This review of The Little Drummer Girl contains spoilers.
The Little Drummer Girl Episode 3
Marty’s right, Charlie is a star. She’s the star of the play-within-a-play and the star of The Little Drummer Girl. Her ironic stance and drily comic reactions to this whole business are the required sour note in the cocktail, the pin jabbed in everyone else’s inflated seriousness. She laughs, jokes, drinks and points out how ridiculous everything is. From now on, all spy thrillers must have a Charlie.
They must also have a Charlie because of her heart. New to this game, her conscience is still functional and her capacity for empathy not yet tamped down. This week, she couldn’t stand to see drugged Salim humiliatingly naked for her inspection, or face the lies they were telling. “How do you live with it,” she asked Gadi this week, “the guilt?”
“We remember,” Gadi answered, dragging her to the memorial for the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. It’s a sobering moment and a reminder that while this is all an exhilarating role for Charlie, it’s no fiction to the Israelis and Palestinians engaged in this war.
By the end of the episode, there’s even more reason for guilt. While Charlie awaited Salim’s people in London, the rest of the troupe colluded to murder Salim and Anna in a spectacular staged car accident. After telling Salim the truth and getting what they needed from him—details of the telegram/location arrangement—he was expendable, and so he was expended. That’s the nature of the job.
The ethics of the job were a theme of episode three. It wasn’t only Charlie who had misgivings about Marty’s plan, but also Gadi, the reluctant professional. Twice he went against Marty’s instructions, before protesting the decision to murder Salim and Anna.
The antagonism between Gadi and Marty has been there from the start, and it contains an essential debate about sacrificing individuals for ‘the greater good’. Still feeling guilt over what happened to the last ‘Charlie’, Gadi wants to protect his latest recruit. Marty, as we saw in his treatment of Salim, takes an alternative view. There’s a difference, says Marty, between nobody getting hurt and no innocents getting hurt.
There’s also a difference in getting physically and emotionally hurt. By the end of episode three, Charlie was suffering the effects of all this messing-around with what’s real. Attracted to Gadi, she half believes the fiction of their very strange courtship, and is beginning to lose the plot.
That’s what makes Florence Pugh’s performance so crucial to this story. To care about The Little Drummer Girl rather than just admire its beauty and technique, we have to care about Charlie. And thanks to Pugh, we do. She’s clever, resourceful, funny (the Austrian border hooch skit was great to watch), and she’s also vulnerable. As Gadi does, we worry about her.
“Does it play?” Marty keeps asking Gadi about the fiction he’s weaving with Charlie. Yes, it plays. At the half-way point in the series, this whole thing plays.