Warning: Contains massive spoilers!
While Season One of Masterpiece Theatre’s World on Fire, about the first year of WWII, isn’t nearly as egregiously anachronistic as Anne with an E, it nevertheless has much to answer for. I’m so tired of people defending historical characters with Current Year values as just “ahead of their time,” “not the kind of characters you’re used to seeing,” and “looking back on the past, not portraying it.”
I’ve zero problem with hist-fic including things like interracial couples, gay characters, single moms, assertive women, and people questioning the status quo. All those things obviously did happen in the past, even if they weren’t socially acceptable or legal. The key is in portraying them in a historically accurate way.
And what does that mean?
People being very discreet, only confiding in extremely trusted people they know to be fellow black sheep, keeping secrets, facing negative consequences.
Instead of recapping the entire season, I’m going to focus on everything wrong with it. There are plenty of other places you can find full reviews of each episode and Season One as a whole.
1. Those familiar with historical weaponry have said the guns and tanks are anachronistic.
2. The term “dumb-ass” did not exist in 1940, unless I’m very much mistaken!
3. Posh, wealthy Robina is a cold, unfeeling antagonist. Not only is she one of the few well-rounded characters, she’s just acting like anyone in her position would. Being rich doesn’t make one an automatic villain.
4. The interracial gay couple in Paris seems to have been included just to tick boxes. This storyline doesn’t feel well-integrated with the others, with far less screentime. The lovers are also a bit too out and indiscreet for their era. Even if you’re in a progressive, Bohemian bubble, the outside world still exists.
5. Nancy would’ve been an extreme rarity, a female investigative journalist and news reporter, yet we don’t see her facing any sexism.
6. We’re supposed to believe someone of Nancy’s age (forties or fifties) has never heard of eugenics or Social Darwinism before? It was hugely popular in the U.S., not just Nazi Germany!
7. Nancy’s incessant meddling and refusal to leave well enough alone leads to a huge tragedy with her neighbors the Rosslers. I predict her causing a similar situation when she’s in the USSR in Season Two.
8. How was Nancy not arrested after her anti-Nazi broadcasts?! She has no concept of the danger loose lips cause in totalitarian countries. (And egads, Helen Hunt’s mask-like facelift is so creepy and distracting!)
9. We’re supposed to believe Nancy and Hr. Rossler disposed of a dead body without anyone seeing anything? Also love the comment “She’s a dead Nazi, and that’s good enough for me.” Did the writers intend a parallel with the modern “Punch a Nazi” slogan, where anyone to the right of Antifa is deemed a Nazi and therefore deserving of violence?
Polish national shero Emilia Gierczak (1925–1945), killed in action at Kołobrzeg
10. Kasia’s surname should be Tomaszeska, not Tomaszeski! Polish surnames have grammatical gender.
11. It seems highly unlikely a Wehrmacht soldier would’ve killed an unarmed civilian so early in the war, even if she spat at him. It smacks of yet another convenient plot development.
12. How is Harry able to take Kasia’s little brother Jan back to England without papers? He could’ve only brought Kasia, his wife (who elects to stay behind and be a freedom-fighter with no apparent awareness of what danger she constantly puts herself into).
13. How did two Polish guys get all the way to freaking Dunkirk?! Huge plot holes! And of course they just happen to end up on the same boat as Harry.
14. And of course Kasia’s brother Grzegorz just happens to end up in a hospital close to Jan’s new home with Robina!
15. Why is Harry sent back to Poland to smuggle out Resistance fighters? Wouldn’t England be more concerned about resupplying them to enable them to continue fighting on their native turf, and wouldn’t a member of the Polish Free Forces be chosen in lieu of an Englishman?
16. How convenient Harry just happens to parachute into the area where Kasia’s stationed!
17. Also convenient how a bomb explodes just as Kasia is being led to the gallows before this, enabling her to escape.
18. And how convenient only Harry and Kasia are left alive after the Nazis attack their outpost!
19. Who the bloody hell leisurely, matter-of-factly wanders around in the middle of a warzone or behind enemy lines?
20. I have so much to say on the beyond-historically-inaccurate depiction of Lois’s out of wedlock pregnancy, I’m saving it for its own post on Wednesday!
21. Robina claims the Nazis didn’t bomb Paris. That’s sure news to me, after I read articles about the June 1940 bombing of Paris!