‘The Honourable Woman’ Episode 7: ‘The Hollow Wall’ review

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‘Have you been watching the TV?’ Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle (Stephen Rea) asks with mock good cheer as the penultimate part of The Honourable Woman builds to a crescendo. ‘It’s really very exciting.’

Not half. The last six weeks have been enthralling, plotted tighter than an Edwardian corset and as tense as a gazelle at a lion’s stag do, but with the end of this tortuous, thrilling story in sight, Hugo Blick has turned everything up to eleven.

There has been plenty of sex and death previously, but ‘The Hollow Wall’ is positively sodden with blood and lust. It’s the 23rd book of Homer’s Iliad pumped up on vengeance and Viagra and it’s fucking magnificent.

The Stein siblings, Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Ephra (Andrew Buchan) are on parallel journeys to tragedy.

Nessa is in the Middle-East for the grand opening of the Faustian cabling contract she has entered into with Jalal El-Amin (Raad Rawi). Loyal assistant Frances Pirsig (Genevieve O’Reilly) is horrified that her boss seems to have been compromised and isn’t entirely reassured by Nessa’s insistence that she’s doing the right thing.

There’s a superb illustrative shot of the two of them in the lobby of their hotel, their shadows stretching across the floor like dark pathways. It’s beautifully framed and deeply ominous: all roads lead to ruin.


The auguries grow worse as El-Amin is apparently ill in bed and apparently unable to attend the ceremony. Eventually, dosed up on meds (Frances: ‘The amount of Imodium they’re chucking down his throat, he won’t be shitting for sixteen years’), he makes the trip to Hebron City, where the project will break ground for the first time.

Meanwhile, back in England, Ephra is led by Atika (Lubna Azabal) and his ever-eager bellend to the Steins’ country cottage. Previous encounters between these mismatched lovers seemed jaded, lacking in emotion. This time, it with passion – but also with a strange foreboding: a mirror of the gloom gathering over the West Bank.

Nessa is in an earthmoving JCB, waiting to turn it on; a turned-on Ephra is in Atika and the earth is moving. Destiny is closing over both of them. El-Amin –having promised that kidnapped Kasim will be returned that night – departs the ceremony.

Nessa, sensing something wrong, leaves the excavator to chase the Palestinian’s car. The JCB driver decides to start the machine’s engine anyway … and sets off a terrorist bomb which devastates the entire area.

The Honourable Woman

With ghoulish synchronicity, Atika reaches climax at the moment of explosion. Shortly afterwards, Rachel (Katharine Parkinson) arrives at the cottage to confront her philandering husband. But before she can dole out the ass-kicking he richly deserves, a much colder justice is exacted. Ephra is shot dead by Saleh Al-Zahid (Philip Arditti).

The man who raped Nessa is swiftly dispatched in turn by Rachel, the horror causing her waters to break. Her baby is delivered by Atika, but not before the shocking truth about the housekeeper escapes like gas from a damaged cooker: Atika was in cahoots with Al-Zahid; she deliberately led Ephra to his death.

Atika’s betrayal is a deeper cut than the Beatles’ ‘Carnival of Light’ – as Nessa observes at the outset of each episode, ‘It’s a wonder we trust anyone at all’ – yet there is a distinct impression that her motives are more complex than the merely political.

Factor in the as-yet-unexplained aims of Monica Chatwin (Eve Best) and the US Government and you’re left with a helluva lot of questions to be answered in the final instalment.

It’s a tall order, resolving all this intrigue and delivering a finale to top this breathtaking hour of television. But if there’s anyone worth trusting to produce a suitably satisfying conclusion to what has been the best British drama series of 2014, it’s Hugo Blick.


Airs at 9pm on Thursday 14 August 2014 on BBC Two.

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