Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Little Drummer Girl

Go To
"If I'm going to do this, I have to know what it is I am going to do."

Based on John le Carré's 1983 novel of the same name, The Little Drummer Girl is a 2018 six-part crime drama BBC mini-series directed by Park Chan-wook, which stars Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh. Set in 1979, it follows Charmian "Charlie" Ross (Pugh), an English actress on the political left, who is tapped by Mossad agent Martin Kurtz and his fellow Badass Israeli agents as a potential Double Agent in a Palestinian terrorist cell which targets Israelis in Europe. Under the tutelage of Sexy Mentor Gadi (Skarsgard), Charlie slowly loses touch with what is true and what is fiction.

This is the second media adaptation of le Carré's novel, which was previously filmed by George Roy Hill in 1984 in a same-titled adaptation with Diane Keaton and Klaus Kinski.

Tropes found in this series include:

  • Arch-Enemy: Khalil and Kurtz - even though they have never actually met. Each one sees the other as an almost mythic figure.
  • Avengers Assemble: Kurtz assembles a team in this fashion.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: True of both Khalil and Gadi - who are evidently not that different. Both are very quiet, secretive men who are capable of violence and war.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The mission has mostly succeeded and many lives were saved. However, many others have died - especially in the refugee camp, and Charlie is clearly deeply scarred.
  • Byronic Hero: Gadi Becker. If you turn the story around, you could say that Khalil qualifies as well.
  • The Chessmaster: Kurtz and Khalil - both also have a vein of The Svengali.
  • Codename Title: Also a Protagonist Title for the young woman who assists a spy agency.
  • Cool Old Lady: Miss Bach has Nerves of Steel and a very particular set of skills.
  • Consummate Liar: Charlie. She's the type, and the Israelis find this great for a spy.
  • The Corrupter: Salim is known for persuading impressionable Western women to assist his terror attacks.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Basically everyone (most notably Holocaust survivor Kurtz)- except for Charlie. So she makes one up.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": In order to establish the fiction, Gadi doesn't allow Charlie to call him by any name other than Michel until the end of the mission. Charlie herself only uses this, never her full name Charmian.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Khalil first appears posing as one of the drill instructors at the Palestinian "boot camp". In fact, he's the one who demands to know who taught Charlie to shoot one-handed, when he himself taught Salim to shoot that way, and in turn Gadi as "Salim" taught her.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In her audition, Charlie proves to be short-tempered, a bit of a pathological liar and as having a strong sense of justice.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
  • The crazy American recruit in the training camp is quite sadistic, but he clearly loves his mother deeply.
  • The Fundamentalist: Sooo many, but interestingly enough, the Western accomplices of the Palestinian militants are portrayed as more fundamentalist than the Palestinians themselves (most notably Anna Witgen).
  • Heroic BSoD: After Khalil is killed in the final episode, Charlie can barely bring herself to speak and has to be walked out of the house by Rachel.
  • Honey Trap: In the finale, Charlie acts as one, seducing Khalil so he'll stay long enough to get taken down by the Mossad.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Khalil is revealed as having startlingly pale blue eyes, keeping with his calm, collected personality.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: How Gadi justifies most of the violent acts he had committed in the past, and this state of mind continues to guide Kurtz.
  • It Was a Gift: Charlie's bracelet, which Gadi gave her (which is pretended to be from Salim as part of her cover).
  • The Lad-ette: Charlie has a tomboyish name to start with (it's a nickname for Charmian), she's brash, very plain spoken, a hard drinker, chain smoker and fairly masculine in a lot of her looks/attitude. She's also unabashedly sexual, and has had sex with a lot of men. However she has a gentler side, and is deeply affected due to her spy work (of course, that would wear on most people).
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The Israelis make Salim and Anna look like they died due to a car accident.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Twice - first with Gadi when he realizes Charlie has been taken by the cell members, then with Charlie when Khalil realizes she is a Double Agent.
  • No Sense of Humor: The entire crew of agents is not exactly chipper, but Shimon doesn't smile or joke once in six episodes.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: In the book, when Charlie stays some time in a Palestinian refugee camp as part of her cover, planes buzz the camp but do not destroy it. One of the women there says that Charlie must be their good luck charm. Unbeknownst to her, Charlie actually is the reason the planes don't destroy the camp, which just makes her feel even worse about having lied to the refugees for weeks.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Charlie sees the planes flying towards the camp.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The main character is called Charlie almost all of the time, not Charmian.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Charlie is a bit of a holdover from the The '60s flower child niche, and still carries some of that British hippie style with her well into the 70's, including a clear and present preference for walking barefoot. While not always, she still goes without shoes in several instances. In one scene, she visibly removes her shoes (should be pointed out they weren't high heels, but just regular flat shoes) before proceeding to hitchhike a paved mountainous road for roughly half a day. A feat, which should be noted, requires some legitimately calloused feet. Otherwise, pavement hurts like hell, especially in the middle of a hot day.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Khalil and most of his associates are killed by headshots that leave relatively little blood behind, and no brain matter.
  • Retired Badass: Gadi's name is so well known that even Shimon is excited to meet him.
  • Spy Fiction: A little less stale beer flavored than in La Carré's other work.
  • The '70s: The series revels in the time period.
  • Threeway Sex: Helga invites Charlie for a threesome with her boyfriend the night before the mission, but Charlie declines.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Like many a Ladette, Charlie enjoys hard liquor, especially Yugoslavian vodka.