This article contains spoilers for 2x01 and details from the full-season trailer.
World On Fire Season 1 premiered on MASTERPIECE at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Season 2’s premiere, with wars and rising fascism, make the series more relevant than ever before. One of the most impressive things about the premiere is the way almost every major plot line is seamlessly woven together. There are new recurring faces in the fight for and against Nazi Germany. Let’s pull apart each plot thread and take a closer look.
The North African Desert
The North African desert is a new battleground this season. These locations represent a major shift for the series from Season 1. For those unaware, World On Fire lost the ability to use their Eastern European filming locations from 2018 and 2019 due to the ongoing pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Season 2 explains the shift in venue simply by noting that Harry’s unit from Dunkirk has been reassigned to fight in the region. This is historically plausible as the British Army regularly moved troops around not only between the existing battlefields with the Axis powers, but also between their colonies.
Many World War II period dramas do not mention North Africa, but control of the region was extremely important for the British. If Italy and Germany gained control of the Suez Canal and expanded their territory beyond their existing colonies, the British Empire would be cut in half, and in addition, the British would lose control of oil supplies.
Harry will meet some new comrades in arms in North Africa but their roles are divided by race. Rajib (Ahad Raza Mir) leads a group of British Indian Army troops who have the highly dangerous and often thankless task of clearing German and Italian mines and setting down new mines to protect British-held territory. Their work would pave the way for the white British Army units to perform less dangerous fortification defense tasks. Future episodes will show Rajib, Harry, and their fellow soldiers braving the unpredictable weather of the desert as well as fighting the Axis troops.
Despite the location change, World On Fire hasn’t lost sight of centering ordinary people’s experience of the war, as well as marginalized groups left out of older WWII-set period dramas. This aspect of Season 2 will be discussed in more detail after key spoilers are revealed.
Season 2 sets up a new German civilian plotline to follow using one of the pilots who bombs Manchester, England. The pilot's sister Marga (Miriam Schweick) belongs to the Band of German Maidens, which was the girls' division of the Hitler Youth. Marga is a diehard true believer in the Nazi cause, which is a different direction than Season 1’s German civilians who were resisting government control of their family. Marga is selected for the Lebensborn (Fount of Life in English) program which she is told is the highest honor for an Aryan girl. Marga’s teacher Herr Trutz and her friend Gerta do not share her enthusiasm for the program. The Lebensborn program in fact was one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious eugenics programs where women were routinely forced to have sex with various Nazi soldiers in order to have “perfect” blonde-haired and blue-eyed babies. The mothers were forced to surrender the babies to the Nazis to raise. Marga’s brainwashed idealism may not stay for very long this season.
What about the characters in occupied Paris and back in Manchester? Future episodes will reveal what happened to Albert, Henriette, Lois, Coninie, and others. They’re facing their own extraordinary circumstances next week on World On Fire.