The finale to The Little Drummer Girl is in a tricky and regrettable position, arriving after hours of meaningless build up (episode three being a particularly lethargic example) with promises of a grand conclusion, especially with Park Chan-wook’s whip-smart direction and sharp, colourful visuals.
But although it’s often been an exciting, stylish and sexy spy series, there have been many tiring moments. The finale follows this pattern – unlike last week – with an ending that’s somewhat satisfying but still drags on to a delayed and underwhelming climax.
Charles Dance and Michael Shannon as Picton and Kurtz
Charlie (Florence Pugh) has finally met the big baddie of the series, Palestinian terrorist leader Khalil (Charif Ghattas), somewhere in the cold British countryside. They plan their attack on Professor Minkel, who’s delivering a university talk, with Charlie in disguise delivering explosives in a briefcase. Kurtz (Michael Shannon) and Gadi (Alexander Skarsgård) wait for her at the university, but aren’t aware that she met with Khalil beforehand.
The finale packs a few light punches, but never feels overly tense – even during scenes when the suspense is inflated. Episode 5 had heavier moments where Charlie is at greater risk if she’s found out, swarmed by enemies who’d torture and kill her if caught. But Khalil, despite being a threatening figure because of his death count, isn’t all that frightening. There’s a humanity to him, which is good, but the evil rarely seeps out, which is bad.
Then there’s Charlie’s uncertain loyalty, which is nowhere near as dramatic or conscientious as it should have been. Kurtz and a reluctant Gadi request something horrific from Charlie to get close to Khalil, offering an ample opportunity to show a duel allegiance.
Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker
What writer Michael Lesslie gets right in all this is the subtle comparison between the terrorists and the people trying to take them down, with Kurtz remarking to the snobbish Picton (Charles Dance): ‘The British always have a solution to other countries’ problems.’
But this conflict is somewhat relaxed in Charlie, short-changing what we were promised in the previous episodes when she witnesses airstrikes that kill children in Lebanon. Although Pugh delivers some complicated depth in her performance, her conflicted loyalty is too subtle.
The Little Drummer Girl promised a lot in its first episode, which set up the premise, the characters, and the thrills with such electric precision. No episode that followed could match it, though episode five came extremely close because of Claire Wilson’s teleplay. It was a fun ride, but not one we’d rush to join again.
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On 02 Dec 18, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM