The Little Drummer Girl's Ending Explained: Whose Side Is Charlie On?

Florence Pugh and Michael Shannon in The Little Drummer Girl AMC

Why Was Charlie Recruited In The Little Drummer Girl And Why Was An Actress Important?

One of The Little Drummer Girl's underlying themes, which reflects real-world events in the present day, is that "terrorism is theater". Khalil's Palestinian terrorist cell was born from what they called "the disaster", when the State of Israel was officially created in 1948, which turned the Palestinians into an occupied people. Khalil's cell believes their terrorist acts like bombings are meant to bring the world's attention to their cause, as if terrorism itself is a form of performance art. Realizing this, Kurtz, a lifelong Israeli spy who grew up in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, also equates his own life of spycraft with theater, calling his secret world "the theater of the real". Kurtz understands that the lives he and his team lead, traveling under assumed names and role-playing constantly, is also an endless performance. Thus, in order to infiltrate Khalil's organization, he decided he needed an actress.

The Little Drummer Girl depicts the elaborate methods Kurtz used to vet and recruit Charlie, like creating a fake audition to get her performance on tape. Politically, she was already a left-leaning radical who did once meet Michel - though they were never lovers. Kurtz also learned that Charlie already created an elaborate fictional past for herself when she left home to become an actress; Charlie claims she's the daughter of a criminal who died in prison when in reality, her father died at home - she invented a more dramatic backstory for herself. All of Charlie's natural tendencies and her ability to willingly adapt made her a prime recruit. In fact, when Gadi brought her to meet Kurtz at their Athens safehouse, Kurtz introduced himself as "the writer and director of your little show", and he liked to engage Charlie in theatrical terms, praising her that she "should win an Oscar". His pitch to Charlie was that playing a terrorist would be her "greatest performance".

Charlie's acting talent and skill at absorbing fictional backstories were crucial to The Little Drummer Girl. In the early stage of her training, Gadi (who memorized the forced confessions of the captured Michel) led Charlie through all of the beats of her fake love affair with Michel, which Charlie then had to convince Khalil's agents and the terrorist leader himself was real and true. Things got worse for Charlie when she was taken to Lebanon and saw the inside of Khalil's camp, befriending the children training to be soldiers as well as passing muster with Fatmeh. Charlie managed to convince everyone she is who she said she is, but being a double agent created the danger that she would permanently turn on Gabi and Kurtz and side with the Palestinians (since she was already sympathetic).

Where Did Charle's Loyalties Really Lie At The End of The Little Drummer Girl?

Alexander Skarsgård and Florence Pugh in The Little Drummer Girl AMC

Where Charlie's loyalties truly belonged is the question at the heart of The Little Drummer Girl as she falls in love throughout the series. She is bluntly attracted to Gadi, although he spurs her sexual advances for a long time, keeping them both on their mission (yet he secretly reciprocated). It was only when Charlie threatened to quit after Kurtz confirmed he murdered Michel and Sophie that Gadi slept with her, but he also did it to keep Charlie on the mission before Khalil's team brought her to Lebanon. Kurtz was concerned Charlie would be turned in Lebanon, but it was actually when Charlie returned to the UK and met Khalil that her loyalties were most tested.

When reporting to Kurtz and Gadi, Charlie told them that Khalil was falling in love with her, but she was also hiding her own growing feelings about Khalil (she did admit "he's beautiful"). The pivotal moment that revealed Charlie's changing allegiance is when she decided not to remove her radio's batteries and signal Gabi after she slept with Khalil. She likely suspected Kurtz meant to have Khalil killed (like he did Michel) and he didn't want that same fate for him. Despite this, Charlie never truly wavered from her attraction to Gadi, though she gradually hardened herself to the reality of their working relationship.

When it was all over, Charlie chose Gadi - hopefully to find something real with the former Israeli spy - but had things gone a different way and Khalil survived that morning at the farmhouse, we are left to wonder how much deeper Charlie would have gone down the rabbit hole in her life as a double agent. Perhaps she would have turned to Khalil's cause eventually and her sympathies would have grown into love. That is the big question at the end of The Little Drummer Girl.

Next: Bodyguard's Ending Explained

The Little Drummer Girl can be streamed on the AMC app in the U.S. and concludes on BBC One in the UK.

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