Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Honourable Woman

(UK, 2014)

Here we have an eight-part TV series from the BBC, and it’s a corker. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the Jewish head of a communications company that works to help bring some harmony to the Middle East by installing fiberoptic cables in Palestinian territory. Her father was assassinated right in front of her and her brother, at a banquet when they were young children. And eight years previous she was kidnapped in Gaza and held for about a year, until she was rescued. She is a real idealist, but she has a secret that can be used against her.

The plot is Byzantine, and full of surprises and violence, and there’s no point in going into it any deeper. This feels very much like John le Carré territory, where you’re never sure who is on what side. Sometimes the characters don’t even know. It’s hard to tell who to dislike the most: the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Brits, or the Americans. They are all backstabbing, despicable, scheming, violent bastards. Is it any surprise that the Middle East has been fucked up for sixty years, with not a smidgen of a sign of getting any better?

It is written and directed by Hugo Blick. There are really good performances from all the cast, notably Stephen Rea as what looks like the only other person in the story who actually wants to do some good in the world. But the show totally belongs to Maggie. It is a magnificent performance of a complex and conflicted character. One of the best roles I’ve seen in a long time.