Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
Joseph. Jose. Becker. Gabi. Michel. Salim. Call him anything you like, just don’t call him late for the infiltration of a Palestinian terror cell. Alexander Skarsgård’s character in BBC One’s luxurious and beautifully-filmed new John le Carré adaptation is many things to many people. So it’s important to pay attention while watching. You don’t want to lose track.
The Little Drummer Girl’s storyline so far isn’t exactly confusing, but nor is it crystal clear at all times. We’re picking up threads as we go along and as this second of six episodes came to a close, the audience – and, by extension, Charlie – is now pretty clued in as to what exactly is going down.
Seduced by Joseph/Jose (as he was then) and taken to Athens in the first slice of this spy puzzle, Florence Pugh’s character quickly discovered that there was no dirty weekend in store, but an odd audition to work as an undercover spy for the Israeli intelligence services instead. As a ‘revolutionary’ type with sympathies towards Palestine, it’s not hugely clear as yet why lefty luvvie Charlie is so keen to get involved with a regime she so distrusts, but perhaps we’ll find out later.
After a traumatic audition that sees her grilled about her past and upbringing and her lies rather abruptly pointed out, there was no shortage of humiliation for the young actress. But after passing the test exactly because she’s such a practised and accomplished liar (“You did great, kid,” excitedly buzzed Michael Shannon’s Kurtz at one point. “You got the part!”), she’s finally explained her role in ‘the theatre of the real’ by Gabi (who’s no longer Joseph by this point…).
She’s to effectively play a version of herself. One who has fallen in love with a handsome and charismatic young Palestinian rebel called Salim Al-Khadar. Gabi is to play Salim. The real Salim is languishing in a padded cell in Munich under Israeli watch; the rather ambitious plan sees Skarsgård’s character becoming him. He studies his speech patterns, his mannerisms and even borrows his wardrobe.
How a 6’4” Germanic-looking man in his early forties will convince as a Middle Eastern-looking kid half his age though, time will tell…
The team are working from info squeezed out of Salim in all sorts of less-than-okay ways, but don’t account for the young man’s smarts. Even while drugged and confused from his cell, he manages to feed Mossad misinformation that could well see a trap laid for Charlie and Michel (did we mention that Gabi is pretending to be Salim who is – in turn – pretending to be his alter ego of ‘Michel’? No? Well, yeah. He is…).
Keeping up so far? Good.
Granted, so far, this isn’t the most straightforward Sunday night drama you’ll ever see. But it’s one which asks you to pay attention, to engage and think a little. This is grown-up, mature drama that never wanders into the smug or dreary.
It’s also perfectly observed too, with an incredible level of detail shown to the time period. You couldn’t be more in the 1970s if you were watching The Little Drummer Girl at home in a pair of flares, while grasping a Doobie Brothers LP and throwing Spangles at a Spacehopper.
Did you tune in for The Little Drummer Girl episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!