'The Little Drummer Girl': Fans are confused about the flashbacks in Episode 2, but it all adds up
The flashback to the gold watch and the eventual love-making scene are confusing but they are needed to push the story forward.
Fans are baffled by the continuous shift in narrative timeline of 'The Little Drummer Girl' and are now taking to Twitter to voice their doubts about Charlie and Salim's past.
BBC One's adaptation of John Le Carre's 1953 novel by director Chan Park-wook, follows the quest of Mossad agents to track down a notorious terrorist, Khalil, by trapping his brother, Salim. However, in order to do so Mossad agent Marty Kurtz (played by Michael Shannon) brings aboard an young aspiring actress, Charlie (played by Florence Pugh), who soon becomes the most fitting asset in the "theatre of real".
While Charlie has no idea about the real identity of the agents, fans are assuming from the second episode, that she knew Salim (played by Amir Khoury) even before she was lured by the stranger, Becker (played by Alexander Skarsgard), while visiting Greece. As the second episode introduced Charlie to the play, and her role as the beloved dame of a terrorist, it brought in the backstory of her and Michel's love story, the character that Becker takes up while talking about the script to Charlie. Initially, it is confusing to the viewers to figure out if Michel is Salim, or if Salim is Michel since Becker keeps shifting the name along with the narrative. However, it can be presumed for now that Michel is just a name given to the person whose actual name is Salim.
As the show strictly follows the pattern of a play-within-a-play, it can get confusing at times to keep track of who is real and who is not. It seems that Charlie has completely lost track of any of the character's reality, and by indulging her in the play, Marty knows that he is not risking his plan in any way. However, the audience would still like to know what exactly is the reality the show is grounded upon, or if there is a reality at all. In the second episode, the line between drama and reality gets blurred when Becker begins talking about Michel, and the focus kept shifting between him and Michel (or Salim).
When Becker takes Charlie out he wears exactly the same clothes as Salim, but he keeps reminding Charlie that his name in the act is Michel. He describes Michel as a man who has been compelled to play the terrorist but his love for his dame continues to remain unabated. As for Charlie, she has no trouble in addressing Becker as Michel, and is least bothered that Michel is based on a real character.
However, some fans have some interesting theories about Becker's story and Charlie's eventual reaction to it. One fan suggested, "It's just a dramatization of the backstory they are creating. It never happened." The scene sees Becker describing the love-making between Charlie and Michel, while in the background Charlie and Salim are seen making love. Considering the scene, and the pace at which it kept shifting between the narrative and the act, this theory can be justified. Charlie is after all pretty precise about her imaginations, and being an actress she has the capacity to put herself into someone else's conscious and live through it.
Supporting the argument, another fan added, "That’s the fiction she and Jose/Michel are creating. You’re seeing her imagined recreation of the events he’s describing. It’s actually very clever film-making." Certainly, Park's credit as a film-maker has proven itself in the first two episodes, and the director's sense of capturing emotion in time has been a grounded element in his work, so far. However, there is one doubt. How did Charlie not doubt the precision with which Becker presents the scene to her? When Becker talks about the man in the gold watch at Charlie's play, the answer to "who was he?" seems to be a complicated one.
While in the first episode we saw a stranger sitting in the audience flashing the light from his watch on Charlie's face, we also saw Salim wearing the same watch in the scenes where he blows up the house in West Germany, and also while driving to Austria when he was captured by the Mossad agents. However, Becker is soon seen wearing the same watch through which he seems to be the same stranger who was there at the theatre. So was Salim really there? But if he was there how come Charlie never suspected Becker's appearance? If what fan theories suggest about Charlie only imagining things in order to make herself familiar with the script is true, then it can be said that Chan-wook's directorial skills have outshined themselves.
Going by the theories it can be presumed that the first scene with the gold-watch was already a scene taken from Marty's script. It could be Park-woo's way of indicating that the story moves forward only when it moves backward. Probably it was another flashback, suggesting that things would soon change for Charlie and she would have no control over them, and the later scenes that followed kept bringing in flashbacks to indicate what might happen next. This is some truly excellent story-telling out here as Chan-wook has done justice to the script by even blurring the lines between real-time storytelling and flashbacks. Fans are confused with where the story is going, but every flashback is necessary to push the story forward.
By now we can brace ourselves for a finale that will blow our minds, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the script turns completely upside down. Some fans have already claimed over social media that the show is confusing due to its constant shift from the past to the present, but a deeper look into the scenes suggest that it is nothing but the director's way of showcasing an actor's working of the mind. Every flashback is an indication of what might happen in the next episode, and it's the flashbacks that are in a large way developing the characters.
Charlie's immediate response to Becker's narrative indicates that she is the perfect heroine in this theatre of the real, and it is not much of a hassle for her to even cry while reading fictional letters. The way in which Becker carries out his character around Charlie, and his narration define him as a man who is strictly against Mossad's intention of putting up a scapegoat, but he has some probable reasons to abide by the order- reasons, that will probably be disclosed in the upcoming episodes. As for Marty, it is his script, and he will make just as real as he wishes to- even if that means putting Charlie in front of Khalil.
'The Little Drummer Girl' airs on BBC One on Sundays at 9 pm.