The Bravest Show of the Summer goes to: The Honorable Woman.
Series creator Hugo Blick’s masterful eye created a world of intrigue and switchbacks that entertained as well as provoked. With an exemplary cast of players, held together by the topnotch Maggie Gyllenhaal―always wonderful and here, never better―this political thriller kept us guessing… always.
Gyllenhaal is Baroness Nessa Stein. As children, she and her brother (Andrew Buchan) were witness to a horrible execution—that of their father. Both are emotionally scarred in many ways, but their love and loyalty for one another is deep and unbending.
Now an adult, Nessa runs the multi-million dollar corporation that was bequeathed to them and is intent on seeing that the company uses its power and resources toward affecting a lasting peace in the middle east.
In the meantime there are others, experts in misdirection, with more than enough power, sway and money to maneuver events and people, sometime from the shadows but just as often in plain site.
When we first see her the baroness is poised and in her element—celebrated and protected.
As the antiseptic controlled environment in which she exists begins to melt away an emotionally bruised Nessa is revealed. One who, though strong of will, is so battered in soul and spirit, she at times seems a human metaphor for the divided states she is desperately attempting to join.
Writer director Blick touched on this similarity when asked why he wanted to tackle such a delicate topic.
“I have a lifelong interest in the region, it is a cauldron of human identity, and it’s this turbulence reflected in the character of Nessa Stein that I wanted to explore. To a backdrop of the seemingly irreconcilable, this is a story about personal reconciliation. It was very interesting to take a world issue, distill it into a single family and then to explore how this tested them.”
Nessa, almost impossibly, strains to maintain a neutrality throughout it all… even as she manages to survive through horrific situations.
Shining a light to weed out the evil doesn’t do much good, if one doesn’t know in which direction to point the torch or, indeed, doesn’t know there is a need. At the core of it is love, family and betrayal. A familiar theme perhaps, but expertly layered, without a hint at melodrama, within the folds of this fractious political environment.
Blick talked about the delicate balance of entertaining against a backdrop of an extremely hotbed subject matter.
“Drama and entertainment in general should never shy away from difficult subjects, emotionally charged issues or complex themes. It is another medium through which we can explore different themes, ask difficult questions and highlight important issues. In The Honorable Woman the conflict is used as a creative device—a reflection of the internal conflict of the central character—but it also cements the drama in a clear time frame and a conflict that viewers can relate to or are aware of.”
Joining Gyllenhaal and Buchan are Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Lubna Azabal, Lindsay Duncan, Eve Best, Igal Naor, Katherine Parkinson, Richard Katz. They are all tops.
An eight hour marathon of The Honorable Woman begins at 12 Noon, Sunday, October 5 on SundanceTV.
It will entertain. It will shock. Do not miss the Bravest Show of the Summer. It will not disappoint.
(A TV Review)