TV review: The Little Drummer Girl, Episode 4

Things get explosive - and complicated - in the BBC's adaptation of John Le Carre's thriller. Jenni Frazer's waiting for the Israeli point of view.


Last week, on the BBC's Sunday night spy thriller, Marty Kurtz’s ragbag Mossad team dispatched two members of the Palestinian terror cell who had committed the Bad Godesburg atrocity which opened the series. Salim and his ear-chewing accomplice, Anna, were forced into a car which then burst into a ball of flame, a neat way for the West German police chief (and passionate foodie) to tie up the loose ends of the Bad Godesburg attack.

By the time we catch up with Kurtz’s crew in London, they are still looking shell-shocked from the operation — evidently, despite the hissing slogans about Zionists, not the kind of thing they have to do every day.

Shimon has taken refuge in elaborate piano practice while Charlie, (Florence Pugh) sulky and petulant, kicks her heels in Somerset while Gadi tells her what comes next.

She is in Somerset for a theatre performance — yes, she still has some sort of day job — which requires the cast to live in a makeshift caravan camp. Even the fairly dopey other actors figure out that Charlie is not exactly concentrating; boy, they should only know what she is focusing on.

Gadi (Alexander Skarsgard) once again assuming the persona of Salim the Palestinian, reappears to brief Charlie. He’s sorry not to have been there earlier, he tells her. “That’s ok”, she scoffs, “I’m a woman, I’m used to men pissing me about”.

But all her careful insouciance evaporates when Gadi — as Salim — describes cherished Palestinian stories of oppression by Israel, from Deir Yassin to 1967 and beyond.

He tells the stories with such conviction that it is hard for anyone not to express sympathy with the Palestinian cause. I am waiting with interest for Israel’s stories to be relayed in similar fashion, but perhaps Le Carre would respond that it is a Mossad team which is driving the action — supposedly answer enough in itself.

It’s time, however, for Charlie to be put through her paces by members of Khalil’s European cell, Helga and Anton. Anton looks… familiar, somehow. He’s wearing a battered trench coat and almost certainly brown clothing underneath. Who does he remind us of? Why, none other than Marty, a point underlined by director Park Chan-wook when he later frames Marty (Michael Shannon) against a photograph of Anton Mesterbein (Jeff Willbusch). It is a remarkable and creepy resemblance, and the casting director is to be commended.

Gadi, by now, is getting himself in a right old lather about Charlie, the hook whom he has baited. When she is first confronted by Helga and Anton, and things threaten to get really nasty — where is that damned 50p in the electricity meter when you need it ?— Gadi is ready to send a rescue team in, in a heartbeat.

And when Marty offers him the chance to pull Charlie out of the whole operation, insisting “Her survival depends on her ignorance”, Gadi is unhappy. “Do something!” commands Marty, knowing he can rely on Gadi to persuade Charlie to stay on track. And, er, Gadi does something. Quite a lot of something, in fact.

But now, as Le Carre puts it, “fiction and reality become one”, as Charlie is taken to Beirut for a fateful meeting with the Palestinians. Gadi is concerned. “They will send her back to us — as one of us, or one of them?” He’d just better hope they don’t tumble to the truth and send her back in several pieces. Charlie, not to mention the rather fabulous Pugh, is going to need the acting skills of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith combined. The Middle East version, of course.

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