It was the year 2020 when, with 3 episodes remaining in the first series of World on Fire, welcome news came from PBS and the BBC that the then Helen Hunt-led British World War II drama had been commissioned for a second series.
Originally designed as a multi-year drama that would look at World War II through the eyes of ordinary people from all sides of the conflict, the first series followed the first year of the war, starting with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ending with the Battle of Britain.
Unfortunately, a worldwide pandemic known as Covid-19 shut down not only production across the UK but life as we know it across the globe for the next 3 years. Needless to say, commissioned or not at that point, the series known as World on Fire was much like the dead parrot from Monty Python….it ceased to be.
Given it has been 3+ years since we last saw World on Fire, here’s a brief re-cap of series 1 which originally premiered on the BBC and PBS in 2020.
Although the news of the commissioning was both welcome and somewhat expected given both the audience and critical acclaim, it did come as a bit of a surprise given the fact that another popular series that was also designed as a multi-year drama, Sanditon, was inexplicably cancelled after the first series setting off a worldwide fan backlash with petitions circulating to, ultimately, breathe life back into the series for not one but two more series.
And, let’s not forget the abrupt inexplicable hatchet job cancellation of Home Fires, the brilliant story of the Women’s Institute members on the Home Front during the Second World War which was in possession of having a massive cliffhanger at the end of series 2 AND with the scripts for series 3 already written!
From the outset, World on Fire writer Peter Bowker had always said he possessed detailed plans in his head, at least, for six series, each of which would cover a specific year of the war.
Now, 3+ years after series 1, the long-awaited series 2 is set to premiere on PBS beginning Sunday, October 15 at 9pET/8pCT and will consist of six episodes taking viewers back to October 1940, where lone pilots are tasked with destroying German bombers prowling above the streets of Manchester. With rescue operations underway on the streets below, the true reality of war has arrived in Britain.
Telling the story of World War II through the eyes of ordinary people in extraordinary times, following intrepid young heroes fighting for freedom, World on Fire’s return will take viewers from the war-torn streets of Britain deep into Nazi Germany, the resistance within occupied France, and the brutal sands of the North African desert – where troops struggle to adapt to a very different kind of combat.
Jonah Hauer-King will reprise the role of Harry along with Mum and Magpie Murders star Lesley Manville (Robina), Julia Brown (Lois) and Zofia Wichlacz (Kasia), all set to return alongside Blake Harrison (Stan), Parker Sawyers (Albert), Eugénie Derouand (Henriette), Eryk Biedunkiewicz (Jan) and Cel Spellman (Joe).
“Season two is about getting to know Harry again,” Johan Hauer-King notes. “He’s still that same person but he’s been through so much now, he’s more grown up. He really does want to do the right thing and there’s a tension there where, on the one hand, he’s wanting to pick up the pieces, wanting to be a good parent, wanting to be a good husband, while also battling some of those demons.
“He still has some of that self-destructive energy and is fighting this feeling of ultimately thinking he’s best at being a soldier and that’s where he should be. When he’s around his loved ones, he causes hurt. So the best way for him to have some purpose and have some meaning is to go and fight. But obviously he now has these big pulls back home as well. A lot of the season is him struggling between those two things.”
“When we meet them both again, they’re now parents, and what that means for their characters, we’ll see,” Julia Brown says of Lois and Harry. “But we saw Lois in season one entering this world she knows nothing about and is unprepared for, being a single mother, and she has just become engaged to a striking pilot. What that will mean in season two, we’ll find out.
But she’s moving into a whole new universe, plus also living through a war. It will be interesting to see how her relationship with Harry might change or adapt as they now have this joint responsibility.
She’s going through what you could describe as post-natal depression. She’s struggling to adapt to her new life and, in true Lois fashion, she just wants to go out and have some fun. But actually there’s a lot of pain and hurt and we see her going on a real journey through the whole of season two.”
Line of Duty‘s Mark Bonnar is joining the cast for the new episodes as Sir James Danemere, while Resident Evil‘s Ahad Raza Mir and Pretty Smart‘s Gregg Sulkin are taking on new roles in the period drama.
Season 2 of World on Fire returns to PBS Masterpiece beginning Sunday, October 15 at 9pET/8pCT. #WorldOnFirePBS