‘The Honourable Woman’ Episode 3: ‘The Killing Call’ review

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It’s probably a bit early to be reaching for True Detective-sized superlatives when discussing The Honourable Woman. Yet with each instalment surpassing the last, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to resist.

Comparisons with Nic Polazzo’s acclaimed thriller are both fitting and inappropriate.

The suspense that hangs over Hugo Blick’s serial like Victorian smog, making it almost painfully compelling, is very much in the True Detective tradition. So are the bleak Sussex flatlands and ominously dark skies that bookend this third episode: there’s a definite tonal similarity with the sparse, post-Katrina Louisiana countryside patrolled by Hart and Cohle.

The operatic bloodiness of the deaths – one corpse dumped in the trailer of a pickup truck on a track disappearing under wind turbines, the other chucked into a mincer at a pig farm – seems equally in keeping with the grim machinations of the Yellow King.

However, one criticism levelled at True Detective was that it lacked strong female characters. In The Honourable Woman, the opposite is true. With one, um, honourable exception, it’s the men who are weak: fascinating to watch, but hardly great bastions of masculinity.

The Honourable Woman

Ephra Stein (Andrew Buchan) is a chinless, cock-driven pillock. Although he’s ‘shtupping the housekeeper’ – as clearly -too-good-for-him wife Rachel (Katharine Parkinson) describes his affair with Atika – any suggestion that he might also be the father of her kidnapped son Kasim outrages him.

‘I’m certainly not going to give the Keystone Cops some of my sperm,’ he brays after the police request a DNA swab. Eventually, he relents, and is relieved when the results come back negative. However, Atika (Lubna Azabal) has fiddled the test – not to protect Ephra, but to safeguard the secret that she and Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) have kept since their time as captives in Gaza.

Also looking out for Nessa and her secrets is principal security advisor, Nathaniel Bloom (Tobias Menzes). A square-jawed, balls-to-the-wall, bulldog type, he’s also a bit of an idiot. Having survived a shooting and Nessa’s sexual advances, he takes it upon himself to investigate the death of Michael Gatz, the driver of the car used by Kasim’s kidnappers. Unfortunately, he fails to differentiate between a stone factory and a cold meat locker and is shot again – this time fatally.

The Honourable Woman

Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle (Stephen Rea) is the exception to the rule of dickish/doltish dudes. Although spying on his ex-wife is hardly the noblest of actions, it’s more pathetic than genuinely creepy – and worth it from a viewer’s point-of-view to see a rare display of emotion from a man whose lugubriousness is only matched by his composure.

He even remains unflappable in the face of charmless Shlomo Zahary (Igal Naor) going full Don Logan on him. ‘Don’t fuck with me, you scrawny little shit … Look at you, pasty-faced arsehole … What are you, a fucking vampire or something?’

The reception Hayden-Hoyle gets from Ephra Stein when he pops up on the latter’s lawn is scarcely more cordial, even though Sir HHH has brought vital information. Atika has always claimed that the person driving her and Nessa on the day they were taken hostage was Kasim’s father; but it turns out the driver was a woman. Is it possible that the secret Atika was trying to safeguard by fixing the DNA test was the identity of the mother rather than the father? Could Kasim actually be Nessa’s son?

That’s a twist even Rust Cohle wouldn’t have seen coming.


Airs at 9pm on Thursday 17 July 2014 on BBC Two.

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