WARNING: Spoilers for The Little Drummer Girl.
The Little Drummer Girl thrusts a British actress into deep cover to infiltrate a radical terrorist organization – and its riveting ending depicted the difficult life and choices of a double agent. Based on the novel by John le Carré, The Little Drummer Girl is a six-part miniseries directed by Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and airs in the UK on BBC One. The series was broadcast on AMC in the United States.
The Little Drummer Girl begins in 1979, when a bombing of a Jewish Talmudic scholar in West Germany prompts Israeli spymaster Martin Kurtz (Michael Shannon) to uncover the terrorist responsible, Khalil, the leader of a Palestinian terror cell. An elaborate ruse is concocted to recruit Charmain “Charlie” Ross (Florence Pugh), a British actress with radical left-wing beliefs, because Charlie once met Khalil’s brother Salim (Amir Khoury), who was recruiting in the UK under the name Michel and delivered the bomb alongside a Swedish sympathizer named Sophie (Bethany Muir). In Greece, Charlie meets Gadi Becker (Alexander Skarsgård), one of Kurtz’s agents who becomes her handler and lover as she is brought into Kurtz’s unnamed organization (which is apparently an adjunct of the Mossad). Gadi, posing as Michel, weaves an elaborate backstory between Charlie and Michel and puts her through a dangerous array of tests, the point being to make Khalil’s cell (who are always watching) believe that Charlie was legitimately Michel’s ex-lover. Meanwhile, Kurtz’s team captures the real Michel and Sophie and murder them after gaining what intel they knew about Khalil.
Related: Screen Rant’s The Little Drummer Girl Review
As The Little Drummer Girl continues and Charlie falls deeper into her life as a double agent, her true loyalties are continually questioned, especially after Khalil’s agents Helga (Katharina Schüttler) and Rossino (Alessandro Piavani) become satisfied with the apparent validity of her relationship to Salim/Michel. Charlie is brought to Lebanon to train as a terrorist bomber, where she passes the tests engineered by Fatmeh (Lubna Azabal), Khalil’s sister. After a month in Lebanon, Charlie is sent back to England to bomb a speech being delivered by the Israeli Professor Minkel (Ricki Hayut), and the bomb is given to her by Khalil himself (Charif Ghattas), whom she begins to fall for, and vice versa.
- This Page: What Happened In The Little Drummer Girl’s Ending?
- Page 2: Charlie’s True Loyalties In The Little Drummer Girl’s Ending
What Happened At The End Of The Little Drummer Girl?
When Charlie is brought to Lebanon by Khalil’s cell, Kurtz’s people begin to question whether her sympathies would eventually turn towards the Palestinian cause. Upon her return to England, Charlie is brought to Khalil’s safehouse in the countryside. Khali forces her to strip to her underwear and inspects all of her belongings, looking for surveillance bugs. In the process, he removes the batteries from Charlie’s transistor radio, which Gadi had been using as his primary means of listening in on and communicating with her. At the safehouse, Charlie again passes Khalil’s tests that she was once Michel’s lover and he shows her how he builds the bomb in the briefcase she is meant to bring to Professor Minkel’s seminar. Charlie also notes Khalil’s feelings for her, which first came to her attention when they initially met while posed as a guard in the Lebanon camp.
At Professor Minkel’s seminar, Charlie bypasses security and meets Gadi, who brings her to a room with Minkel, Kurtz’s team, and British Chief Inspector Picton (Charles Dance). Kurtz encourages her to “play the scene” and deliver the briefcase/bomb to Minkel just as she’s meant to, which Kurtz’ team then takes possession of. Gadi sends Charlie back to Khalil because her mission isn’t over; she is meant to romantically entangle Khalil and continue to keep his trust. Despite Charlie balking at her orders to sleep with the terrorist, she returns to Khalil, but with a new transistor radio identical to her old one – Charlie’s instructions are to remove the batteries after she has slept with Khalil. This would cut the signal, which would, in turn, be the signal for Kurtz’ team to move in and capture the terrorist leader. As Charlie leaves, the bomb explodes in the building behind her.
Back at the safehouse, Khalil watches the news with Charlie, satisfied that the plan worked and the explosion killed Professor Minkel. This was part of the deception Kurtz’s team worked out with Picton; while they did detonate the bomb, they faked Minkel’s death. After dinner, Charlie sleeps with Khalil and then goes to remove the batteries but decides not to, because she knows Kurtz’s team is nearby and waiting for the signal to strike. However, Khalil awakens when he notices no noise outside; every morning the milkman arrives at the same time but this morning, he didn’t (because Picton’s men cordoned off the surrounding area). Suspicious of Charlie’s attempts to calm him, Khalil demands to see Charlie’s belongings and finds batteries in her radio – which he had removed – and she can’t explain how the batteries got there since she had claimed she had “no time for herself” when she delivered the bomb and returned.
