At the core of all of it is what quantities to a romantic triangle, with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), an upper-crust British translator, in love with a working-class lady, Lois (Julia Brown), regardless of the disapproval of his mom, the deliciously snooty Robina (“Phantom Thread’s” Lesley Manville).
Like many in her class, Robina is initially indifferent from the battle, at one level stiffly saying that assembly a refugee will “give me something to talk about at bridge club.” She’s as near “Downton’s” Dowager as this collection has to supply.
No one, nevertheless, can evade the battle for lengthy. In the premiere Harry is dispatched to Poland, the place he begins a relationship with Kasia (Polish actress Zofia Wichlacz, a real standout), a waitress whose household is amongst these torn aside by the Germans’ ruthless assault.
The sprawling forged additionally consists of Lois’s father Douglas (“Game of Thrones'” Sean Bean), a dedicated pacifist whose campaigning against battle turns into more and more out of step; and Nancy Campbell (Helen Hunt), an American journalist broadcasting from Berlin, horrified by Nazi atrocities she witnesses whereas struggling against the watchful eyes of these monitoring her each phrase.
“You know what the Poles have got? Bicycles,” Campbell says as the invasion begins. “You know what the Germans have got? Tanks.”
Without giving something away, the opening hour closes with a jarring, arresting sequence that carries the narrative powerfully into the subsequent, and proceeds alongside that monitor from there. Writer Peter Bowker (“The A Word”) builds suspense round the key gamers with out sugarcoating something about the battle’s toll, and be forewarned, there are extra brutal encounters to come back.
Reflecting a trendy sensibility, “World on Fire” additionally focuses on varied points of life — from being homosexual and closeted to having a youngster with a medical situation like epilepsy — that had been particularly perilous as the Germans sought to advance their “Master Race,” however usually missed in previous depictions of the battle.
Bowker nimbly juggles these varied storylines, discovering moments of grace amid the violence and carnage. It’s a true ensemble piece, which could clarify why it takes a while to determine the gamers and plant the seeds.
War tales have all the time supplied fertile backdrops for love, and this one is not any exception. “World on Fire” is not all the time a picnic to observe, however like the British viewers that grew to become hooked on it final fall, as soon as you have been sucked in, it is awfully arduous to look away.
“World on Fire” premieres April 5 at 9 p.m. on PBS.