In my review of last week’s Our Girl, I praised writer Tony Grounds for not allowing Molly’s various romantic entanglements overtake the rest of the story. However, it appears that I may have spoken too soon as tonight’s episode was almost solely focused around Molly’s feelings for Captain James and Smurf.
Whilst the majority of tonight’s instalment – which saw Molly return home on leave – felt realistic enough, I started to groan as the last ten minutes became a cavalcade of romantic admissions and death threats.
I’ll start with the positive aspects of tonight’s episode, namely those that see Molly reunited with her family in London. Some of my favourite parts of last year’s pilot episode were those that saw Molly attempt to cast off her destiny and do something new by joining the army. Returning home she discovered that things had changed, in part due to the fact that her mother had a new friend in the soup-making Shazza…
Although Molly was happy that her mother wanted to better herself by becoming a teaching assistant, she felt that she was shutting her father out as a result. I felt that Grounds did a great job here at exploring what happens to a family when one of their number goes off to war and how much of a hole it leaves. Particularly well-written was Molly’s late night discussion with her mother and her further talk with her dad about encouraging his wife into her new career.
And although it was hard to believe that Molly would be able to sort out the friction between her parents in a matter of days, I still enjoyed these scenes immensely. A different example of how soldiers react on their return home was shown through Smurf’s interactions with his mother as he angrily responds to her questions about Molly. Even though we didn’t see much of Smurf’s mum, the few scenes she appeared in gave Molly’s Welsh love interest a new dimension.
I even enjoyed some of the scenes between Smurf and Molly as they spent time in both Wales and London before they headed back to Afghanistan. The pair bonded over the fact that nobody quite understood what they’d been through and that nothing quite felt like home any more. One of Grounds’ strengths is in establishing that Molly only wants to be friends with Smurf as she always answers his compliments with insults and is always the first to end the hugs he initiates. Despite these obvious signs that she’s not interested, it’s clear that Smurf has fallen head-over-heels for Our Molly, which is a shame as her mind is elsewhere.
Although there have been knowing looks exchanged between Molly and the Captain, it was in this episode that things really heated up starting with a hand-holding session that went on a little long. Grounds conveyed Molly’s feelings for the Captain via the fact that she was determined to buy the expensive coffee he’d requested and in keeping the message he’d left on her arm until she’d completed her mission. But the waters were muddied on Molly’s return and when James heard of her time with Smurf in Wales and believed that the two had shared more than just conversation.
What I’ve enjoyed most about the first two episodes of Our Girl was how Grounds punctuated the more dramatic scenes with quieter moments between the characters. But here we had two incredibly tense Afghanistan sequences sandwiched between the bulk of the episode which concentrated on the scenes back in the UK. Possibly my favourite scene of the whole episode occurred early on when the platoon came across the body of the young soldier who Molly had criticised last week for buying a fake Rolex watch…
As the camera closes-in on the watch we realise, along with Molly, who the body belongs to and feel for our protagonist as she has to pronounce him dead. Molly’s nightmares about the boy’s death haunt her throughout the episode and are a way of demonstrating how much her time in Afghanistan is affecting her. But I felt all the subtlety of that opening scene was spoilt by the closing ten minutes in which Molly pledges her love to James as they are in the middle of a situation that could end their lives. I didn’t believe that Molly would make these declarations for one moment, and this scene was definitely the most far-fetched element of the series so far. The final revelation about the threat to Molly’s life was almost as ludicrous, and I felt that this was the moment that the realism evaporated from the once believable Our Girl.
This is a real shame as, up to this point, I’d really been invested in this episode which I’d found to be the easiest watch of the series. Once again I found Lacey Turner to be absolutely brilliant as she conveyed Molly’s displeasure about the changes at home, and in particular her mother’s friendship. Turner is great during the quieter moments of the episode and she utilises facial expressions well to demonstrate Molly’s feelings for the two men in her life.
One of the reasons that I’m glad we returned to Molly’s home was the fact that we got to see more from the brilliant Kerry Godliman as her mother Belinda. Godliman to me was one of the stand-outs of last year’s pilot and she shone here as she voiced her character’s desire to start a new career. Equally impressive was Sean Gallagher as Molly’s feckless father Dave, and the scene-stealing Ruth Sheen as Molly’s no-nonsense nan.
Meanwhile, Iwan Rheon’s performance improved as he was able to show us Smurf’s sensitive side as well as his problems adjusting to being back home. As always, the cinematography in Our Girl is brilliant, and this week, it was able to capture some of the beauty of Newport as well as the usual action-packed moments in Afghanistan.
At this stage I’m conflicted about Our Girl as tonight’s instalment was the easiest to watch, but at the same time, had the most disappointing ending of the three episodes thus far. I do feel that my enjoyment of the series will hinge on the direction of Molly’s new story in the final two episodes. Whilst I have faith in Tony Grounds, I do feel that Our Girl is in danger of lapsing into melodrama which is a shame as, up until now, I’ve found it to be a rather realistic portrait of what life is like for the young men and women serving in Afghanistan.
What did you think to tonight’s episode of Our Girl? Did you enjoy the ending?
Leave your comments below.