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The Honourable Woman


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The Guardian has been recapping the episodes, and the comments section has been quite lively. I hope we can get more discussion going over here once these episodes air in the U.S.  I'll admit that I had a hard time getting into the series for the first four episodes or so, but the last two have been pretty wild!

 

I can't remember the exact wording, but when she and Nessa first met in the flashback episode, Atika made an offhand comment that she was also an orphan. My theory is that her parents were killed by a Stein bomb when she was a child, which is what drew her into a revenge plot. Then again, her actions in Ephra's death didn't seem very emotional or personal, so who knows?

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It was very unbelievable that the very intelligent bodyguard (don't know his name) would so easily be led into his fatal trap, so that bothered me. It also bothers me that I can't understand much of the dialog of this show. I need subtitles at the bottom of the screen!  I like the show, but I feel that I'm missing some important stuff because of heavy British accents.

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Yeah, I've been taking part in the discussions at the Guardian - not a forum I ever expected to find myself engaging with!

 

I've enjoyed the show from the start. I know it isn't perfect - nothing is - but I've found it absorbing and intriguing, I knew from the first episode that I was in for the long haul. I wanted to know how it would all play out. I still do. I like that the show requires its audience to pay attention and really think, rather than watching with half-an-eye only. I like that the characters are all so deeply flawed, driven by such different motivations and ambitions and demons. I've enjoyed the ride - looking forward to the final endgame!

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Count me in as another one who feels as if I'm missing key points of dialogue.  For my own clarification: now that the DNA test excluded Ephram (?) from paternity, does Rachel still believe that the boy's mother (can't think of her name) and her husband are having an affair?  I grasp that there is a lot of tension between the 3, but it's not always clear to me what's being said.  However, I did notice that Rachel was finally speaking to Kasim's mother in a calmer and more caring manner.  So, are we to assume that she no longer suspects the two?  

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Ephra is the man's name, and the housekeeper is Atika. The DNA test has put Rachel's mind more at rest than it was, but the tension within the family is longstanding.

 

Surprised that so many are struggling with the dialogue and accents. I've had no trouble with either. It's a show that requires its audience to pay close attention rather than watch with half an eye only, but I've enjoyed that about it.

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It bothers me in this show that it (seems) to revolve around an incident that happened to two main characters, yet the key facts of the incident are kept a secret from the audience. It smacks of manipulation to keep you watching the show, rather than serving any dramatic purpose.

Edited by Rickster
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It bothers me in this show that it (seems) to revolve around an incident that happened to two main characters, yet the key facts of the incident are kept a secret from the audience. It smacks of manipulation to keep you watching the show, rather than serving any dramatic purpose.

 

I've seen all seven episodes that have aired in the U.K. (The series finale will be Thursday the 21st.) Without giving away too much, I'll just say that the show does provide answers. Here's my channel guide's description of episode four, spoiler-tagged just in case:

episode four is entirely done as a flashback to what happened to Atika and Nessa eight years ago.

I'll admit that I was also bored and frustrated for the first few eps, but the plot has picked up in a big way in the second half of the season.

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A prominent British citizen and her translator are kidnapped, and their driver is killed eight years ago.

 

Wouldn't there have been news reports about this, possibly including photographs, that would have identified the driver, including the sex of the driver?

 

It just seems a little odd that Nessa & Atika expected to pass off their dead female driver as Kasim's father.

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The DNA tests prove nothing about Kasim's parentage. Atika brushed her teeth with a new child's toothbrush and then gave that to the police as Kasim's; that's why only maternal DNA (hers) showed up. If, as seems obvious, Nessa is Kasim's mother, they could not risk comparing his DNA to Ephra's because that would reveal that his mother and Ephra were a familial match. So no one has yet analyzed any sample of Kasim's DNA.

 

Wouldn't there have been news reports about this, possibly including photographs, that would have identified the driver, including the sex of the driver?

I think the big secret that Rachel and Ephra know, but not all the secrets, is that a kidnapping occurred at all. They covered Nessa's absence, although Shlomo noticed that Ephra was suddenly running the company around that time. MI6 knows about the kidnapping and rescue but that was in the eyes-only file that Julia said very few had seen.

I'm watching on the US broadcast schedule and don't want spoilers but clearly there's a bigger secret than the kidnapping of the two women and conception of the child. I hope things get less confusing fast, because there seem to be way too many different interested parties. My preliminary guesses are that the peace foundation is a cover for something more sinister, that Ephra may be working for the Palestinians, and that Atika helped set up Kasim's kidnapping.

