Our Girl S1E2 - "Episode 2" Review

Now that Molly Dawes has established herself within the troop of soldiers, the source of conflict can move on to bigger, badder things. She's not only found a friend in young Bashira, but her heart and bravery has begun to attract the attention of Captain James and newly returned Smurf. If that weren't enough, there's still a war going on and all these soldiers must risk their lives when they get advanced warning about a threat in the mountains…

"I'm not soft, sir."

Molly has grown closer to her "soul sister" Bashira, the young Afghani girl whom she met shortly after arriving. They play games, share sweets, and Bashira's English is rapidly improving. But this new-found friendship faces animosity from both sides. Captain James tells Molly that she's not to get attached or involved, and Bashira is promised off to marry a man before getting a beating from her father. Bashira's mother brings her to see Molly, who despite Captain James' objections, insists on patching up the cut on Bashira's brow. In privacy, Bashira gives Molly a warning to not go to the mountains. Molly delivers this piece of intel to her superiors, who are able to prepare and arm themselves so that when they are attacked, they're able to take out the insurgents without facing any casualties of their own. Molly even saves the lives of one of the insurgents, who had suffered a nasty leg wound. When returning from the mountains, Molly reluctantly follows Captain James' orders to not even look at young Bashira, who is now out and about playing freely.

Molly's rebellious streak seen in the show's pilot merges well with her new-found discipline. She knows that virtually everyone around her disapproves of her befriending young Bashira. But her insisting on seeing everyone as human beings, no matter what side they're fighting on, is what makes her not only a compassionate medic, but a compelling protagonist. When told to not get involved, her response is, "What are we if we're not involved?" This speaks not only to the hypocrisy of being self-righteous invaders, but to a deeper examination of human nature. She is pushing back against being detached from her emotions, and Lacey Turner is given more room to shine in this episode, reminding us of why this series was commissioned in the first place.

"Don't worry about me, sir, I'll prove my worth."

Smurf is back, having recuperated from his leg injury. He's also grovelling to Molly, just as he should be. He's making every attempt to redeem himself in her eyes, telling her he's there for her, and he even tries to show his affections physically. Much to our amusement, Molly shoots down his attempts to hold hands or hug, though she's still being pleasant to him. Given his abominable behaviour in last week's episode, it's nice to see Smurf taken down a peg. In tonight's episode, we see some solid character development as he goes from speaking rudely about Bashira to Molly, to telling Molly that he was wrong after the climactic events involving Bashira's near-death. It's still unclear as to whether or not Smurf has fully redeemed himself, or if he's on to the fact that he is not the only one with an interest in Molly…

Captain James may have shown he's more than just a gruff military man last week, but that doesn't mean he'll be inclined to show much sentiment. He may not have the emotional baggage of Smurf, but it doesn't mean he's free from complicated moments. Though he's shown to be authoritative and striving for success and efficiency where their mission is concerned, Molly has unintentionally endeared herself to him. Above all else, Molly cares for the lives of those around her. But when Captain James has opportunity to put his serious behaviour aside, Ben Aldridge shines with his other abilities, namely comedy. Whether he's being sassy by correcting Molly's less-than-posh English, lounging in an inflatable pool, or singing Elton John karaoke and roping Molly into it, Ben Aldridge is great fun to watch.

"Your normal isn't our normal."

One of the strongest parts of this episode was its exploration of the morality of not just war as a general concept, but the very real, ongoing war that this show is depicting. The soldier Sohail gave some criticisms about how Molly and the other soldiers will be able to return back home and carry on with the lives they were used to. His speech was short, but managed to cover a lot of ground, including the hypocrisy in how they claim to be encouraging children to go to school, but now no one can because of their presence and the disruption it causes. When the British soldiers leave, he and all the other Afghanis will still be there. Then there's the other, not so intimidating, Afghani soldier Qaseem. He presents a more hopeful perspective. He speaks of how he has chosen to give up a stable job to fight in the war because of the death of his family, and how he believes that someday Afghanistan will have peace and be the most beautiful place on earth.

Presenting a more well-rounded perspective and giving more quality material for the Afghani characters is essential to this show having more substance. Instead of just glamourising the white soldiers fighting the threat of the Other, in the land that they invaded no less, this has elevated the show to another level. The fact that the show has advertised more of Molly's love triangle is understandable, as it's good marketing. However, in tonight's episode the most important relationship was not Molly with one of her dreamy soldiers, but with young Bashira. The dramatic scene where Bashira was shown to have been forced into a bomb vest was highly intense. It wasn't so clear as to whether or not she would make it. As Molly disobeyed her orders and approached Bashira to assure her that she would be okay, reminding her of their being sisters, our heartstrings were pulled and our guts were wrenched. This was the standout scene of the episode, if not the whole mini-series thus far. Lacey Turner and young Becky Eggersgluz delivered great performances and made us certain that we are hooked on this series.

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


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