Respect is the Thing Most Worth Fighting for in 'World on Fire' Season 2's Mid-Point

Ahad Raza Mir as Rajib saluting in World on Fire Season 2

Ahad Raza Mir as Rajib in World on Fire Season 2

BBC/Mammoth Screen

World on Fire’s Season 2 mid-point picks up in Libya, where Harry rejoins his regiment. The Seige of Tobruk is getting dire, with control of Alexandria and Suez and supply routes to Britain at stake, and Churchill himself has ordered that positions must be held. Captain Briggs orders Harry to join the Australian troops and Rajib to lay a tactical minefield. Rajib suggests laying a standard formation since the Germans are familiar with a tactical minefield. Briggs dismisses his suggestion. Stan is dubious, but Harry tells him their main goal will be to take out German infantry, not mess with tanks. Briggs’ dismissive attitude angers Rajib, and one of his men tells him it is an insult to them all.

Rajib: “We have always thought that the English, with their famous decency, will reward our loyal service, but our loyal service does not merit a salute.”

As Rajib reads a letter from home, an Australian offers him a cigarette, a Navy Cut, standard issue for white officers, and yet another reminder that Indian soldiers are considered inferior. He bitterly comments that he’s fighting for England and India, but he’s losing on all fronts. Briggs tells Rajib he and his men should set a standard minefield, as Rajib initially recommended. He’s angered by the disrespect he and his sappers receive despite the danger of their work. He salutes Briggs and waits for a response since, as an officer, he’s technically due one in return. Rajib’s men watch, and Briggs orders them to stand down. But they don’t move, and he instructs Rajib to discipline them.

Rajib calls Briggs out for not saluting him back three times in a  row and says as soon as he shows proper respect to a fellow officer, his men will gladly obey orders. Harry moves to Briggs’ side and salutes Rajib in a gesture of support, forcing Briggs reluctantly to do so as well. As Rajib snaps his hand down and starts to walk away, Briggs, losing control, shouts at the sappers to start setting the minefield, and Rajib is the first to begin the work. He tosses the pack of Navy Cut to his men.

 Jonah Hauer-King  in "World on Fire" Season 2

 Jonah Hauer-King  in "World on Fire" Season 2

(Photo: Masterpiece)

Harry dives behind a wall of sandbags when he hears gunfire. But it’s a jokester Australian officer encouraging his men to shoot seagulls. The Australians reckon the Germans know where they are; meanwhile, it’s good for morale and keeps them busy. When German tanks and infantry move in, creating a nightmare of noise, bullets, and flying sand, one of Harry’s men is trapped without cover, and Harry dashes out to save him. Stan is annoyed with the unnecessary risk, reminding him his daughter needs a dad, not a dead hero. Later, Harry notices a plane and dives for cover as shots are fired. He retrieves an object close to his head and discovers it’s a live bullet. He’s had a very narrow escape.

If you’re hazy on the geography, back in Manchester, Sir James, Kasia, and Jan pore over a map peopled with toy soldiers and vehicles and a salt cellar representing Tobruk. Kasia’s first MI-5 assignment is in to investigate a Polish suspect, Irina (Agnieszka Podsindlik), who works at the Avro Factory where Lancaster bombers are built. Irina walks her dog twice daily, and Kasia is given a dog as cover. When she returns home with the dog, Jan is thrilled, and Kasia tells Robina it’s a gift to cheer Jan up. Robina is appalled. A dog! Worse, a low-class dog! Wilf — the name is Polish for wolf — is a lurcher, a breed associated with poachers, according to Robina. He is not allowed in the house.

Kasia prepares to take the dog for a walk, and Jan insists on coming along. In the park, Jan releases Wilf, who rushes over to befriend Irina’s dog, jumpstarting Kasia’s investigation. The two women bond immediately, thrilled to speak their native language, and Irina invites Kasia and Jan for a proper Polish dinner. Kasia, not wanting to involve Jan, visits Irina the next day alone. While Wilf makes himself at home on the sofa, Kasia explains her brother isn’t well. Irina gives her chamomile and honey for Jan, which brings back a host of memories of Kasia’s mother. The two women share their grief over the fate of Warsaw and their families and hug each other.