Edited by Cardie
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I think the big secret that Rachel and Ephra know, but not all the secrets, is that a kidnapping occurred at all. They covered Nessa's absence, although Shlomo noticed that Ephra was suddenly running the company around that time. MI6 knows about the kidnapping and rescue but that was in the eyes-only file that Julia said very few had seen.

Ephra always ran the company. So what Shlomo noticed wasn't that Ephra was suddenly in charge while Nessa was away, but that he suddenly stood down after her return.

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Hayden-Hoyle uncovers that Nessa has been manipulated both by people close to her and by governments intent on exploiting her work. A thrilling climax in the desert wastelands sees Nessa fighting to save both her life and that of the kidnapped child as she attempts to make her way home.

The End. I've really enjoyed this series.

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Ahhhhhhhhh!

 

I've really enjoyed the series too. It's been tough to follow at times, but well worth it - I've found it intriguing, have been fascinated by many of the characters (so very flawed, so very human), and enjoy that it has demanded my full attention.

 

Oh Atika.

Edited by Llywela
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I could have really done without that montage of real-life clips, but otherwise a decent conclusion.

All I kept thinking through that montage was where the hell is little Ephra? We've seen flashback cinefilm of the young Nessa with her father a couple of times now, and there is never any sign of young Ephra in those clips. Maybe he'd been entrusted with the camera?

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It seemed clear that Atika and Ephra are sleeping together already. Atika also clearly manipulated Nessa into going into Gaza. I think she's in league with the sick guy who ordered Eli Stein killed but if not, she's running a long pro-Palestinian con vis a vis the Stein foundation's activities.

Edited by Cardie
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I thought it was awfully naive of both Ephra and Nessa for her to go to the Middle East by herself. I can understand her not wanting a phalanx of advisers and security, but to have no one?

 

Julia and Monica together were awesome.

 

I like how the meeting with Sir Hugh was staged, with the camera mostly on him drinking wine and eating grapes,  and the shouting and fighting off-camera. It really showed who he was.

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Both Steins have to be wildly naïve for the plot of this show to work. I love how it works as far as all the conniving manipulators circling the Steins but am sorry they have to have been pretty clueless in the beginning to jump start everything. Papa Stein was no doubt a sharp cookie like Shlomo and wouldn't have been taken in for a second. Killed yes, but fooled never. I like how the casting works in that Nessa and Ephra look so WASPy while all parties from the Middle East look like they have ethnic origins there. It symbolizes how out of touch with the region they are.

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It seemed clear that Atika and Ephra are sleeping together already. Atika also clearly manipulated Nessa into going into Gaza. I think she's in league with the sick guy who ordered Eli Stein killed but if not, she's running a long pro-Palestinian con vis a vis the Stein foundation's activities.

 

It seemed as if every other sentence out of Atika's mouth was asking about Ephra and how he was and whether he was coming along soon. She was so obvious I was surprised that Nessa didn't pick up on it. But I imagine she was totally focused on the task at hand and the newness of what she was seeing. 

 

I hadn't thought about Atika being in league with their captors. I'm not sure I agree with it 100%, but given the divided loyalties of of those in the region (and especially in Gaza, with several organizations battling for control) I wouldn't be surprised. 

 

Wow, were the sibling dynamics different back then! In the first episode, I remember Ephra saying that he had backed out of the leadership role because it wasn't in him anymore (paraphrasing here). It left me with the impression that Nessa was the business-oriented sibling, and Ephra was drawn to the less confrontational sphere of the charity foundation. But seeing the crucible that transformed Nessa from the "ribbon cutter" into the powerful and commanding Baroness Stein was very moving. Nessa learned that under Ephra, their corporation was not what she thought it was, and that their reputation for integrity only meant that they were less corrupt than others, or hiding it better, or both. I can only think that she came home from her captivity and childbirth with enough moral authority to bury her brother, and she booted Ephra out and into the job at the foundation. And I'm guessing that Ephra was so guilt-ridden that his actions led to Nessa's suffering that he didn't put up a fight. He, of course, was picturing his sister in a dire situation for months, with his government refusing to negotiate to get her out, when in reality it wasn't money or politics keeping Nessa from going home, but the baby. 

 

I had a suspicion going into the episode that the boy was Nessa's, but then as it appeared that Atika and Ephra were already involved, I thought that maybe the baby was Atika and Ephra's. The way it all played out after the rape was very interesting—the exile of the perpetrator, learning how he was burned, and that Atika and Nessa were only in captivity for a very small part of the year they were gone. 