However, Gadi, who was watching and listening outside the whole time – including monitoring their lovemaking – disregarded orders and moved into the house while Khalil threatened Charlie with a gun and unwittingly removes the batteries himself. After Khalil forces Charlie to confess who she really is – that she’s “just an actress” – Gadi enters the bedroom and shoots Khalil, first in the head and then multiple times in the body. Kurtz, Picton, and their men then arrive to find the terrorist dead. After retrieving the intel in Khalil’s safehouse, the Israeli military and Mossad strike at Khalil’s cell by bombing their camp and murdering their agents like Helga and Rossino. Charlie is taken to a safe house in Israel to recover but spurns Kurtz’s offer to remain with his team. Instead, Charlie travels to West Germany to reunite with Gadi, who also apparently quit Kurtz’s group.
Page 2: Charlie’s True Loyalties In The Little Drummer Girl’s Ending
Why Was Charlie Recruited In The Little Drummer Girl And Why Was An Actress Important?
One of The Little Drummer Girl‘s underlying themes, which reflects real-world events in the present day, is that “terrorism is theater”. Khalil’s Palestinian terrorist cell was born from what they called “the disaster“, when the State of Israel was officially created in 1948, which turned the Palestinians into an occupied people. Khalil’s cell believes their terrorist acts like bombings are meant to bring the world’s attention to their cause, as if terrorism itself is a form of performance art. Realizing this, Kurtz, a lifelong Israeli spy who grew up in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, also equates his own life of spycraft with theater, calling his secret world “the theater of the real”. Kurtz understands that the lives he and his team lead, traveling under assumed names and role-playing constantly, is also an endless performance. Thus, in order to infiltrate Khalil’s organization, he decided he needed an actress.
The Little Drummer Girl depicts the elaborate methods Kurtz used to vet and recruit Charlie, like creating a fake audition to get her performance on tape. Politically, she was already a left-leaning radical who did once meet Michel – though they were never lovers. Kurtz also learned that Charlie already created an elaborate fictional past for herself when she left home to become an actress; Charlie claims she’s the daughter of a criminal who died in prison when in reality, her father died at home – she invented a more dramatic backstory for herself. All of Charlie’s natural tendencies and her ability to willingly adapt made her a prime recruit. In fact, when Gadi brought her to meet Kurtz at their Athens safehouse, Kurtz introduced himself as “the writer and director of your little show”, and he liked to engage Charlie in theatrical terms, praising her that she “should win an Oscar”. His pitch to Charlie was that playing a terrorist would be her “greatest performance”.
Charlie’s acting talent and skill at absorbing fictional backstories were crucial to The Little Drummer Girl. In the early stage of her training, Gadi (who memorized the forced confessions of the captured Michel) led Charlie through all of the beats of her fake love affair with Michel, which Charlie then had to convince Khalil’s agents and the terrorist leader himself was real and true. Things got worse for Charlie when she was taken to Lebanon and saw the inside of Khalil’s camp, befriending the children training to be soldiers as well as passing muster with Fatmeh. Charlie managed to convince everyone she is who she said she is, but being a double agent created the danger that she would permanently turn on Gabi and Kurtz and side with the Palestinians (since she was already sympathetic).
Where Did Charle’s Loyalties Really Lie At The End of The Little Drummer Girl?
Where Charlie’s loyalties truly belonged is the question at the heart of The Little Drummer Girl as she falls in love throughout the series. She is bluntly attracted to Gadi, although he spurs her sexual advances for a long time, keeping them both on their mission (yet he secretly reciprocated). It was only when Charlie threatened to quit after Kurtz confirmed he murdered Michel and Sophie that Gadi slept with her, but he also did it to keep Charlie on the mission before Khalil’s team brought her to Lebanon. Kurtz was concerned Charlie would be turned in Lebanon, but it was actually when Charlie returned to the UK and met Khalil that her loyalties were most tested.
When reporting to Kurtz and Gadi, Charlie told them that Khalil was falling in love with her, but she was also hiding her own growing feelings about Khalil (she did admit “he’s beautiful”). The pivotal moment that revealed Charlie’s changing allegiance is when she decided not to remove her radio’s batteries and signal Gabi after she slept with Khalil. She likely suspected Kurtz meant to have Khalil killed (like he did Michel) and he didn’t want that same fate for him. Despite this, Charlie never truly wavered from her attraction to Gadi, though she gradually hardened herself to the reality of their working relationship.
When it was all over, Charlie chose Gadi – hopefully to find something real with the former Israeli spy – but had things gone a different way and Khalil survived that morning at the farmhouse, we are left to wonder how much deeper Charlie would have gone down the rabbit hole in her life as a double agent. Perhaps she would have turned to Khalil’s cause eventually and her sympathies would have grown into love. That is the big question at the end of The Little Drummer Girl.
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The Little Drummer Girl can be streamed on the AMC app in the U.S. and concludes on BBC One in the UK.