The Season 2 finale of World On Fire portrays our ensemble of characters making decisions that will change the course of their lives and what role they will play in the ongoing war effort. Although the audience knows how the war ends, our characters face an uncertain future and that is reflected in the last minutes of the episode. Let’s discuss what choices all of the characters made.
(Try To) Keep The Home Fires Burning
The episode begins with Harry’s commanding officer telling him to take leave, speak to a psychologist, or face a dishonorable discharge from the army. His superiors have heard complaints about his behavior with the German soldier as well as his grief over Stans’ death in the last episode. Harry chooses temporary leave so he can visit Stan’s widow. Reassuring Stan’s wife that he died protecting other people was the easy part of his return; visiting Robina is much harder.
Lois has also decided to move out of her old apartment with Connie so she can have more space with Vera. As soon as Harry arrives at Robina’s, he’s immediately confronted with what has been left behind. He visits Vera and Robina and sees that they’re doing well. Unfortunately, Robina wants to ruin Lois’ plans by keeping Vera in her custody. Robina insists that she’s the only responsible adult who can take care of Vera. Harry strongly disagrees and says that Vera should stay with Lois. Robina questions Harry’s judgment in his love life, but Harry counters that Robina’s haughty attitude is not in Vera’s best interest.
Kasia has decided to take up Sir James’ offer of an MI-5 assignment in Poland. Harry’s plan to keep Kasia safe has totally been upended and he’s nervous for her. Harry is scared because he knows he could lose her for good this time. Sir James tells Harry that it’s up to him to give Kasia a reason to stay. Jan is upset that he can’t go back to fight as well, but Kasia says he needs to stay and get an education so he can participate in rebuilding post-war Poland. Although it’s 2 years since Harry and Kasia got married, Kasia is convinced that she should give Harry back his wedding ring. She feels like leaving will be easier if they break their emotional ties, but Harry can’t bring himself to do that. He tells her he still loves her and is convinced their pre-war happiness is still possible. Harry tells her to keep the ring as a safety measure but we all know it’s about emotional safety as much as physical.
Speaking of happiness, Sir James proposes to Robina but she rejects him because she doesn’t believe she could be content long term. Hitting it off is not enough for her. Sir James believes the real reason why Robina doesn’t want to try again is because of Harry’s dad dying by suicide, and the responsibility of continuing to care for Jan. Harry later asks Robina about his father’s death, and she says that happiness is in fact a “debased currency” which is a really depressing answer. Robina says that his father was a coward and that if Harry is feeling depressed he has to carry on. This advice is rather ableist and insensitive by today’s standards but the audience has 20/20 hindsight. Harry decides that moving forward and letting Kasia go is the best way to deal with all of this. Kasia and Harry say goodbye but manage to rekindle a bit of the old romance before she leaves for Poland. Harry visits Lois and Vera one last time before he returns to North Africa. He hasn’t completely resolved this awkward love triangle but at least he’s left both Lois and Kasia in a better place emotionally compared to the start of the season.
Henriette and David arrive on the French shoreline. David is afraid of sailing but it’s too late for him to change his mind. They hug one last time and then David follows the flashlight signal to the small boats. Later on, we see that David has successfully arrived in England. We see him reunite with Gregorz and his unit. He also observes Shabbat and is likely praying for Henriette’s continued safety. His experience has clearly changed his perspective on life.
Just as Henriette is ready to leave the shore, the Nazis are waiting for her. Henriette’s papers are questioned and they say she has Jewish parents. She denies her papers are forged but they put a bag over her head. We next see Henriette back in Roumainville prison with Albert. Albert tells her that the Nazis will ship her to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Albert doesn’t have time to explain this but Ravensbrück was an all-women’s concentration camp located about 55 miles north of Berlin. Many of the women imprisoned there politically opposed the Nazis. There were also Jewish, queer, Jehovah’s Witnesses and disabled women as well. She doesn’t believe him but he tells her the Nazis don’t care if she’s French because they consider her a Jew first. Albert then gives Henriette a shank and some money to bribe guards with. The last thing we see from the prison is Henriette being lined up by the Nazis to go to Ravensbrück. Albert wishes her well even though he knows that the scales may be weighed against Henriette.
Marga also decides to run away from the Lebensborn in the middle of the night. She returns to her parent's house and tells them she feels homesick. In addition, she tells her parents she cannot marry her rapist. Her mother wants her to secretly get an abortion but her father says it’s very possible the Nazis will come looking for the child and then they’ll all suffer. Later on, Marga’s brother comes home to visit. He brags about bombing the British, calls the Soviets “animals,” and says that his copilot also wants to meet Marga. He ends up reinforcing the propaganda they’ve been taught and tells the family that Marga is the pride of the nation. Marga then lies in bed feeling overwhelmed by both what her brother said and the trauma she can’t quite express.
A Change Of Heart
Rajib and his sergeant are in the hospital recovering from the German attack on the Sapra unit. Rajib finds out that they are the only survivors and what happened after he confronted the German with the gun. Rajib regrets not fighting back when the Germans surrounded them, but this conversation clearly has undertones about their views of the British Empire. Rajib comes to the realization that he has to focus on surviving in order to fight for India’s freedom from the British. Colonialism and racism are embedded in the British armed forces and there is no changing the status quo from within.
The season ends with a montage of all of the characters moving forward with the decisions they’ve made in the episode. Kasia’s is the most dramatic as she jumps out of a plane in the middle of the night from the skies over Poland.
What will happen in World On Fire Season 3? PBS and the BBC haven’t confirmed whether there will be a Season 3 for World On Fire, and it is far too soon to tell which storylines would carry over into a future season. However, you can help push the needle towards a renewal by telling your friends by word of mouth or via social media they should start watching the series.