 

I don't think that naïveté about the region and the conflicts there was the problem Ephra and Nessa had—a part of it, certainly, but not the main reason for the trouble. I think their biggest problem was that they were naïve about each other. Nessa fully believed that the family corporation, and especially her brother, would not trade in corruption. She was also trying to prove herself as someone with value beyond being a ribbon cutter, and a worthy member of her family (which didn't represent what she thought it did), and thus blundered into a situation far beyond her control. Ephra naïvely believed that his sister was happy with her decorative role as a ribbon cutter, and that she wouldn't read the paperwork and spreadsheets which led her to the evidence of corruption. He thought that keeping Nessa away from the realities of how the corporation actually worked was all he had to do. A real "Pat her on the head and tell her she's pretty" attitude. 

 

I was struck by this idea in @TaraAriano 's recap. 

 

 

Atika has jumped on his back to try to overpower him. It doesn't work, because she's tiny, and he easily gets her up against the wall and starts choking her to death. This goes on for a while, until we hear Nessa's voice -- frightened, but still firm and clear -- telling Saleh, "Stop it. Okay, look, I'm lying down. I'm lying down. Look. I'm lying down. Stop it. Stop it! Stop it, I'm lying down." … And so I think we don't see Nessa lie down because this isn't a melodrama. The point of this moment isn't for us to see Nessa's anguish as this man squeezes the life out of her friend, and Nessa deciding that the indignity of submitting to him is worth it if it will save Atika. We know that's what happens on her side whether we see her or not. The point of this moment is that Nessa is solving a problem in the only way she can. For that voice -- which by this point we're used to hearing give speeches or direct high-level meetings -- to float into the scene from Nessa's unseen face and announce her surrender is even more unsettling to me than what follows.

 

This is also the moment where it becomes clear to Nessa that, as long as she's imprisoned, her body is going to be the only thing of value that she has to bargain with: soon we'll see her trade the fetus she doesn't want to carry for Atika's life and freedom. For now, her captors can look. She's lying down. She'll stand up later.

 

Hearing the voice of Baroness Stern coming out of the air, where before we'd heard Nessa's voice, was a very powerful moment. This articulated it much better than I could say.

Edited by Kris117
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She was so obvious I was surprised that Nessa didn't pick up on it.

I'm certain Nessa did; there was a shot of Nessa where she was smiling that seemed to me to indicate she knew Atika was hung up on Ephra. Nessa might not suspect an affair, but it's clear she knows Atika has more than professional regard for Ephra.

 

she wouldn't read the paperwork and spreadsheets which led her to the evidence of corruption.

If he didn't think she'd read the paperwork, why give it to her in the first place? He could have given her a summary of where the money came from and where it went. If Ephra didn't want Nessa to find out about the money stuff, he shouldn't have given her the opportunity to see it. Nessa certainly stepped in it, but Ephra opened the door (to mix metaphors).

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When Ephra allows the Stein foundation to launder money from an American to free an Israeli soldier and thinks it gives him leverage and heroic status instead of putting him on every shit list in the region, he's being naïve about more than just the way the family operates. Nessa is naïve to think anyone in the Palestinian territories would be all gaga about getting charity from a Jewish foundation without using it for their own purposes. She may not be naïve after what happens in Gaza--although I still think she's in the dark about how she's being used. But I stand by my assertion that 8 years ago the two naively believed that they had some power to control events in that moral quagmire.

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Very good series. 
Real people reacting in real ways talking and acting like humans do and not like lobotomized idiots (hint like in a over hyped "true" show).
I wouldnt mind a second season by the same creative forces, even with a different characters on a different story/subject.

btw I didnt get it, who killed 

Chatwin? The Americans? the Israelis? the British?

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btw I didnt get it, who killed 

Chatwin? The Americans? the Israelis? the British?

Well, Julia did tell the American general to 'tidy up' (while also telling him to leave Hayden-Hoyle alone), so...

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First, I love McTeer and Best so much I can't even stand it. I gotta find a job where I can command my lover to come fuck me in his new office. I don't know how quite, but: day-um.

 

The calculation about Nessa's captivity had to have included rape. That the rapist was banned is not insignificant, but this takes place in a time after the breakup of Yugoslavia, where rape was widely used as a weapon of war, and widely so reported. Sure, the realities of rape for all women, ever, is certainly enough for it to be a calculation here, but even putting that aside, the odds of Nessa or Atika being raped in captivity was probably in the 80th percentile. 

