Khalil (Charif Ghattas) and Charlie (Florence Pugh)
Photo: Jonathan Olley (AMC)

“I hope it was worth it.”

That last line spoken by Khalil reverberates throughout a frequently messy, occasionally powerful finale. After all of Kurtz’s work—welcoming Charlie into the fold, convincing Becker to return to the field, the deep infiltration of a terrorist cell, all the surveillance and time and effort and danger—what was it for exactly? In the end, all Kurtz has are a bunch of dead bodies and destroyed camps that will be quickly replaced by new, angrier ideologues. Revenge begets revenge. The violent cycle will continue unabated. What did we learn, Palmer? To do it again and again and again.

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“Episode 6” has an odd structure insofar as the middle section largely depends on a character who’s been previously defined by his mystery and absence. To compensate for this, writer Michael Lesslie devotes much of the episode’s first section to Khalil and Charlie. Luckily, Charif Ghattas does a good job of bringing a quiet, devoted energy to his character, forgoing labored theatrics for determination. Charlie plays coy and continues to either parrot Becker-as-Michel’s words directly or take his advice, but Pugh also adds a buried sense of attraction for the man. Being a rookie double agent, Charlie understandably has trouble keeping her affinities in check. Up until the moment she delivers the bomb briefcase back to Becker, it’s not 100% clear that she won’t just go through with the attack anyway, especially after seeing Khalil’s family ravaged by Israeli fighter jets.

The scene at the Polytechnic is brief by necessity—after all, there’s not much to convey after it’s clear that Kurtz and Picton will collaborate on the fiction that the bomb killed the professor—but it leads to the second phase of the plan: Capture Khalil and turn him. Naturally, that means that Charlie will be sexual bait, which pleases neither her nor Becker, who’s forced to convey Kurtz’s maniacal demands yet again. Charlie returns to Khalil’s stronghold with specific instructions: Whenever he’s vulnerable, she’s to remove the batteries from her radio, and then Kurtz’s team will take him.

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Lesslie’s script demands Pugh convey a variety of conflicted emotions in Charlie’s tryst with Khalil. On one hand, she’s nervous to place her body in such an exposed context for Kurtz’s operation yet again, but she’s also channeling her feelings for Becker/Michel through Khalil’s body. On top of that, she’s also getting back at Becker for putting her in this compromised position in the first place. All of that fraught energy results in a tensely erotic scene that’s all but designed to be contrasted with Becker and Charlie’s sexual encounter. In that scene, Park privileges romance over lust, conveying the heat between them through suggestive imagery that implies a deep emotional connection. Here, it’s more about the body than the heart. Charlie and Khalil fuck, only for emotion to get in the way much later.

The key moment comes when Charlie initially decides not to remove the batteries from her radio. She has the opportunity but declines, instead postponing the moment in order to remain with Khalil a little bit longer, bonding over his scars just like she did with Becker. It might not be love between them, but it’s something more than just pure espionage. One thing’s for sure: Charlie has lost the thread regarding who she is and what she’s doing.

However, their “bliss,” or whatever you want to call it, is short lived. Picton’s team surrounds the house in defiance of Kurtz’s plan. Khalil notices that the milkman hasn’t arrived and immediately picks up on Charlie’s excuses and concerns. It’s not long before Khalil realizes that the batteries in Charlie’s radio would have died on their own long before now and the jig is up. She tries to apologize through nervous tears while he tries to suss out her identity.

“Then what are you?”

“I’m an actress.”

“So you don’t believe in anything?”

And that’s the kicker. Charlie isn’t an ideological crusader fighting for justice or country or honor. She’s just playing a role on a global stage and, in the process, has been forced to maneuver through murky moral waters. She isn’t a Zionist. She isn’t a radical. She relishes peace but has committed violence. She’s a liar who constantly mixes it with the truth. What does she believe in? Love, maybe, but love hasn’t received a fair shake this go around.

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In the end, Becker kills Khalil against Kurtz’s orders. Charlie tells the team the location of the Lebanese camps and the Israelis blow it and the rest of Khalil’s team to smithereens. Kurtz’s team systemically murder the rest of Khalil’s assets—Helga, Anton, Rossino—in the name of Gabriel, the eight-year-old killed in Germany. All loose ends are tied up.

Except not really. As Charlie decompresses in a secure retreat in Israeli, Kurtz pays her a visit and shows her Khalil’s signature found in a bomb in Amsterdam which killed 15 people. “You cannot stop the devil. Only the man performing him,” Kurtz explains, but their pursuit of the devil has only alienated those closest to him. Becker no longer speaks to him. Charlie refuses to shake his hand. After all that shooting at the sky, they only managed to hit the roof, and his best people have abandoned him.

Charlie finds Becker appropriately tending a garden in Israel. They don’t know who they are after all this, but they’re willing to talk it through over some tea. The world might not be salvageable, but maybe, just maybe, people can be, one question at a time.

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Stray observations

  • Charles Dance returns as Picton and delivers another nasty line to Kurtz: “Well, no one lies with a smile on your face like your lot.”
  • Park hasn’t had many memorable stylistic moments these past two episodes, but the shot of the Polytechnic’s parallel stairs as Charlie and Becker descend different flights is a series highlight.
  • There’s a nice callback with a child and a blue ball at the very end, similar to the one that Gabriel was playing with. Every death breeds new life.
  • That does it for The A.V. Club’s coverage of The Little Drummer Girl. I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution,” which was the last song to blare out of Charlie’s radio.

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