Lesley Manville as Robina on a picnic in World on Fire Season 2

Lesley Manville as Robina in World on Fire Season 2

BBC/Mammoth Screen

Baby Vera is still teething, and Robina is trying to get someone — anyone — to take over. Joyce brings her the mail, crying because she hasn’t heard from her husband for weeks. It sends Robina into a rant about cleaning up Haarry’s messes, Kasia’s refusal to stepmother Vera, and the dog, which she thinks is an excuse to leave the house. In the middle of this, Sir James proposes a garden picnic with Robina, offering Joyce to name her price to babysit (she asks for a pound, a lot of money back then), which he hands over. Robina is impressed; there’s champagne and better food than usual, thanks to his contacts. She even gets flirty. Clearly, she’s attracted to him, but what is he up to?

Kasia reports back to her MI-5 supervisor Irina is not a spy. Didn’t she say the only good Nazi was a dead one? He reminds her that’s exactly what a spy would say, and Kasia needs to (wo)man up. Kasia returns to the park and discovers Irina’s drop, a buried metal tube that holds a plan of the factory. Crushed, she tells Sir James about her disappointment. Irina could have been her friend. Robina sees them talking to each other and jumps to the conclusion that they are having an affair. When Robina finds that Kasia and Jan have set the table for tea for three people, she chastises Kasia for inviting someone without her approval and sends Jan away so she can speak freely to his sister.

She then starts lecturing Kasia about Sir James, saying she cannot condone Kasia’s infidelity. Kasia tries to deny it, but she can’t tell her what’s going on. Worst of all, this is when Kasia reveals the third setting is for Robina, as a gesture of apology and domesticity, and her wish for peace between them. She has even made a Polish poppy seed cake.... missing vital ingredients. It looks like a jam-covered brick. By the time Jan returns to the table, Kasia has escaped to look after the baby, and he brightly asks Robina if she loves Sir James.

Eugénie Derouand as Henriette and Gregg Sulkin as David in 'World on Fire' Season 2

Eugénie Derouand as Henriette and Gregg Sulkin as David in 'World on Fire' Season 2

BBC/Mammoth Screen

In Germany, Marga attends a Lebensborn pep talk. She is still thrilled by the Nazi rhetoric, despite her isolation and the mostly unpleasant treatment she’s received so far. She faints and is taken to the doctor. There, we learn that Marga has been here a while and is starting to rack up a history of failed pregnancies within the first 12 weeks. The doctor suspects that she may have non-Aryan ancestry. This time, she’s put on bed rest and longingly watches the other young women perform their exercise/dance routine outside. What will happen to Marga if she can’t carry this pregnancy to term? 

Meanwhile, the last time we saw RAF pilot David, he was injured and hiding from German soldiers somewhere in France. A little boy finds him and runs for help, coming back with a doctor who then instructs the child to fetch “La Parisienne” before giving David an injection that knocks him out. Sure enough, it’s Henriette, who has settled in a village overrun with German soldiers and who hides escaped British soldiers. It’s very risky. She’s a stranger there, and the atmosphere in the village is one of fear and shame, with Henriette under suspicion from everyone except the other Resistance workers.

David has septic wounds and a dislocated shoulder, which she sets without morphine while he bites down on a wooden spoon. Ouch. But there is some indication that these two gorgeous people are attracted to each other. David’s hidden in a closet in the house, which allows him to see a very uncomfortable scene when a German officer visits and propositions Henriette, backing her into a corner and reducing her to tears. It’s time for her to move on, and although David tries to persuade her to leave without him, she refuses, and the two of them travel hidden in a truck. At a checkpoint, the German soldiers search the truck, take some bottles of wine, and send them on their way.

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World On Fire

Emotionally gripping World War II drama World on Fire premieres on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
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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.

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