 

So Ephra thinks that he may be the father of the kidnapped kid? This means he's as bad at math as putting together material for his sister to take to Israel, right? The women stay captive (essentially) for the gestation, but it's not clear how long before Nessa goes that he and Atika could have been having Unauthorized Sexytimes, but it seems to this viewer like too long. It requires some fanwanking: the baby comes early, the sex-to-rape period is shorter than I think it to be. Whatever.

 

Anyway, I am digging the hell out of this show. Beautifully shot, in addition to absofreakinglutely everything else.

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Sundance has been running a marathon of the first four eps (US pace) today, and it's amazing how the tiniest things suddenly have more significance with each successive episode. I don't know if it's a triumph of editing or of writing. I do appreciate that it's not easy - the show expects you to follow along, and I don't mind being manipulated by lack of knowledge as long as I sense the creators know where they're going with the mystery.

 

One thing that stood out to me in this episode: How open and enthusiastic Nessa was before the kidnapping, in contrast to the soignee sophistication that is her armour eight years later. And she may have been naive to the political realities of what she and Ephra were trying to do, but she was always incredibly sharp.

 

But. I still mourn the death of Nathaniel Bloom (Tobias Menzies). He really got her.

 

And I still can't quite figure out why the pregnancy had to be such a world-shaking secret. Maybe I'm being naive.

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I think there have to be more damaging secrets than just the baby. The child must have been leveraged at some point to get Nessa to do something for the Gazans--perhaps giving the telecom contract to Mishal (sp?). Why the pressure steps up and they actually take the child still isn't clear but I assume will be when we know more.

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It also bothers me that I can't understand much of the dialog of this show. I need subtitles at the bottom of the screen!  I like the show, but I feel that I'm missing some important stuff because of heavy British accents.

I thought it was just me

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I only found out about this show in time to see this episode on Sundance first. Between the accents and being disoriented by lack of knowledge from the first two episodes--which I later got on Amazon--I didn't realize that Nessa's tearful phone call had directly triggered the hit on Nathaniel Bloom!

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The baby was the grandson of the man who killed Nessa and Ephra's father. I'm not sure if that was common knowledge (that he killed their father), but I think the man's stature in the Middle East was (is? Not sure if he's still alive) such that the connection would be problematic for both of them.

 

I agree there's more going on that just a baby with tricky parentage.

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I mostly binge-watched the first four episodes, and I'm all in. This series is smart, engaging, well-written and gorgeously photographed. I love MG's work in this; I watch all her stuff after being blown away by Sherry Baby. And McTeer and Best in a scene together, one-upping each other in the close confines of a car? Heaven!

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Hugh is definitely the only man in London that isn't totally mowed down by all the female power on display. Of course, he only gets by being passive aggressive. And as far as his ex-wife is concerned, he's hopeless.

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I'm simplistic, but I think the story might have benefited if it were told in chronological order, and perhaps if there was a little bit more about what happeened between the time the Steins' father was assassinated, and right years ago. I might actually care more, but now I just don't. At least I don't care about the "reveal". It just seems like a cheap, cliched bit of manipulation, and I'm concerned this will turn into one of those stories where we find out the big reveal, or the big bad, only to find out an episode or two later there's a bigger reveal, or bigger big bad, etc. I don't mind that kind of crap in something like Strikeback, but The Honorable Woman appears to be aiming higher

 

It also made me wonder why I bothered watching the 1st three episodes, or at least the 2nd and 3rd episode.

 

Is there a stronger synonym for "naive"? Because that doesn't begin to describe Ephra and Nessa eight years ago. "Dangerously dumb" might be what I'm looking for.

Perhaps they were brain damaged from ricochet when their father was assassinated.

 

 

When Ephra allows the Stein foundation to launder money from an American to free an Israeli soldier and thinks it gives him leverage and heroic status instead of putting him on every shit list in the region, he's being naïve about more than just the way the family operates.

When a character behaves inexplicably to move the plot along, I consider that a story telling flaw.

If he didn't think she'd read the paperwork, why give it to her in the first place?

Obviously Ephra was setting-up Nessa to take her out and have the Palestinians in Gaza take the blame.

He wasn't laundering the money to free the Israeli soldier. He was just doing that to set a trap for Nessa.

Edited by Constantinople
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I didn't realize that Nessa's tearful phone call had directly triggered the hit on Nathaniel Bloom!

 

I guess I missed that as well!  How do we know that her phone call and the hit are directly related?

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I guess I missed that as well!  How do we know that her phone call and the hit are directly related?

