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The Little Drummer Girl

AMC returns to the world of John le Carré in a slick adaptation

The Little Drummer Girl AMC
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

The 2016 AMC miniseries The Night Manager won its director (Susanne Bier) an Emmy, in addition to several Golden Globes for its marvelous cast. Its success was the best proof yet that television is the natural medium for adapting the novels of John le Carré, perhaps the foremost author of spy fiction in history — whose muted action and frozen emotions have clearly helped inspire everything from Homeland to The Americans.

Now, AMC is returning to the world of le Carré with an adaptation of one of his most famous novels, the 1983 late Cold War thriller The Little Drummer Girl. The book has been adapted for the screen once before — by director George Roy Hill, who made a solid movie out of it in 1984. But this new, six-episode TV version boasts two major elements that make it worth checking out: director Park Chan-wook, whose films (including The Handmaiden and Oldboy) neatly bridge the gap between deep character studies and genre exercises; and actress Florence Pugh, who turns in a marvelous performance as a young woman drawn into a web of espionage and intrigue.

“The Little Drummer Girl prefers to gloss over the messy complexities of Middle Eastern politics entirely, enamored as it is with the intimate realm of romance and the intellectual realm of ethics and identity. Combined, they produce something that’s a bit sluggish as a spy story, but sublime as a work of auteurist art.” Katie Rife, The A.V. Club

Metacritic score: 75 out of 100

Where to watch: The series airs two hours per night on Monday, November 19; Tuesday, November 20; and Wednesday, November 22, at 9 pm Eastern each night on AMC. To watch previous episodes, visit the network’s website.

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