The Honourable Woman

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The Honourable Woman
The Honourable Woman.jpg
Genre Political thriller
Spy thriller
Written by Hugo Blick
Directed by Hugo Blick
Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal
Philip Arditti
Lubna Azabal
Andrew Buchan
Eve Best
Lindsay Duncan
Janet McTeer
Tobias Menzies
Igal Naor
Genevieve O'Reilly
Katherine Parkinson
Stephen Rea
Composer(s) Martin Phipps
Country of origin United Kingdom
United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Greg Brenman
Polly Hill
Producer(s) Hugo Blick
Abi Bach
Editor(s) Jason Krasucki
Cinematography Zac Nicholson
George Steel
Running time 58 minutes
Production company(s) BBC Worldwide
Drama Republic
Eight Rooks
Original network BBC Two (UK)
SundanceTV (US)
Original release 3 July 2014 –
21 August 2014
External links

The Honourable Woman is a 2014 British political spy thriller television miniseries in eight parts, directed and written by Hugo Blick for the BBC and SundanceTV. Featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal in the title role, it aired on BBC Two in the United Kingdom on 3 July 2014 and premiered on SundanceTV in the United States on 31 July 2014.[1] An advance screening of the series was held on 7 April 2014 at the MIPTV Media Market.[2]

The Honourable Woman received positive reviews, with Gyllenhaal winning a Golden Globe Award for her performance,[3] and the series was awarded a Peabody Award in 2015.[4]


Eight years after taking over the family company from her brother, Anglo-Israeli businesswoman Nessa Stein is made a life peer for her continued commitment to the Middle East peace process. When her new business partner dies in an apparent suicide, she is forced to delay the third phase of an ambitious and long-planned project: connecting the West Bank with optical fibre cables. Various stakeholders manoeuvre for influence in connexion with this venture. The stakes become the highest possible for the Stein family when Kasim, the son of Atika, Nessa's friend as well as Ephram Stein's Palestinian housekeeper, is kidnapped.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein, Baroness Stein of Tilbury, an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman who eight years earlier surprisingly became the new head of the Stein Group after her brother abruptly stepped down, and who has just been appointed a life peer because of her philanthropic work with her company.[5]
  • Andrew Buchan as Ephra Stein, Nessa's brother, who successfully ran the family business for a number of years until he suddenly handed over the reins to his sister eight years earlier and took a back seat.[6]
  • Stephen Rea as Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle, Bt, the outgoing head of MI6's Middle East desk.[7]
  • Lubna Azabal as Atika Halibi, a Palestinian translator who is a close friend of Nessa's as well as being Ephra's housekeeper.[8]
  • Janet McTeer as Dame Julia Walsh, the head of MI6.[9]
  • Katherine Parkinson as Rachel Stein, Ephra's very pregnant wife.[10]
  • Tobias Menzies as Nathaniel Bloom, Nessa's personal bodyguard.[11]
  • Eve Best as Monica Chatwin, a British Foreign Office tactician stationed in Washington, D.C.[12]
  • Igal Naor as Shlomo Zahary, an Israeli businessman and surrogate uncle to Nessa and Ephra.[13]
  • Genevieve O'Reilly as Frances Pirsig, Nessa's private secretary and confidante.[14]
  • Lindsay Duncan as Anjelica, Lady Hayden-Hoyle, Hayden-Hoyle's ex-wife.[15]

Hugo Blick re-uses several actors from his previous series The Shadow Line (e.g. Stephen Rea, Tobias Menzies and Eve Best).

Recurring cast[edit]

  • Philip Arditti as Saleh Al-Zahid
  • Nasser Memarzia as Zahid Al-Zahid
  • Oliver Bodur as Kasim Halabi
  • Adnan Rashed as Samir Meshal
  • Raad Rawi as Jalal El-Amin
  • Julia Montgomery Brown as Rebecca Lantham aka Tracy
  • Nicholas Woodeson as Israeli diplomat Judah Ben-Shahar
  • Richard Katz as Aron Yavin
  • John MacKay as Caleb Schwako
  • Lachele Carl as US Secretary of State
  • Laurel Lefkow as Kate Larsson, special advisor to the Secretary of State
  • Paul Herzberg as Daniel Borgoraz
  • Martin Hutson as MI6 agent Max Boorman
  • Martin McDougall as Brigadier General Berkoff
  • George Georgiou as Palestinian diplomat Magdi Muraji
  • Uriel Emil as Shimon Ben Reuven
  • Claire-Louise Cordwell as Gail Gatz
  • Jacob Krichefski as Yaniv Levi
  • Justin Shevlin as Tom Crace
  • Aidan Stephenson as Eli Stein', Nessa's father
  • Lois Ellington as young Nessa


