Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
If you’ve ever been on a long haul flight, you’ll know that they come with their ups and their downs (both figuratively and literally). To start with there’s the pre-flight nerves and the slight fear of the unknown. They can begin full of promise and excitement, with some real novelty involved. And, generally, when landing approaches and the runway’s in sight, everything’s great. But often it’s the midway point that’s the hardest for passengers. And the same can sometimes be true with TV dramas.
When The Little Drummer Girl debuted on BBC One two Sundays ago, it did so to some real fanfare and rightfully so. It’s cool, classy and looks utterly fantastic. It’s a real trip back to the 1970s. With the quality involved here – Park Chan-wook directing Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgård in a John le Carré novel… – we’re all but guaranteed a smooth and satisfying landing come three weeks’ time. But at the moment? After episode 3, it feels as though we’re still ascending to the perfect flying altitude a little.
There’s been no turbulence to speak of exactly. So we’ve no reason to doubt the crew’s ability to land the thing and leave us with memories of a fine spy drama. There’s just a vague feeling that the scene isn’t fully set quite yet. The seatbelt lights are still illuminated.
That’s not to say nothing’s happening. In terms of plotting, this third Little Drummer Girl hardly left us wanting. It was all going on, in fact…
Marty decides a slightly softer approach might work better with Salim and lets him see that the outside of his padded cell isn’t a prison complex, but an office. He hints at his release and in return Salim spill the beans on the Semtex pick-up spot: it’s not been selected yet. And the pick-up point is down to Salim. Or at least it was; it’s now down to Marty. He opts for the easily-surveilled Gutigplatz in the Alps town of Kleinalm.
Charlie drops the car off there after crossing the Yugoslav/Austrian border and the team clock Salim’s beau Anna and an associate picking it up and driving away. In a beautifully filmed tracking shot, we see them rather violently picking Anna up. She’s a woman who doesn’t go down without a fight.
Charlie’s first major doubts about her new role start to develop when she’s clued in as to her colleagues’ kidnapping and manipulation of Salim. It’s something that she’s, quite understandably, a smidge uncomfortable with. Being knocked out and stripped for an English actress to ogle and memorise your body might be humiliating for the young Palestinian, but things quickly get a whole lot worse for him…
In a rather shocking climax to the episode, we saw how the team decided to fix their Salim and Anna problem. And it wasn’t pretty. Sedated and plonked in the front seats of the red Mercedes of ‘Michel’, they were driven down the road and blown up.
Next week, we’d like to see a little more characterisation and background from Florence Pugh’s Charlie. We’re still not 100% convinced of her motivations here. From liberal middle-class student to dedicated Mossad agent, from strong, feisty young woman to intelligence services pawn? It doesn’t quite feel right yet. She could well be one of the most captivating faces we’ve seen on television for some time, but Pugh’s going to need a little something extra to work with.
We need more scenes like the excellent moonshine/border crossing one here. Charlie’s a fiercely intelligent woman and there because she’s an actress. A few more flourishes like that and it’ll be smooth flying until we land, we’re certain.
Overall though, we’re not concerned. We’ve seen more than enough so far to convince us that we’re on the right flight path here.
Side note: Remember when Charlie orders a drink in the square at Kleinalm, effectively making ‘Father’ Gadi pick up the bill? Did you notice the waiter? Well, it was none other than Mr John le Carré himself. Peerless spy thriller writer and speedy drinks server. The man can do it all, it would appear.
Did you tune in for The Little Drummer Girl episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!