The Little Drummer Girl

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
The Little Drummer Girl TV Poster Image
Slow, steady spy drama more about character than espionage.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It's a typical spy drama, in that it doesn't give much of a window into its characters' ethics or motivations, beyond general duty to country. Charlie is revealed to be a liar about some aspects of her past, but it's spun as a positive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aside from the characters being skilled at their jobs, there's very little to latch onto in terms of positive role models.

Violence

Violence appears sparingly, and the show tends to focus more on the consequences of violence -- death, destruction, turmoil -- than the acts themselves. There are hints at violent acts (torture, gunplay, etc.) that aren't shown.

Sex

Sex is talked about and hinted at but not shown.

Language

"S--t," "piss," "damn," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Charlie, the main character, smokes cigarettes, and many characters are casual drinkers, but there's no drug use and no one gets inebriated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Little Drummer Girl is a spy drama that focuses on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. However, outside of clearly choosing sides, it doesn't get too overtly political. It focuses on a team of spies who are trying to stop a terrorist organization by kidnapping one of its high-ranking members and then impersonating him and his girlfriend. Charlie (Florence Pugh), is an actress that gets recruited to play the girlfriend, and the show mostly forgoes typical spy drama plot beats (missions, betrayals, etc.) to focus on her character's journey from layperson to undercover agent. The show uses violence and profanity sparingly, does not feature sex or drugs, and is an OK choice for teens interested in some spy intrigue. 

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What's the story?

In THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, a bombing in Israel motivates Kurtz (Michael Shannon) to assemble a team of spies to try to infiltrate the terrorist network behind it. They capture the man behind the bombing and intend to impersonate him and his girlfriend to investigate the criminals. A mysterious man named Becker (Alexander Skarsgard) grooms and recruits an actress named Charlie (Florence Pugh) to play the girlfriend, and the series follows Charlie's transformation from layperson to spy.

Is it any good?

AMC has assembled a knockout cast and creative team for this John le Carré adaptation. Though The Little Drummer Girl can often move slowly, developing the espionage set-up and Charlie's character bit-by-bit, the performances by Florence Pugh, Michael Shannon, and Alexander Skarsgard are note-perfect and the direction by Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) is incredible, especially the cinematography, which seems to take the earth tones used by most British spy dramas and enhance them with swaths of vibrant Technicolor. The confident production allows it to delay the typical spy story payoffs and deliver more of a character study about Charlie and her journey from being plucked from obscurity to become a linchpin in a major undercover operation.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the character of Charlie. Why is she recruited to be a spy? What does Kurtz see in her that makes her valuable? How does she feel about being a spy?

  • There's a suggestion that one character has been tortured. Is it okay to use torture and other interrogation methods in order to prevent terrorism? Why or why not? 

  • Who are you rooting for in The Little Drummer Girl? Are any characters particularly likable or unlikable? Why?

TV details

For kids who love drama

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