BBC One’s army drama Our Girl returned to our screens for a second season tonight.
With previous lead Lacey Turner now replaced by Ordinary Lies star Michelle Keegan, can the show survive with such a distinct change?
In many ways it is exactly the same show, with writer Tony Grounds’ writing reflecting the everyday lives of his characters, as it has always done in previous episodes. The loss of Turner is definitely felt, though acknowledged, (albeit briefly) explaining that she is now touring in Afghanistan.
Keegan does create a very different energy to the show, but that is to be expected with a change of lead. Luckily, they have anchored all this change with the presence of Ben Aldridge’s Captain James, which bridges the gap between the seasons.
Much like the original TV movie, we spend a good portion of this introductory episode learning about our (new) girl.
“He said…that he can’t go through with it.”
Keegan does incredibly well in the initial scenes to engage with the material and make us understand Georgie. With the story starting two years before the present day, we learn that she was jilted at the altar, which has a profound effect on how she has shaped her life since. She then agrees to a six week humanitarian tour, helping refugees in Nairobi.
It is here that the real drama kicks in.
“They’ve taken Kicki…taken by terrorists as yet unknown.”
Minutes after arriving at base, an IED explosion forces Georgie into action to save those affected but also leads to some friction with local medic Kicki (Anna Tenta). These scenes are incredibly effective: well crafted and sharply edited with some subtle prosthetics work thrown in to reflect the reality of war. However, things take an altogether darker turn when the team discover Kicki has been abducted.
Credit should go to director Jan Matthys (Shetland) who does so well with the episode, helping to move swiftly from the jokey, laddish humour of Georgie’s army team to the heartbreaking knowledge that Kicki may not have survived with whoever has taken her.
“Our job is so colossal, we need to focus on that.”
Ultimately many will be watching this episode to see if ex-Coronation Street actress Keegan can fill the big shoes left by Lacey Turner and the truth is, with so much to establish in this season opener, I’m not sure yet.
Molly’s story was about her development into a good soldier and learning as she went. Georgie is an established Medic and yet both character and portrayal don’t seem as confident as they should be. The last ten minutes really ramp up the tension and show a dramatic direction for the rest of the season to follow, so I will reserve judgement for now.
I do hope that future episodes will showcase her more though, as hers is the journey the show is now centred around.
Aired at 9pm on Wednesday 7 September 2016 on BBC One.
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