The first episode of BBC2’s The Honourable Woman starring Maggie Gyllenhaal was engaging and compelling, thrusting the audience into a fast-paced whirlwind. The episode begins with a back-story as a young boy and girl witness the brutal assassination of their father. The scene is followed with a voice-over narration by now-adult Nessa Stein (Gyllenhaal), opening with the question “who do you trust?” which immediately signals a plot of suspicion and uncertainty.
The episode shows a string of key moments that leave the audience with many questions waiting to be answered in the next installment. The first is why Samir Meshaal (Adnan Rashed), a Palestinian entrepreneur awarded a multi-million pound Internet cables contract, is killed. More suspicious activity is flagged up as Nessa’s brother Ephra (Andrew Buchan) is told by an MI6 agent that his “secret is safe”. Each moment is constructed carefully, drawing suspicion and a sense of calculation to such scenes as MI6’s Hugh Hayden-Hoyle’s (Stephen Rea) game of chess as he discusses Mishal’s death, and the further meaning behind a watch given to young boy Kasim (Oliver Bodur).
Using archive footage of Nessa as a child, an intimate moment whereby Nessa watches old home movies is presented. She pauses the tape on an image of her father and opens up the curtains, offering a glimpse of her more personal and vulnerable side that we are treated to once more in the climax of the episode in an extended chase sequence. It appears that Nessa puts up a front, holding her ground during speculative interviews and seemingly unfazed by threats and danger. Yet as Nessa enters a clinical looking safe room behind the wall of her bedroom, a complete contrast in presented: a woman who is fragile and drained.
The final shot of the episode is a simple of image of Kasim's mother Atika (Lubna Azabal), who has already been personally linked to Nessa, sitting at the kitchen table. Nessa’s opening question – “who do you trust?” - lingers as we anticipate the next episode.
The Honourable Woman Episode 2 “The Unfaithful Husband” airs on BBC2 Thursday 10th July at 9pm