanted to bring to his wife from an overhead bin. However, he soon discovers that one of the hijackers — the one whose brother died in an earlier episode — stays behind and tries to kill Sam because, “If I’m going down, you’re going down with me!” Ah yes, that old chestnut. The whole series can be boiled down to three motives: 1) “If I don’t do it, they’ll kill my family,” 2) Short-selling, and 3) “If I’m going down, you’re going down with me!”

In any respect, Sam eludes the hijacker’s bullets long enough for authorities to board the plane and subdue the hijacker. Sam literally says to the hijacker while various firearms are trained on him, “Say cheese,” and then casually strolls off the plane and into a potential sequel series, should Apple TV+ pick up another season.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, ‘Hijack’ wouldn’t exist.