TV Review: The Little Drummer Girl Episode 2

Jenni Frazer sticks with BBC's new John Le Carre adaptation


The opening episode of The Little Drummer Girl was a sea of dismal brown. But this week’s was a sea of glorious primary colour, reflected mainly in Charlie’s costumes and the beautiful Mediterranean light of the Mossad’s temporary headquarters in Greece — or is it?.

In this episode viewers learn for the first time the long game being played by Israeli spy leader Martin Kurtz, (Michael Shannon), in his attempt to put a stop to the deadly bombings being carried out by the Palestinian Khalil against Jewish targets in Europe.

He and his team — fronted by the charismatic Gadi Becker (Alexander Skarsgard), have decided to recruit Charlie — Charmian Ross, a radically “woke” actress with a slew of right-on political opinions — as their weapon against Khalil.

Charlie, wonderfully played by Florence Pugh, is like an onion with layers as we see her “acting” in response to tough questioning by her Israeli team of kidnappers in Greece. “We are friends, non-sectarian, non-aligned friends”, bluffs Kurtz as the recruiting process for the part of a lifetime begins.

He appeals to her vanity and breaks down her defences almost simultaneously. She has a story about her life: the Israelis expose it, brutally, as a lie and a fantasy which she has constructed to present herself to the outside world.

“What’s my character?” demands Charlie as she decides whether to go on this roller-coaster adventure. “Terrorist”, Kurtz tells her, bluntly.

So, should she stay or should she go? At first she laughs: “I’ve been kidnapped by an experimental theatre company!” Then she realises that this is going to be a part which will require acting of a higher order than she has been used to — and the lies and the deception are equal between Charlie and Kurtz’s Mossad team.

For on the other side of the villa where they are briefing Charlie, the Israelis have stashed Salim, the younger brother of Khalil the bomber. And in a claustrophobic makeshift cell, Kurtz’s team attempt to shake the truth out of Salim as to what his brother’s deadly intentions are.

Gadi is briefing Charlie to within an inch of her life, pretending he is Salim and mouthing the slogans of disaffected Palestinians with a degree of conviction so that it is hard to tell who is acting and who is not. Charlie demands honesty from Becker: but at this stage, almost every word out of his mouth, including “and” and “but”, is a lie.

My favourite character this week was the enigmatic member of the Mossad team, Miss Bach, (Claire Holman) who is charged with duping Salim and getting him to divulge his brother’s target. She is sweetly supportive while feeding him drugged fruit — but he may just be having the last laugh,

And for technophiles — we are back in the 1970s, after all — it was entertaining to see a fax machine, a UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder, and a top-of-the-range cassette machine. I can’t begin to imagine where director Park Chan-wook found this stuff.

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