Our Girl S1E1 - "Episode 1" Review

Last year, BBC One aired "Our Girl," a drama in which 18-year-old Molly Dawes (Lacey Turner) seeks to make something of herself by joining the British army. Coming from a low-SES family, she outright says that she has never had a chance before. But in joining the British Army, she aims to find structure, order, and a purpose never before presented to her. Following the success and positive reception to "Our Girl," a 5-episode series was commissioned.

"Please don't tell me we've got the only medic that can't stand the sight of blood."

After extensive training, Molly is finally sent on her first deployment to Afghanistan. Molly's role in the platoon is that of the medic, which seems fitting, as her caring nature was often shown to be one of her strongest traits. Upon meeting her new platoon, she clashes with Captain James (Ben Aldridge), the platoon's leader, and finds one of the other soldiers, Smurf (Iwan Rheon), is an old fling. As if this weren't enough, upon encountering the first injured soldier she and the other medics are to tend to, she gets squeamish at the sight of his leg that has been blown off.

Molly is off to a highly rocky start, with all of these circumstances being piled on top of all the discrimination she has to face as a woman in a predominantly male field. Molly is shown to be more sensitive to discrimination than her fellow soldiers. Despite having a nationalist (that means racist) father, Molly tells Smurf off for his racist attitudes towards a fellow soldier of Middle-Eastern origins, and for his harsh words against Bashira, a young Afghani girl who often visits the troops. Smurf's prejudices originate from his losing his brother in the war (though that's not a reasonable excuse for racism). He is also shown to hold Captain James in high regard for his pulling his brother out of the battlefield when he was about to die.

"We're all trying to prove ourselves."

By the end of the episode, Molly has redeemed herself in the eyes of her platoon. She had already improved Captain James' opinion of her, by expressing concerns over Smurf's mental stability. Smurf retaliated by slut-shaming her both to her face and to the other soldiers. But Molly saves Smurf when he is shot and nearly bleeds out in the field and she nearly gets blown up in the process. She accompanies him when he is air-lifted out, while their fellow soldiers cheer her on, and at the medical facility, Smurf makes a promise that he will make things right and come back to her…

Though Molly Dawes' compassion and bravery make her a likeable protagonist, and easy to route for, "Our Girl" is not without its weaknesses. It's a bit difficult to watch the show without feeling weighed down by the blatant pro-war propaganda. Then again, it would likely be impossible to make a story about soldiers fighting in Afghanistan without having that present. Smurf is a largely damaged character, which is understandable given the trauma he has faced from fighting in a war and losing his brother. But for him to be so vindictive in exacting revenge against Molly with his use of slut-shaming, when she was only looking out for his well-being and that of everyone in the troop, it's rather difficult to accept the attempt to so quickly redeem a character with such problematic behaviour. With him giving Molly the puppy-dog eyes, and his apparently heart-felt apology, it would seem that a love-connection is brewing. But it's difficult to support their relationship going in that direction right now unless he is shown to understand that slut-shaming is not something to whip out every time you get upset at a woman. The last issue worth mentioning was the treatment of the token POC characters. Though the platoon has more than once race represented, it was unacceptable that all of the characters given meaty dialogue were white.

The performances were solid, but Lacey Turner's raw, emotional performance in the show's pilot was stronger than what was seen in this series premiere. Iwan Rheon brought great darkness and weight to Smurf, though no one would expect anything less after seeing him castrate Theon Greyjoy. Perhaps most worth mentioning is Ben Aldridge. Captain James begins as a rather unlikeable character, as his treatment of Molly feels harsh, making the audience believe he is as sexist as the rest of the group. But as the story continues, we see that he is simply pushing his troops to be the best because not being so can mean the difference between life and death. Aldridge maintains his strong level of performance throughout every part of this character development. After a slow start, "Our Girl" delivered strong action sequences and movement for the lead characters' personal journeys, making this viewer eager to tune in next week.

Our Girl airs on Sundays on BBC One at 9PM.


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