The Honourable Woman: A Summer treat

by | Jul 3, 2014 | All, Reviews

A BBC drama, written, produced and directed by Hugo Blick, starring a rather impressive cast including a Hollywood A lister. Fair to say I had high expectations of The Honourable Woman, the new Middle Eastern spy drama that aired tonight.

Thankfully, The Honourable Woman was a triumph. I worried it might be a little difficult to follow, my knowledge of the Israel/Palestine conflict is pretty basic and Hugo Blick, whose credits include The Shadow Line, isn’t known for keeping things simple.

Clearly, HW is very complex, but we were drip fed enough facts and hints tonight to keep the story moving and keep me interested.

Maggie Gyllenhaal (and let’s be honest, one of the hardest things about this drama is how to spell the lead’s surname) was impeccable as a British born Israeli whose father was murdered while the family was at breakfast when she and her brother were little. Nessa and Ephra grow up a seemingly well adjusted pair, running a foundation to facilitate peace in Israel.

The drama centres on a multi-million pound contract to install fibre optic broadband across the region. While the first two phases have been contracted to an affable Israeli, a Palestinian has won the contract for the final phase. To add to the public controversy, said Palestinian has committed suicide.

Except we know he hasn’t, because we saw him murdered. Thankfully, neither Nessa nor MI6’s Middle Eastern official, Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle, played with accustomed panache by Stephen Rea, believe it is suicide.

Sir Hugh pops off to a chess match with his Israeli opposite number (after climbing out of his loft to fool his bodyguards) who is adamant that the ‘suicide’ is nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, Nessa is sneaking off as well to meet her brother’s Nanny, Atika, who appears to have a child of her own, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the little boy is Nessa’s. Or, after a kidnap sequence that I didn’t fully understand, Nessa and Atika found the little boy (Karim) in the Gaza Strip. Either way, his past is a big secret.

Except, it’s not that secret, because poor little Kasim is kidnapped. Nessa makes an impressive run after him, and HW gets bonus points for Nessa realising she couldn’t run in heels. Unfortunately, those points were then deducted for Tobias Menzies slow reaction to being shot. Is he dead? I don’t know, but even bodyguards can be a bit less wooden.

As all good dramas do, HW left me with lots of questions. Answers on a postcard (or via twitter, @QueeniePrior if you please) for the following:

Who has Kasim?

Is it Shlomo, the disgruntled businessman? The Israeli Government? The British Government? The Palestinian Authorities? Or something far more personal.

Is Atika innocent?

She seemed to be on Nessa’s side, but it’s curious she stayed at home while the kidnap took place. That final shot of her sat at the table was telling, but what it told, I’m not sure yet.

Can we trust Monica?

Monica might be replacing Sir Hugh at MI6, which already makes her a baddie, but it also looks like she had an affair with Ephra. Or at least knows a secret about him. Will she keep quiet? Should she keep quiet?

And finally, can we have lots more Rachel Stein please?

 While The IT Crowd never grabbed me, I do love a bit of Katherine Parkinson and it was lovely to see her getting a serious role. So lots more of this character please. Thanks!

The Honourable Woman Continues Thursday’s at 9.00pm on BBC TWO 

Vicky Prior

Vicky Prior



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