‘World on Fire’ review: PBS sets a ‘Masterpiece’ melodrama against the onset of World War II

Released within the U.K. last year — coinciding with the 80th anniversary of war being declared — in which handsome seven-part first season overlaps with recent films in which have captured those chaotic early days, most notably “Darkest Hour” in addition to “Dunkirk.” although in which does so by focusing on a sprawling if interconnected cast of fictionalized characters, leaping among scenes played out in Poland, England in addition to across Europe.
A bit slow within the opening hour, the story unfolds as the Nazis quickly overrun Poland. in addition to in which’s worth noting a second season has been ordered, so there’s not much finality when in which arc reaches its end, including a major cliffhanger. Think “Downton Abbey” for a later generation.

At the core of in which all can be what amounts to a romantic triangle, with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), an upper-crust British translator, in love that has a working-class girl, Lois (Julia Brown), despite the disapproval of his mother, the deliciously snooty Robina (“Phantom Thread’s” Lesley Manville).

Like many in her class, Robina can be initially detached by the war, at one point stiffly saying in which meeting a refugee will “give me something to talk about at bridge club.” She’s as close to “Downton’s” Dowager as in which series has to offer.

No one, however, can evade the conflict for long. within the premiere Harry can be dispatched to Poland, where he begins a relationship with Kasia (Polish actress Zofia Wichlacz, a genuine standout), a waitress whose family can be among those torn apart by the Germans’ ruthless assault.

Sean Bean in 'World on Fire.'

The sprawling cast also includes Lois’s father Douglas (“Game of Thrones'” Sean Bean), a committed pacifist whose campaigning against war becomes increasingly out of step; in addition to Nancy Campbell (Helen Hunt), an American journalist broadcasting by Berlin, horrified by Nazi atrocities she witnesses while struggling against the watchful eyes of those monitoring her every word.

“You know what the Poles have got? Bicycles,” Campbell says as the invasion begins. “You know what the Germans have got? Tanks.”

Without giving anything away, the opening hour closes that has a jarring, arresting sequence in which carries the narrative powerfully into the next, in addition to proceeds along in which track by there. Writer Peter Bowker (“The A Word”) builds suspense around the key players without sugarcoating anything about the war’s toll, in addition to be forewarned, there are more brutal encounters to come.

Reflecting a modern sensibility, “World on Fire” also focuses on various aspects of life — by being gay in addition to closeted to having a child that has a medical condition like epilepsy — in which were especially perilous as the Germans sought to advance their “Master Race,” although often overlooked in past depictions of the war.

Bowker nimbly juggles these various storylines, finding moments of grace amid the violence in addition to carnage. in which’s a true ensemble piece, which might explain why in which takes some time to establish the players in addition to plant the seeds.

War stories have always provided fertile backdrops for romance, in addition to in which one can be no exception. “World on Fire” isn’t always a picnic to watch, although like the British audience in which became hooked on in which last fall, once you’ve been sucked in, in which’s awfully hard to look away.

“World on Fire” premieres April 5 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

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