World on Fire (BBC/PBS TV Series)

3 Kernels

Well, stuck at home for 24 days now, I finished in two days on PBS Passport the series “World on Fire,” which originally aired on BBC and now is streaming each week on PBS Masterpiece. Series two has already been commissioned by BBC, and apparently, it could go on through six series in total if it gets picked up for the remainder.

The storyline is not a simple one. It involves a huge cast of characters situated in Germany, Poland, France, and England in the first seven episodes. Scenes flop back and forth between the lives of all these individuals set in 1939 just before Germany’s invasion of Poland. As the series progresses, you see the Nazis systematically invade Poland, Belgium and then France. As Europe falls into its clutches, the characters are taking their own journey during these turbulent times.

The main family groups are the Bennetts, consisting of a father (Douglas) who has residual shell-shock syndrome from WWI, his daughter (Lois), and a son (Tom) who is in trouble with the law most of the time. Harry Chase and his mother, Robina, are the next family circle. Harry is initially Lois’ love interest. Harry travels to Poland and becomes involved in the Tomaszeski family, falling in love with the daughter. Then there is Helen Hunt, who is a war correspondent based in Berlin, and her nephew who is a doctor in Paris.

Audiences may find it difficult to keep track of the multiple storylines and the changes of scenes between each family group and location.  The series pulls no punches and paints the Nazis in the cruelest light possible in their invasion of Europe. No one is safe–Jews, homosexuals, people of color, or children with disabilities. It focuses heavily on the Nazi beliefs of the “master race.”

Some of the storylines do not quite make sense and backgrounds are not fully fleshed out. Lois’ feelings toward Harry had me scratching my head. Harry’s mother is a hard nut to crack. Tom is a pain in the neck. Nevertheless, despite some pitfalls it holds your attention.

Beware that the season finale leaves its audiences on a cliffhanger that is going to make you wait for another year or more to find out what happens next. Just as a point of personal ranting, I am finding this new trend of cliffhanger theatrics in a lot of series of late to be irritating. Just because the cliff is there, it doesn’t mean there will necessarily be a season two.  Sanditon and Beecham House are two series that cruelly left their audiences because of non-renewals. I’m not sure that viewers are going to continue to be forgiving if this trend continues in the hopes that just because they leave us on the edge of our seats it will mean they will return for another season.  BBC and ITV need to rethink this ploy.

If you are into WW2 movies/series, tune into “World on Fire.” Since it doesn’t look like Victoria will be returning, for the next few years, you can count on being dragged through war instead.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.  And for goodness sake, stay home and binge-watch television.

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