After showing glimmers of promise in last week's hostage scenario, the latest episode of Our Girl is full of ridiculous, soap opera twists and turns.
The premise of Our Girl, BBC One’s army drama, shines bright with potential. A strong female lead, an army medic, is airdropped into a warzone, where she must hold her own in a team full of men while battling for the greater good. Its pilot, a TV movie back in 2014, was one of the best dramas the BBC produced that year; but lately I’ve struggled with some of the unrealistic turns Our Girl has made.
Where Season 1 had the brilliant Lacey Turner in the lead role, her commitment to EastEnders meant she was replaced with yet another soap star for Season 2; Coronation Street‘s Michelle Keegan. Where Turner had a gritty acting style which saw her well-suited to the role of female soldier, Keegan feels an odd choice for the role – or am I being stereotypical? It seems impossible for Keegan or her characters to look anything but truly stunning, and the skimpy clothes they place her in do feel like a ploy to attract a ‘certain’ male audience. The story devised is very soap-opera esque, as Keegan’s character, Lance Corporal Georgie Lane, is jilted at the altar by her fiance Elvis (Luke Pasqualino), only to be reunited with him in war-torn Kenya years on; when she is engaged to another man. In both Episode 1 and Episode 3, this plot overwhelms the actual young-woman-in-war drama.
Episode 2, however, shows glimmers of greatness. Taken captive by Al-Shabaab fighters, a claustrophobic hour of television simultaneously follows Georgie’s horrific captivity (which holds back nothing for want of censorship), and Elvis’ mission to rescue her. This is what Our Girl does well; this is a war drama, after all, so they need to focus on the trials of war. Georgie’s conversations with devoted humanitarian medics Kiki and Nafula are inspirational, but are given little screen time compared to the overdramatic, coincidental, and verging on ridiculous situations Georgie and her ex Elvis end up in.
Ben Aldridge (who I will now forever think of as ‘Arsehole Guy’ in the ingenious comedy Fleabag) is far more forgivable now Captain James is not just a bit of eye-candy for Turner’s Molly Dawes. He does feel like an Action Man, again being ridiculously attractive, and jumping around like he’s indestructible – but finally, James is allowed to demonstrate leadership qualities! A short shoot-out at the Kenyan hotel the squad is staying at feels like an unnecessary move, to satisfy the fans that will switch off if there are no action sequences for five seconds. And though Michelle Keegan is by no means bad (I’ve said it already, but those hostage scenes last week were good), she doesn’t show the same acting caliber as Lacey Turner, moreover as her character, Georgie, feels idealistic and thusly unrealistic, oddly placed in the army. And with an apparently indestructible character of pantomime villain levels returning from Kenya to London at the end of the episode, the ridiculousness looks set to continue.
Our Girl airs on BBC One, Wednesday nights at 9pm. The first three episodes are on BBC iPlayer.