While always compelling, so far The Honourable Woman has at times made for frustrating viewing, leaving so many questions left unanswered and often making us feel like outsiders with little knowledge. “The Ribbon Cutter” came at exactly the right time, giving an insight into how the main characters came to be and what situations led them to their current circumstances.
Set eight years ago, the fourth episode of the series reveals Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Atika’s (Lubna Azabal) torturous experience in Gaza, sees the beginning of Ephra’s (Andrew Buchan) decline at the Stein Group Foundation and makes the suggestion that Hugh Hayden-Hoyle (Stephen Rea) has climbed to the top of MI6 by sleeping with Julia (Janet McTeer). In the opening to the episode, during a family celebration of Ephra and Rachel’s (Katherine Parkinson) new baby, Nessa looks on at a collection of family photographs. The diegetic sound of an attendee singing a traditional Jewish song coincides with a panning shot of an array of frames filled with Stein memories. It seems “The Ribbon Cutter” will delve further into the history of the Stein family and their organisation, lessening the constant feeling that we are an outsider.
Nessa’s desire to travel to Gaza with Atika to investigate a mysterious £1.5 million payment connected to Ephra results in the two being brutally attacked and abducted. The quick cutting and use of various shots depicting the attack enforces a dramatic change in the episode that creates a sense of volatility set to continue. The abductor attacks them both and then rapes Nessa. We do not see his face, but just Nessa’s pain and Atika watching on, petrified before she brutally attacks him. It is painful to watch, closing in on Nessa’s strained face as she attempts to remain strong during such a traumatic experience. However, the reserved, conversational scenes at the end of the episode also spark particular interest. Atika and Nessa are set free and it comes to light that it is Nessa who is carrying Kasim (Oliver Bodur) and they will not return home until he is born. Furthermore, the abductor’s father is the man who ordered Nessa’s father’s death and he declares that he has “plans for her”.
Finally, after much waiting, we have answers. More than that, new judgements about characters can now be made. It is now a waiting game as to how the characters will handle themselves as their pasts begin to unravel.