Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of The Little Drummer Girl.
Three weeks, three hours and three very tense episodes later, we've reached the halfway point of BBC One's The Little Drummer Girl series. This TV adaptation of John le Carré's novel is undeniably stylish, beautifully shot and has a killer cast, headed up by Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Shannon. So why, then, are people starting to switch off?
Last night's episode was a difficult one. The "performance" that Kurtz (Shannon) and Becker (Skarsgård) had been preparing struggling actress Charlie (Pugh) for finally happened – she drove the red Mercedes across multiple European borders without being caught, with a huge amount of Semtex hidden in the roof. She dropped the car off in an Austrian town where it was later collected by the Palestinian terror group that Kurtz and his team of Israeli investigators are trying to bring down. After a brief, rigid snog with her mentor-cum-protector Becker (who is also undercover, pretending to be Palestinian radical Salim as part of an elaborate plan to immerse Charlie in the world they want her to infiltrate) back at her hotel room, she goes home to London to await the next chapter of her assignment, playing the part of Salim's lover.
Confusing, right? The first two episodes were equally as puzzling, skilfully layered with flashbacks and split scenes between the real world and "the theatre of the real" in which Charlie and Becker are playing. But viewers seem to have lost their patience with the lack of straightforward explanation after so much deliberate disorientation.
"I feel like I need study notes to read alongside #TheLittleDrummerGirl" wrote one Twitter user, while another pleaded for someone to please "explain what is going on in #TheLittleDrummerGirl so I can get on with the important job of drooling over Alexander Skarsgard in peace".
I know it's not what you want to hear if you're partial to binge-watching, but the slow reveal is kind of the point, you guys. And not knowing everything about what is going on is the beauty of such a clever narrative. If you're one of the people who had no idea Killing Eve was on every Saturday night for eight weeks because you'd watched it all in one go on iPlayer, The Little Drummer Girl is going to be difficult for you. There's no instant gratification in solving a complicated case and you have no choice but to be patient with the plot if you have any chance of getting your head around why everything is happening the way it is. But stick with it.
It's not helped by the fact there was no cathartic release at the end of episode three. The carefully executed car explosion only gave us more doubt about Kurtz's real intentions, Charlie arriving home in England only filled us with more dread about what (or who) might be coming for her, and no, we still don't know what big secret Becker is hiding, except that it has something to do with a girl like Charlie who didn't make it through a similar "performance".
So we're just as in the dark here at the series mid-point as we were when Becker first recruited Charlie back in Greece two episodes ago, which is frustrating, sure, but aren't the best thrillers a bit of a pain in the ass? That's why we bother pursuing them; to get through to the other side, past the red herrings, finally arriving at the answers to questions the show has been teasing all along. Three episodes in and it's clear those answers aren't just going to be handed to us – that'd be boring. But you can be sure that something big is on the way. All the tension that has been built so far, the pressure bubbling beneath the surface every time Charlie hallucinates being with Salim...there are only three more episodes to unravel. You'd be silly not to want to know where everything is going to land, and who will actually make it through to the end.
The Little Drummer Girl is on BBC One, Sundays at 9pm