'World on Fire' Season 2 Takes The War to North Africa

Picture shows: Lois (Julia Brown) walks away from her baby and Robina to join the ATS abroad. Robina watches her leave from an upstairs window.

Lois (Julia Brown) walks away from life in Manchester. Robina (Lesley Manville) watches from an upstairs window.

Credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen

World on Fire Season 2's second episode opens with Harry arriving in the North African desert, where he’s greeted by his sergeant Stan Raddick, and the two of them resume their sarcastic banter. Harry is introduced to Rajib — “Same rank as you, but more convincing” — as Stan demonstrates you can fry an egg here on a vehicle that’s been standing in the sun. Harry drops to the ground as an Italian plane screams overhead, the daily visit to the British troops, to Stan’s amusement. Stan asks for the latest news on Harry’s entourage, and when Harry tells him Kasia’s safe at his mother’s, Stan snorts with amusement. “I thought you said she was safe.” We know just what he means.

Robina: Every rock bun at the Women’s Institute bears testimony to a woman’s rage.

In Manchester, Robina has a literary moment with Jan about the etiquette of throwing a last-minute party and then agreeing to go on a quest. Jan explains that’s what makes The Hobbit the book it is, but Robina is unimpressed. She pursues Kasia, glumly setting the table to give her a pep talk. No excuses; it’s time Kasia shaped up. To do what, we’re not quite sure, but possibly try to become a polite Englishwoman. Robina accuses her of self-centered indulgence, unaware or not caring, that Kasia carries deep psychological scars from her war experiences.

At the end of last week, we saw Lois stand in a bombed house, watching the ceiling come down on her head. She survived with minimal injury; as she and Tom visit their father’s grave, she admits that she wanted to die. But her relationship with Tom has strengthened; she’s able to be more open with him. He’s off to sea, and they don’t know when they’ll see each other again.

Picture shows: Albert (Parker Sawyers) in the Paris detention center. A swastika hangs behind him.

Albert (Parker Sawyers).

Credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen

We’re finally back to the Paris storyline from last season, where Nurse Henriette (Eugénie Derouand), last seen aiding Tom, runs a network to get Allied soldiers out of occupied France. Her student brother, Luc (Arthur Choisnet), hides in her store room. His presence puts them both in danger; her papers are forged to conceal her Jewish descent but won’t stand up to close inspection. She gives him a surgeon’s cap and gown, only to find the place swarming with soldiers blocking their exit, and he’s arrested. Henriette finds Albert (Parker Sawyers), Dr. Webster’s ex from last season, who advises her to get out, but she is determined to save her brother and persuades Albert to help. 

In the desert, Harry is explaining why this theater of war matters. If Operation Compass fails, the Allies’ oil supply will be cut off, and Europe will fall. As usual, there’s a sandstorm coming, and the unit digs in for the night. George (Forrest Bothwell) leaves the tent he shares with Joe (Cel Spellman) and doesn’t return. But this isn’t discovered for hours until the unit plans to leave, having attacked and overcome a significant Italian outpost. Harry follows the cord George used to guide himself from the tent and finds his body covered in sand. He digs a grave and then writes to George’s family about his death. The desert, not the Italian army, is the enemy.

Over in Berlin, Gertha makes a final appeal to Marta not to enter the Lebensborn program. Marta retorts that it’s like talking to a traitor. Just as it seems their friendship is over, Marta reaches out to Gertha, asking if she’ll come to speak to the teacher who invited her to join the program, and Gertha agrees. But it’s a trap; Marta reported her former friend to the SS, who arrest and interrogate her. She’s terrified as they accuse her of treason and demand the names of others involved until the questioning ends and she’s told she is no longer a traitor. As she’s released, she sees Herr Trutz, the teacher who tried to protect her and who she named, dragged in for questioning.

Picture shows: Sir James Danemere (Mark Bonnar) and Jan (Eryk Biedunkiewicz) smile conspiratorially over a game of chess.

Sir James Danemere (Mark Bonnar) and Jan (Eryk Biedunkiewicz).

Credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen

Robina has still more people to look after as Sir James Danemere (Mark Bonnar) has been billeted to her house while he carries out high-level work in Manchester. She becomes uncharacteristically fluttery around him, and he lays on the charm, assuring her he’ll mostly be out of her way. Jan, thrilled to have another chess player in the house, receives guidance on the game’s next level of strategy as James ingratiates himself with the family. He makes Kasia’s court case disappear and even commandeers a Christmas tree for the family.

The RAF crew mourn their most recent losses, except David, earning himself another round of telling-off and anti-Semitic abuse. David heads to the pub where he meets Grzegorz and Connie and has a flirtatious meet cute with Lois. (He goes home with Connie.) That Christmas Eve, David and the squadron fly out, yet another of his flying partners meets with disaster, and David also crashes. Back at Robina’s, Kasia runs into Lois when she arrives to drop off Vera, discovering they have more in common than Harry. Both women want to get away and do something meaningful, and while Lois has Vera to care for, it’s not enough. Kasia warns her she’ll need to be strong.

Lois drops her bombshell on Robina that she’s signed up for the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s support arm of the British Army) and heading to Cairo. (Yes, it’s a whole continent, but she and Harry will meet up because this is TV drama). Robina is horrified and insulted when Lois says surely she should know how it is not to have maternal feelings. But she’ll take care of Vera; both women know it. James is surprised Robina doesn’t expect Kasia to take over childcare; apparently, he can’t see Kasia’s dark side. Kasia remains quietly watchful of him; having noted the gun in his suitcase. 

Stream Now

World On Fire

Emotionally gripping World War II drama World on Fire premieres on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
World on Fire: show-poster2x3

Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

More to Love from Telly Visions