Content Warning: This article discusses a suicide attempt and ideation.
This week on World On Fire, we get a glimpse of events across the varying plotlines of the series and an update on the characters stuck in Nazi-occupied Paris. Harry has started in his new posting in North Africa but he has left so much at home in flux. Kasia loves that she can see Jan and Grzegorz again, but cannot abide having to play a passive part in the war effort. Lois is struggling with single motherhood. All of this, plus a new unexpected long-term boarder, is what Robina is left to manage by herself. Let’s take a closer look at the circumstances on the home front.
The World on Fire characters remaining in Manchester are picking up where Home Fires left off regarding Manchester being a target for German air raids. The Nazis are well aware that the factories, docks, and nearby military installations of Manchester are key to the British war effort.
Lois survived the collapse of the wall at the end of the last episode but she still carries the weight of the loss of her father. She and Tom visit their parents’ gravesite to leave flowers. Lois then admits to Tom that she took on the risk of returning to the burning house to retrieve the older man’s dentures because she had suicidal ideation and a desire to escape. Although the dialogue doesn’t mention this, it is clear that Lois’ grief is compounded by postpartum depression. Connie last week mentioned that Lois wasn’t coping with her grief in a healthy way and this admission to Tom proves that she isn’t in a good headspace.
Kasia may be safe from the dangers of occupied Poland, but she isn’t safe from Robina’s extremely strict expectations. Kasia meets Vera for the first time and realizes very quickly that she also doesn’t have a natural motherly instinct. In some regards, Kasia has some natural sympathy for Lois as both have lost their fathers. However, it’s clear that their individual feelings or resentment for Harry will create a divide between them that won’t resolve itself automatically.
Robina’s already crowded home receives a brand new long-term guest this week. Like many medium to large homeowners during World War II, Robina is on the list to put up either itinerant war workers or air raid refugees. The War Office assigns Robina’s spare bedroom to the polite but mysterious Sir James played by Mark Bonnar. Later on in the season, we will find out exactly what he’s working on, and see how his interactions with Robina, Jan, and Kasia develop. Bonnar is a very familiar face to MASTERPIECE viewers as he also stars in Guilt. (Sorry Guilt fans, Season 3 won’t be available until sometime in 2024.)
While Jan is happy that Sir James is a new chess partner, Kasia is naturally suspicious of him because he hasn’t revealed what his assignment is. She’s determined to figure it out, but Sir James has his own counter to Kasia’s suspicions. He tells her that he may be able to call in a favor regarding her pending assault charges.
Later on in the episode Lois and Kasia have a private conversation. Lois tells Kasia that she feels like her life is happening to someone else. Experts would refer to this as disassociation. They both share the same sentiment of wanting to leave the strict confines of British domesticity for an active role in the war effort. However, if Lois takes up active duty this would mean leaving Vera behind which is something she may regret doing.
Before Lois makes her decision, she meets one more person who might influence her choices. After one of her shifts, she goes to a club to hear Connie sing. She runs into David, the Jewish RAF pilot who so far has been treating danger as a joke as a coping mechanism. David tells Lois that he was a child left behind by a mother who was unable to take care of him and that he didn’t turn out so bad after all. David and Connie end up spending the night together while Lois continues to mull over where and how she can escape.
Lois later notices some Auxillary Territorial Service recruitment posters asking for women who can assist in the war effort in Egypt. Robina naturally doesn’t believe that women should be serving abroad, but Lois tells her that she should understand what not having a maternal instinct feels like. Robina says she understands Lois’ feelings, but she can’t condone breaking the normal social order.
James successfully pulls some strings to get the case against Kasia dropped. Kasia is grateful that the matter is resolved, but of course, this doesn’t make the xenophobia of the people around her go away. James also admits that he may have overstepped regarding satisfying Jan’s natural curiosity about war developments. Robina is also pleased that the dust-up is solved because she now has to persuade Kasia to be willing to pitch into caring for Vera. It’s one thing for Kasia to help with her own brother, but the child who was the consequence of Harry’s terrible timing is a struggle. The episode ends with Lois dropping Vera off one last time at Robina’s house as she prepares to leave for her ATS assignment.
The challenge for Kasia, Lois, and Robina now for the rest of the season is to find their own healing. Sadly the professional help they all need won’t be accessible, so they have to rely on themselves and those around them to find a way through their emotional battles. Will Kasia find a way to help the war effort from Robina’s house? Can Lois find healing in her new assignment? We’ll find out next week on World On Fire!