Sam Nelson In ‘Hijack,’ Explained: What Happens To Idris Elba’s Character?

Sam Nelson, played by Idris Elba, is a character that will go down as one of Elba’s best because of his nuanced performance and the highly gripping nature of the series. Hijack, told its story in a ‘real time’ format through the seven episodes, and Idris got to essay the role of the master negotiator Sam Nelson. We have all fantasized at some point or another about what we would do if we were the ones who had to fight off hijackers.

Spoilers Ahead

The character of ‘Sam Nelson’ is our own fantasy depicted on screen. He tries every trick in the book to manipulate the hijackers and manages to save the day. It was no easy task. He wasn’t prepared for his plane to be hijacked. I mean, who is? Yet, keeping his calm in unbearably tense situations, he manages to get the better of the hijackers. There are moments in the series where it looks like Sam will be responsible for an innocent life being lost on the plane, but ultimately he finds a way to use the situation to his advantage. It would be unfair to credit Sam as the sole person responsible for keeping the damage to a minimum. There was a whole team on the ground that helped Sam in crucial moments. Some of the events happened without Sam’s knowledge, but one thing can be declared without a doubt: Without Sam, the end would have been ugly, and the plane would have gone down, killing all 216 passengers on flight KA29. Here is a detailed look at Idris Elba’s character in Hijack.

Idris Elba as Sam Nelson

KA29 was about to take off, and Sam had just checked in to Dubai International Airport. He boarded the flight just in time. His destination was London. Sam is a negotiator, and he must have closed a deal in Dubai. The company he works for is not disclosed in the series. What matters is that he is exceptionally good at what he does. He is a man with an extremely high emotional quotient. Ironically, he couldn’t keep his marriage intact despite that fact. Marsha was his ex-wife, and she was dating a cop named Danny, and Sam was coming home to disrupt her life. Marsha and Sam have a son named Kai, who revered Sam and didn’t understand his mother’s decision to date Danny. Sam should’ve realized that it was his job as a father to not let Kai feel bitter towards Marsha, but it took the entire Hijack episode to make him come to this conclusion.

Stuart was the leader of the hijackers, and they executed their plan like a bunch of amateurs. One of the hijackers accidentally dropped a bullet in the flight’s washroom, which led Stuart to hasten the hijacking process. If this were a usual series, you would have Sam combat the hijackers immediately, and the resolution would be pretty swift. Or you would have seen Sam devise an ingenious plan that would take the hijackers by surprise. In actuality, Sam does none of those things. He begins by declaring that he wants to ‘help’ the hijackers. This weird twist is preposterous, and only after we see the events unfold do we realize that Sam wasn’t ‘with’ the hijackers, nor was he necessarily ‘against’ them. Closing deals was his forte, which meant that he wanted the best possible outcome for all the parties involved. Sam was a realist. He didn’t entertain fantastical ideas and never depended on any external help. He knew that he had to help himself first, which is why he found a way to message Marsha before the plane’s Wi-Fi was shut off by the hijackers. Marsha, in turn, got the message to her boyfriend Danny, and soon the authorities figured out that the flight may have been hijacked.

The Home Secretary and the Foreign Minister were being advised by Detective Zahra after Danny started to work with her regarding the hijacking. Sam didn’t act in a complacent manner, thinking that they would save the plane from the hijackers. He didn’t even know if the message was understood by Marsha or if she’d ignored it just like the rest of his messages. Sam’s impeccable eye for detail and his ability to pounce on an opportunity changed the game. He made the adverse condition work for him. For example, when he was tied up, he helped the injured Lewis and figured out he was Stuart’s brother just by the fact that he told Stuart that ‘he called mom.” He used the opportunity to message Marsha again, which helped Marsha and Danny locate Lewis and Stuart’s mother. That simple message became the reason Louise, Britain’s Foreign Minister, could conclusively tell the Romanian Interior Minister not to shoot down the flight as the hijackers were British nationals, who meant no harm to Romania.

Hijack Season 1 was filled with such events where Sam prevented tragedy, even when he was simply focused on using the opportunity in front of him. There were serious curve balls thrown in front of him. Like when he had to convince Stuart to abort the plan of landing the plane after he himself had manipulated him into landing it. Or when Amanda, a middle-aged woman who nobody suspected to have a gun, shot Robin Allen, the flight’s pilot. Sam didn’t lose it in those moments. He handled them in the best manner possible. When everybody on the flight was in favor of using brute force to take down Amanda, it was Sam who appealed to Amanda’s emotional maternal side to make her understand that she was making a mistake. Amanda’s daughter had been taken hostage, which is why she was going to crash the plane unless told otherwise. He made her see reason by asking Amanda the crucial question: What would her daughter really want? Would she want her mother to kill all the innocent people on the flight just to save her? Sam managed to change her mind, and she landed the plane.

Sam couldn’t save the life of the woman Stuart shot, but he managed to avert the plane crash, which would have killed everyone. The great trait of Sam’s character was that he did not act as if he needed validation from somebody else. He took responsibility for his actions and did not seem to have the air of someone suffering from a ‘savior complex.’ There were many on the plane who almost made matters worse by tackling the hijackers without a decent plan. Sam held his nerve, went against the passengers when required, and averted a catastrophe innumerable times. The commendable fact was that he didn’t need anyone’s appreciation. A job well done is a reward in itself. In the end, he wanted to just meet his family. He didn’t know it, but he almost lost his son, Kai. Through all these years as a negotiator, he had neglected his family, and now it was time for Sam to be a good father.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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