This review of The Little Drummer Girl contains spoilers.
The Little Drummer Girl Episode 5
Because Charlie Ross isn’t the strong, silent type (she’s the strong, noisy, irreverent, dramatic, smokes-cigs-and-makes-wry-jokes type), until now we’ve always known what what she was thinking. In this episode, that changed. Charlie went quiet, leaving us and Gadi with a question: did her sympathies shift during her month in Lebanon? Is she now a weapon for the Palestinian cause?
Like Gadi, all we have to go on is the woven blue and gold bracelet she wore on her right wrist. As Shimon would say, it’s a lot to hang on a piece of string.
But as Marty would say, it’s irrelevant. His plan promises to be a success, regardless of the inner workings of his best girl. Charlie’s loyalty may or may not have been turned by her time in the camps. All that matters is that they can trace the bomb she’s planting, and follow her to Khalil. What happens to her head in the process is not his concern. Whether she’s still with them or a little drummer girl for the enemy is by-the-by.
The monologue delivered by Charles Dance as he rummaged around in the chicken coop gave the drama’s title a thematic explanation. Picton recalled a time in 1947 when he tortured a young Israeli boy for the names of locals taking pot-shots at the British army, but all he achieved was the creation of another “little drummer boy” for the Israeli cause. It’s a pithy acknowledgement of the role played by the British in this ongoing conflict, and of the unending cycle of attack-retribution-attack we witnessed this episode.
While Marty and co. were holed up in “this dank little country” doing the work of spies—intercepting correspondence and deciphering codes—, Charlie’s story gave this episode the most action so far. It was also the most straightforward narratively, with little of the dreamy Gadi/Michel reflections on fiction and reality. One visual idiosyncrasy aside in Gadi’s burning soldier dream, this was down-to-earth storytelling.
That’s not to say it wasn’t characteristically stylish. The training camp montage (complete with martial arts movie-style punishment) slid fluidly from a row of comrades shovelling down canteen food to constructing bombs without a perceptible join. The mountains made a momentous backdrop, giving this world tour-drama yet another location and atmosphere. This winding, lengthy drama has taken us on quite the trip. Three hours instead of six might have sufficed, but we’d have missed out on so much beauty and texture if they had.
At the camp, Charlie’s encounter with the unhinged, unwashed ‘Comrade Abdul’ was a high point. Even in a brief (and heightened) role such as this, actor Mark Stanley (Broken, Game Of Thrones) always delivers. Halloran’s distress and desperation, and Charlie’s fear of being discovered because of him, were well played.
Florence Pugh’s performance, whether she’s joking with children or being thrown to the ground by a giant, remains excellent. In this stressful, solemn instalment, we may have missed Charlie’s attitude, but her silence made us lean in and look harder. Her and Gadi’s wordless meeting at the bar was another puzzling but compelling chapter in their very strange sort of love story.
Another week, another identity for our girl, and another step closer to the target. Having met Khalil, Charlie’s lies, pretty white face and clean passport have finally gained her access to the inner sanctum. What will she do now she’s there?