Monday, November 19, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Little Drummer Girl' - Charlie Is Recruited Into a Tense Espionage Thriller in 'Part 1'

AMC's The Little Drummer Girl - Episode 1.01 "Part 1"

Charlie, a fiery and brilliant young actress, meets a mysterious stranger on the beach in Greece and he draws her into a high-stakes international espionage operation.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on the first two episodes of AMC's The Little Drummer Girl.

"Episode 1" was written by Michael Lesslie and directed by Park Chan-wook

There is an overwhelming sense of worry and dread throughout this hour. The audience is keenly aware that Charlie is about to be recruited into some kind of dangerous operation. It's just a question of which side is actively pursuing her at this point in time. It's always clear that the show aspires to be a tense espionage thriller. A building explodes in the opening moments. However, it also values the life that Charlie has in London as well. She is a struggling actress who believes she is the star performer of her troupe. She is still best friends with the people she works with daily. She doesn't think much of it when a mysterious benefactor wants to send them all to Greece. And yet, she sees the world through a suspicious lens as well. Not everything is quite adding up for her. The audience should always be questioning what's presented in front of Charlie as well. Her entire group knows that Becker is acting suspiciously on the beach. He just happens to be at all of the same locations as they are. He has scars from a life of danger as well. No one fears him as a stalker though. They eventually welcome him into their group. However, Charlie sees him as a man of mystery who enjoys making people try to figure out who he is. She doesn't want to partake in that at all. But she ultimately does so as well. He is a puzzle that needs to be solved. She finds it annoying that he doesn't talk about anything. She is able to pull some information out of him. She is intrigued enough to take a chance and go to Athens with him. It's then that the romance truly begins. That is the most beautiful and seductive portion of this episode as well. It's so absolutely gorgeous to watch the two of them just wander around the Parthenon at night with no one else there. The sequence where their shadows are projected onto the wall as they play around is completely breathtaking. That proves that Becker has a ton of influence and is able to make things happen. That was always clear because of how much he manipulates the situation to get Charlie into this specific moment in time. That's very unnerving and horrifying as well. She believes that she has free will. She is being taken on this whirlwind adventure. It's presented as a choice for her. And then, it becomes tragic and terrifying in an instant. She is able to call out his fake performance. He then becomes a different person. One who is more than comfortable putting her life in harm's way. That's what makes it seem like he is the mysterious individual responsible for all of these terrorist attacks. And yet, that's not the final reveal here. Instead, he is simply revealed to be another agent working for Martin Kurtz. He is the agent from Israel who has been summing up everything of importance to the audience here. He has made significant moves without Charlie at all. That makes this all feel very overwhelming and possibly hinting that everything in the world is a performance and no one ever truly knows what's going on. That's tragic even though the show still highlights the absolute beauty of the world too. It just seems likely that Charlie's life is about to get a whole lot more dangerous before she is able to return to everything that she has known in London.

"Episode 2" was written by Michael Lesslie and directed by Park Chan-wook

This espionage thriller has quickly become very convoluted. The Israeli intelligence officers have only targeted Charlie for this mission because she is someone who could have been lured into working with the terrorists as well. It just presents a narrative in which every character is lying about their identity. Again, that can be used as biting commentary about the real world and this particular line of work. Martin is happy that Becker is back working on his team. And yet, Becker is in agony because he's asked to train an operative and is quickly forced to have her out in the field. Everything is happening in quick succession as well. There is no time to rest or really become fully acquainted with everyone of importance in this story. Charlie is given an opportunity to sit down with her new employers. And yet, it's still mostly her answering questions in order to get this job. No one is being completely truthful with her either. That can become so frustrating because she is being forced to carry a lot of significant risk. Instead, she is being led to believe that all of this is simply blurring the lines of reality and fiction. What these intelligence officers are saying could be the truth. Or it could be some further elaborate ruse in order to test her convictions. Right now, it's all about understanding the personalities at the heart of this story. But it's also about putting on new identities. Ones that are actually amenable to the situation and can hopefully deliver a winning outcome. It's just peculiar how the show establishes a full and complete backstory for Charlie in which her father was a con man who died in prison only to completely destroy that narrative. It was instead a story that Charlie concocted in order to seem more interesting when she moved to London. That's the life that she has always aspired to have. She wants to appear interesting and wise. She wants to believe that she is a terrific actress. Here though, it's revealed that everyone has been closely monitoring her. There are no secrets that she can actually keep. Of course, there are many that are being kept from her. She never understands her relationship with Becker. In fact, it gets confusing to know what's the best name to call him. She still refers to him one way while the other officers use a different name. Meanwhile, he is already deep in character of his cover identity. He has assumed the life of Michel, the man that Martin already has in captivity. He is essentially torturing the guy for information. That's information that is passed on to Becker and Charlie as it informs their destination. But the stakes keep escalating as well with Martin realizing that this information is potentially wrong while Charlie realizes she'll be driving a vehicle with a ton of explosives in it. That's the next hurdle that she has to overcome in order to prove that she is a part of this operation and can be trusted. It's just difficult to establish that bond with Becker because he is constantly changing the story. He only wants to get to know her through his cover identity. That's infuriating to her even though she memorizes this story as well. She has a good sense of her own identity and how to best sell this narrative. It also just feels like the majority of this episode is setup as the show is just establishing the stakes before things become real. But again, it's difficult to really understand what's real and what's just meant to confuse the audience and characters about what's actually going on.