Spoiler alert! The following feature contains spoilers for the final episode of The Little Drummer Girl.
We all knew it was going to end with a bomb. By the final episode of BBC One's The Little Drummer Girl, Charlie (played by Florence Pugh) is deep undercover within the Palestinian terror cell and coming to the end of her training. "My sister says you're ready", says Khalil, the leader of the terrorist group Charlie and the team of Israeli spies have been tracking. And so, in a cabin deep in the woods, the two of them prepare an explosive concealed in a briefcase for what we can only assume will be the climax of the show's finale – an explosion at an Israeli professor's high-profile lecture in London. In comes that glorious end-of-series tension and a flurry of nervous heart palpitations...
Watching a programme in which an actress plays an actress who has been recruited to infiltrate a dangerous operation by pretending to have been seduced into terrorist activity (confusing, we know), you come to expect some dramatic twists and turns. The Little Drummer Girl is built on the potential of being double-crossed. Will Charlie, who has been carefully trained by comrade and love interest Becker (Alexander Skarsgård), go in too deep and switch allegiance? Will the Israeli intelligence team manage to intercept the bomb in time if the British intelligence team is set on interfering? Will Khalil see through Charlie's performance in the "theatre of the real" and kill her before any of this even happens? Does Becker actually care about Charlie or was their relationship a convenient ploy to get her to comply?
The climax came and most of those questions were answered. Charlie stayed on course, delivered the briefcase bomb to Kurtz (Michael Shannon) and Picton (Charles Dance) in time for them to execute a controlled explosion and it wasn't until the following day, after Charlie returned to Khalil under instructions to seduce him, that Khalil cottoned on to the fact that he was in the middle of a well constructed ruse.
Becker saves the day, Charlie is pulled out of her double life and the Israeli team use the information she gathered to destroy Khalil's network. Bish, bash, bosh. A very tidy ending for a very elaborate operation that could've gone dramatically wrong at any moment. Which is why some of us were a little confused by The Little Drummer Girl's seemingly "happily ever after" conclusion.
"I was hoping for a twist at the end, but it wasn't there", one Twitter user wrote, while another said that the ending was satisfying, even if it was an "audience friendly twist". Becker secretly sends Charlie his German address and she visits him, finding him pottering around his garden. Though a bit jumpy (and with a pistol stuck in the back of his jeans), he seems happy to see her. Becker opens his door for Charlie to come inside and the series ends with him following her with a pot of tea he had left on the windowsill. Cute, sure, but was this the right ending for such a dramatic and intentionally challenging series?
Part of me expected Charlie to be hunted down by the Palestinians who she had betrayed, another part of me expected Kurtz to push her into another undercover operation upon hearing about a bomb suspiciously similar to Khalil's trademark going off elsewhere in Europe after his death. But alas, the BBC's ending was far tamer than many of us anticipated.
I did like Little Drummer Girl but the ending - quite different from the book - felt like a bit of a cop-out. Le Carre was never one to opt for ambiguity over "this really doesn't end well for anybody".— Chris (@cawhitworth) December 2, 2018
As another Twitter user pointed out, we were given a "considerably kinder ending" than the one John le Carré gave in the original novel. While the majority of the series stayed pretty close to the book's narrative, there were a few key differences in the final episode. For one, the briefcase bomb that Charlie delivered actually happened in Munich, not London. In fact, Charlie doesn't return to London until long after everything has settled down and she's deemed well enough to go home. In le Carré's writing, Charlie struggles far more with the after-effects of what happened than we see on screen and her reunion with Becker, who also went through great emotional turmoil (which we don't see either), happens at one of her plays when she returns to her lousy acting career.
Remember when Becker first started Charlie's recruitment process? When he turned up at one of her performances and sat just close enough to the stage for Charlie to spot him in the crowd? That's how they reunite in the book. Becker turns up at a show and, both broken, they fall into each other outside the theatre and walk off into the night.