In the wake of last week’s revelations that the Taliban, and more specifically Bashira’s father Basrai, had ordered an assassination attempt on her life, this week we see the drama ramped up on all levels for Molly (Lacey Turner).
Straight into the action and with less of the lighthearted, blokey banter that has punctuated previous instalments, there are two main focuses in the episode: the military operation to apprehend Bashira’s father after her captured brother explains she is to be killed, but also the personal love triangle between Molly, Smurf and Captain James, which reaches a precipice this week.
There is a strong theme of guilt this week: Molly’s guilt for her part in the breakdown of Bashira’s family, Captain James’ guilt at lying to Molly about his estranged wife and son and Smurf being made to feel guilty by James when he asks for advice about whether to ask Molly to marry him, with the Captain selfishly scolding Smurf, sending him away and making his pain seem unimportant.
These elements all have a resonance in the attack sequence in the episode’s third act and hang over the episode like a dark cloud, playing with the audience’s expectations.
There’s also a real, deliberate intent to build tension in the lead up to next week’s finale. The Americans get in on the action, giving the problem a gravity it never seemed to have before. The confrontation with Bashira’s brother, denying her as his sister and marking her for dead, is striking in its simplicity.
Claustrophobically filmed, it really stands out in an episode of brilliant scenes. Then there are the scenes as the mission goes forward: beautifully shot and with a rousing score adding to the growing sense of danger. The night shoot scenes when they first arrive adding a solitary and stark contrast to the rest of the episode.
The love triangle element advances things along quite considerably. With two months gone since the previous episode, Molly has a relaxed confidence in her relationship with the Captain.
“I don’t know how I’m able to keep my hands off you,” Molly beams proudly. It is this happiness found in the most tense of situations that makes the Captain’s betrayal to her all the more affecting. Ben Aldridge, who has played Captain James with such militant accuracy he could be considered unfeeling or even two-dimensional, shines here. More genuine and open than he has been before, he finally makes a move on Molly, which is captured in a beautifully filmed sequence…. but with the heartbroken Smurf (Iwan Rheon) watching.
Once again Rheon’s character is given ample room to grow. His worry over his Mum’s premonition that something will happen to him, just like his brother, sets the tone of his journey in the episode, with all the decisions he makes being instinctive and reckless, as opposed to planned and for the good of those around him.
Interestingly, this is the first time in a few weeks that the episode has made good use of the supporting cast and the show feels just as strong in its ensemble moments, with the use of the secondary members of the section and guest cast being used to full effect. Despite a promising connection in Episode 1, Molly’s friendship with Jackie (Kirsty Averton) is never really touched upon unless in a singular scene, but provides Molly with a different dynamic to her squaddie mates and provides a strong female perspective to the efforts of war.
Similarly, one of my favourite scenes in the episode is with Molly chatting to Qaseem (guest star Zubin Varla) and discussing his home life and the true reason he accepts these dangerous missions. The two have a lovely chemistry and their scenes, peppered throughout the last few episodes have provided real character development and interestingly highlighted how non-Taliban Afghans feel in the midst of this war.
However, as great as the elements of this episode are, the final scene tops everything, with lies and secrets exposed and Smurf going into meltdown over Captain James’ betrayal.
“You do not bring personal into the battlefield, do you understand?” states the Captain firmly to a clearly broken Smurf. “You did,” he simply replies. To play out this emotional moment in the middle of a seize-and-capture operation was a risky move but the payoff is amazing. Credit must go to writer Tony Grounds, who successfully highlights the light and the dark of the characters and balances the show’s emotional and military storylines.
As we gear up for the finale and with no ‘Next Week’ preview, ominously replaced by ‘To Be Continued’, we are clearly in for a surprising end – but if the show addresses the issues here and can bring them all to a conclusion, Our Girl will stand out clearly as one of the best BBC dramas of 2014.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 12 October 2014 on BBC One.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know below…