The BBC’s new John Le Carré thriller introduces a whole load of characters and intertwining storylines in one go, throwing young actress Charlie (Florence Pugh) into the centre of a battle between Israeli spymaster Kurtz (Michael Shannon) and Palestinian terrorist mastermind Khalil.
What starts as a holiday fling with a mysterious man she calls “Joseph” (Alexander Skarsgård) turns into something much darker.
So after the cliffhanger ending of episode one, what are the big questions we’re puzzling over? Here is what we need to know – and what we’ve found out so far…
1. Who is Alexander Skarsgård’s character, really?
Charlie has it 100% right when she tells her friends that this evasive “international man of mystery” from the beach in Greece is not to be trusted with his “schtick”. Of course, she then completely ignores her own (completely well-founded) suspicions and and jumps on a ferry to Athens with him for a whirlwind love affair – or so she thinks.
So who is Alexander Skarsgård’s character? He tells Charlie and her friends that his name is Peter, later adding a surname: Peter Richthofen. She prefers to call him Joseph, or José, after “Joseph and his coat of many colours”.
But her chance meeting with “Joseph” is no accident, and this man is not who he says he is. At the end of the first episode he drives her (at terrifying speed) straight from the Acropolis to meet Israeli spymaster Kurtz, as well as Mossad agents Rachel (Simona Brown) and Rose (Kate Sumpter) – who had previously ‘coincidentally’ befriended Charlie on the ferry.
“Joseph” appears to be a Mossad agent, who has brought Charlie to his boss. And not to give too much away, but Skarsgård’s character is listed in the credits as “Gadi Becker”…
2. What is Israeli spymaster Kurtz plotting?
At Mossad HQ in Tel Aviv, Israel, Michael Shannon’s shadowy character lays out to his superior how exactly he wants to bring down Khalil, the Palestinian terrorist kingpin who been bombing Jewish-related targets across Europe (and especially in Germany). So far, Khalil has eluded Israeli agents, and Kurtz wants to try a different plan.
“Let us be surgeons this time, not butchers. We get inside Khalil’s network, THEN we catch him,” he explains. The latest bomb attack on in West Germany was carried out by Salim, Khalil’s youngest brother – and the plan is to use him as a way to get to the mastermind himself.
Kurtz also insists on using Westerners to carry out his scheme, mimicking the methods of the Palestinians. And any Westerner he uses “has to have a heart, even if it is in the wrong place right now.”
Having been given his boss’s approval, Kurtz has created a crack team of agents in Munich and set up a lookout post opposite Salim’s house. The reason for this becomes clear when agents track Salim to Istanbul and kidnap him as he drives back across the Greek border, arranging an ambulance to get him back into Germany and – presumably – to Kurtz’s HQ in Munich.
3. Why has Charlie been chosen?
It’s clear that Charlie is a key piece of Kurtz’s plan: most likely she is the Westerner who will be used to break into Khalil’s inner circle. But why?
Aspiring actress Charlie is lured to Greece when a wealthy “patron” (likely Becker) offers to fund a working holiday for her entire theatre troupe. She’s estranged from her mother and clearly looking for adventure, which could make her a good target. And she’s clearly susceptible to Becker’s mysterious charms.
Still, it’s not yet clear why our “everywoman” character Charlie has been especially chosen for Kurtz’s big plot.
4. What will happen to kidnapped terrorist Salim?
From Kurtz’s chat with his German friend, it seems likely that Salim will be kept sedated and brought to Munich as a ‘seriously ill patient’.
It also seems likely that he’ll be kept in “darkroom 1” at the operation’s headquarters. Kurtz has already tested it out for soundproofing, and resourceful Mrs Bach has installed microphones and speakers.
So what’s the purpose? Will he be interrogated, and will he give up crucial information?
5. Who was watching Charlie at the theatre?
This one has been kept deliberately ambiguous. At the Red Dragon Theatre where Charlie was performing in London, she catches a glimpse of a tall man in the audience wearing a green collared jacket, a shirt, and a distinctive watch that caught the light and blinds her.
After the performance, an admirer leaves a present for her: an empty watch box.
So is this Becker? Skarsgård’s character owns that watch – which he deliberately flaunts – and also has an identical green jacket. Walking behind Charlie at the taverna, he hums the tune especially composed for her theatre production by a friend, but later claims not to know the song. And he deflects questions about whether he’s been to London and to the Red Dragon Theatre (“should I have?”).
But at the theatre, we never see this man’s face. And it must be more than a coincidence that Salim shares Becker’s taste in fashion, wearing the EXACT same jacket and watch. The BBC has also released two photos: one showing Salim in the theatre, and one showing Becker.
Will we find out the truth?
6. What is Palestinian kingpin Khalil’s next terror target?
Khalil’s good-looking and charming little brother Salim is tasked with carrying out the actual bombings. His strategy is to recruit pretty Western girls, and this is what Kurtz exploits by sending Rachel to pose as an American backpacker in need of a ride.
In episode one, Salim heads out on his next trip, taking a plane to Istanbul to collect the Semtex (plastic explosive) in Turkey before driving back into Europe across the land border with Greece.
Rachel asks him for a ride to Thessalonica, and he indicates he’s driving in that general direction before she and her men pull their guns on him and bundle him into the ambulance. But where was he meant to be heading? What was the next target? Does he already know, or was he awaiting further instruction?
Kurtz’s team will have to find out – and soon.
The Little Drummer Girl continues on Sundays on BBC1
This article was originally published on 28 October 2018