Our Girl‘s Captain James has been through quite an ordeal. 2 Section’s “boss” suffered a gruesome leg injury as he trekked through Belizean jungle, developing sepsis and slipping in and out of consciousness in this week’s instalment, all while frantically dodging the ruthless drug bandits who fiercely patrol their patch of rainforest.
The episode’s denouement saw him helicoptered to hospital, his life hanging in the balance, after Bones (played by Olly Rix) and his Special Forces team arrived on the scene to save him and Georgie (Michelle Keegan) with moments to spare. We later learned that the Captain faces a “long road” to recovery, so Our Girl viewers could be forgiven for thinking he won’t return to duty anytime soon – or perhaps ever…
Which poses the question: has Ben Aldridge left the drama for good? Or will Captain James lead 2 Section once more?
“He comes back. Yes, yes, yes,” Aldridge tells RadioTimes.com. “I’m in all the rest of the episodes. There is a future for him with 2 Section.”
Which may come as a relief to viewers but is also no doubt music to the ears of the soldiers themselves who last we saw were faced with the prospect of serving under their new commanding officer Bones who has made no secret of his contempt for them.
“There continues to be tension between Captain James and Bones, and also tension between him and Georgie,” teases Aldridge
Yes, Georgie. Our Girl fans were up in arms during last week’s episode when Captain James suggested to his medic that his feelings towards her went beyond friendship, despite his marriage to Molly Dawes (Lacey Turner) – a romance viewers watched play out in series one.. “Elvis has bonded us, Lane. Me and you,” he told Georgie, although she brushed off his overtures.
Yet with his life in the balance in the following instalment, Captain James offloads his feelings again, telling his friend: “Maybe if circumstances had been different… You don’t have Elvis anymore.”
Aldridge is well aware of the reaction his character’s actions has elicited among viewers. “I heard that Twitter sort of went mental over it,” he jokes, adding: “I think people feel very, very protective over James and Molly’s relationship and it would seem that’s what some people are still interested in seeing.
Ben Aldridge, BBC Pictures, SL
“We all feel very loyal to them as a couple, but then some people said, ‘Of course this was going to happen, I can’t wait for [Captain James and Georgie] to get together’. Whether they do or not, it seems pretty divisive.”
Still, with Molly regularly mentioned throughout the series – despite actress Lacey Turner’s absence from screens – Aldridge acknowledges that “people think they’re a happily ever after couple, which hardly ever happens in TV drama because there’s no conflict, no drama. I think people do like the idea of them lasting and making it work, and who’s to say, they might? But there are struggles along the way.”
Aldridge isn’t convinced that Turner – who left the drama after one series to return to EastEnders – will ever reappear as Molly on screen. “I don’t think you’ll see her face but she’s definitely very, very present in future episodes.”
As for Georgie, she “is very unclear from the moment that she puts him in the helicopter on a stretcher, she doesn’t know whether he meant what he said in the jungle and I think, when they next speak, she finds out sort of what his true intentions are and where his head’s at.”
But as we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s not just feelings for Georgie that are affecting Captain James; he’s still reeling from the fallout to Elvis’s death and the decisions that led to it. “He’s got major doubts about his career in the army and, because of his PTSD, Molly and him are on the rocks as well.”
Ben Aldridge, BBC Pictures, SL
His worries culminate in “these big, almost death bed-like confessions”. But Aldridge insists his character does have a future in the army. “He actually wouldn’t know what to do with his life and as long as he’s in [the army], he’s got structure and purpose and I think part of the reason that he might even stay in, beyond his leg injury, is to do with 2 Section and to do with Georgie and to do with the kind of family he has and that he’s responsible for.”
The past two episodes have upped the stakes – and with Elvis’s death at the end of last year, creator Tony Grounds has proven he has no qualms killing off major characters. But if Our Girl viewers think they’ve earned a breather, they shouldn’t, er, hold their breath. “Fans are going to have to weather even more of a rollercoaster to come over the next four episodes because it stays high octane, it stays high drama. Hopefully they stick with us.”
And when he does return to screens, there is – in Aldridge’s words – a “very , very unexpected” situation involving Bones which means Captain James has to come to the rescue…
Our Girl has four remaining episodes still to air as 2 Section move on to work on a Rohingya refugee project on the Bangladesh/Myanmar border – and the aforementioned “high octane” drama ensues.
These will be the last of the 12 instalments that were filmed back-to-back during an epic shoot last year in South Africa and Indonesia. Does Aldridge hope there will be more Our Girl beyond that? “I know that the BBC love it but it just depends on lots of factors – like getting the recommission, then getting the actors back to do it, with Michelle’s availability and my availability.
“I know they are hopeful that it could [return] but I don’t know anything more than that.”