We saw Nessa sitting on the floor sobbing her heart out as she heard the satellite phone ringing. She answered, still crying, and heard the same old question - 'is your secret safe?' Previously she has said yes. This time she said 'no, no it isn't.' Her secret was no longer safe because she'd been unable to dissuade Bloom from investigating Kasim's abduction - and she tried pretty damn hard to throw him off the scent, even attempting to seduce him. She knew that he was dogged and determined and good at his job, he'd keep digging until he reached the truth. Thus her secret was no longer safe. And saying so was the trigger for the hit. Then we saw Nessa going straight to Atika and collapsing in her arms, saying, 'I've done a terrible thing' - she knew what was going to happen, she knew what the call meant. She liked Bloom a lot, she trusted him immensely, she was grateful to him for saving her life. Yet she was complicit in his murder. That hit me like a tonne of bricks when this episode aired over here.

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I wonder if the "Honorable Woman" of the title refers to someone other than Nessa? While she has been shown to do some good things, she has profited from them, and it has been at least implied, if not shown, that she has done some decidedly dishonorable deeds.

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I like the show, but I feel that I'm missing some important stuff because of heavy British accents.

 

Me three. Or four.

 

I'm paying close attention, but that's not helping. Nor is the mumbling, nor Atika's Palestinian accent.

 

I'd watch with closed-captioning, but I'm watching via AppleTV, and I don't believe it's an option. (If it is, I've never figured out how.)

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Constantinople wrote:

Obviously Ephra was setting-up Nessa to take her out and have the Palestinians in Gaza take the blame.

He wasn't laundering the money to free the Israeli soldier. He was just doing that to set a trap for Nessa.

Wow, this is an amazing theory that never occurred to me. But I don't know if it jibes with the Ephra we've seen. I think back in the day he thought he was a baller, and when Nessa and Atika got kidnapped he was schooled pretty damn quick that he just is not. He was completely ineffectual in getting her out. And I suspect she did get out because of her own brains. She then knew that Ephra had compromised the company, so she had the leverage to get him to step down. This jibes with his current mopey passive-aggressive demeanour, to me.

 

It's interesting too that Ephra really doesn't know everything. He really thinks that Kasim is Atika's. Nessa keeps her secrets close. But I've watched the episode several times, and it doesn't look to me like the cleaner who killed Bloom was the same guy who raped Nessa in Gaza. I mean I thought he must be because of the burned face thing, and that they showed Atika burning the rapist. But Bloom's killer really doesn't look like the same guy to me. And anyway wth, if he is the same guy, it's not just Nessa's secret, it's his as well, since he's Kasim's bio-father. Confused on that point.

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As past events get filled in I'm rapidly losing interest in Nessa. She is a fool and a dupe. Love at first sight when she met Atika? Poking around the cable system heedless of the mess she got into when she poked around the Stein Foundation books? Getting weepy once an episode?

I suppose I'm jaded from the NSA leaks but wire taps seem so 20th century. I can't believe Israel, the PLO, the CIA and MI6 are killing so many people in the struggle to get their bugs in the telecom network.

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If the wiretapping is the big reveal, that is really ho hum

 

If it's just the intermediate reveal, after the "big" reveal about Kassim's parentage, that leads to the next reveal, then it's awfully formulaic.

 

Nessa's self-righteousness is really getting on my nerves.  Last I checked, Bloom took a bullet to the back of the head because she valued her precious secret more than someone's life.  Because God knows Nessa, only you can bring peace, enlightenment and justice to the Middle East.  In her own way, Nessa's just as much as a fanatic as those she decries.

 

I can't believe she actually had the nerve to get upset at Atika & Ephra, or anyone really, but I guess it's pot/kettle time.

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And I still can't quite figure out why the pregnancy had to be such a world-shaking secret. Maybe I'm being naive.

 

The show is very smart, so I'm willing to wait and find out if there's more to it than that, but as of now I agree with you. I found myself asking, "So why would it be a terrible thing for Nessa to come home with her baby, telling the world she was raped by one of her captors, and raise the baby openly as her own?" The gesture of raising her baby as her own might even be taken as a bridge between Jews and Palestinians. 

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I think it's absolutely correct to say that Nessa is a deluded, self-righteous fanatic, but it seems like the series understands that. I like that we're being given a heroine who is so deeply flawed, but not in the dark, hateful way that antiheroes typically are on TV. In a way, I'd say she's like someone from a Greek tragedy, with her well-meaning intentions leading everyone further down the path to hell.

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I am loving every bloody minute of this show. Even if I didn't, I'd be seduced by Stephen Rea doing his panting old dog impression. Or Caleb telling me 'this file is being a liar.' Caleb: never be learning proper English syntax, is okay. 

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