No. Title UK air date UK viewers
(7 day data;
US air date US viewers
1 "The Empty Chair" 3 July 2014 (2014-07-03) 3.21 31 July 2014 (2014-07-31) 0.080[17]
After Nessa Stein is appointed a life peer, several mysterious events, such as a businessman's suicide and the disappearance of a family servant's child unearth buried secrets within the Stein Organisation.
2 "The Unfaithful Husband" 10 July 2014 (2014-07-10) 2.52 7 August 2014 (2014-08-07) 0.110[18]
Sir Hugh investigates the suicide of the Stein's business partner while the police investigate Kasim's kidnapping. The kidnappers reveal that they know a secret that Nessa and Atika share, to the great distress of Nessa. The secret has something to do with Nessa and Atika being kidnapped in Gaza eight years earlier. Sir Hugh uncovers a woman claiming to have been Meshal's mistress, who is actually an undercover FBI agent. She is then killed by an unidentified agent. The Americans admit to involvement in Meshal's death, while it is revealed that Ephra and Atika are having an affair.
3 "The Killing Call" 17 July 2014 (2014-07-17) 2.29 14 August 2014 (2014-08-14) 0.081[19]
In the course of the police investigation, they conduct a paternity test on Kasim's DNA to see if he is Ephra's son. He is not, but Atika has tampered with the DNA. Shlomo and Nessa discover that someone has been feeding Nessa false information indicating Shlomo is dealing with Hezbollah. Nathaniel, Nessa's bodyguard, investigates the kidnapping and is killed as a result, along with the family of one of the kidnappers.
4 "The Ribbon Cutter" 24 July 2014 (2014-07-24) 2.28 21 August 2014 (2014-08-21) 0.108[19]
This flashback episode focuses on Nessa's activities of eight years earlier. A naive young Nessa visits the West Bank for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a Palestinian educational institution the Steins are funding, but she uncovers possible corruption. She asks her Palestinian translator, Atika, if she can help sneak her into Gaza to investigate. The two women go and are swiftly kidnapped. While imprisoned, Nessa is raped and impregnated by one of her captors, and ultimately bears his child, a sequence of events engineered by the child's paternal grandfather, a man who murdered Nessa's father 21 years earlier. Nessa's rapist is also the man who will kidnap Kasim in the present day.
5 "Two Hearts" 31 July 2014 (2014-07-31) 2.06 28 August 2014 (2014-08-28) 0.106[20]
Ephra works frantically to free his kidnapped sister, while her kidnapping is kept a secret from all but a few confidantes. It is revealed the possible corruption Nessa was investigating was actually a cover for funds Ephra contributed to free an Israeli soldier being held hostage. Ultimately, after a year in captivity, Nessa is freed via a deal Ephra makes with Monica Chatwin of MI6. In exchange for Ephra stepping down from leadership of the Stein Group and confiding a number of secrets pertaining to the telecommunications cable in the West Bank to Chatwin, she works to get Dame Julia to approve a raid with the Israelis to rescue Nessa. Nessa asks Atika to raise Kasim as her own, because Nessa feels if the world knows she is raising the child fathered by a Palestinian terrorist who raped her, her effectiveness at working towards peace will be compromised. In the present day, Nessa learns that Monica Chatwin was the one who falsified Shlomo's file to make it appear he had dealt with Hezbollah. Meanwhile, there is a scandal at an Israeli Stein school, where a teacher accuses the school of discriminating against Arabs. The teacher's investigations uncover a secret spy room in the school, and the teacher is murdered.
6 "The Mother Line" 7 August 2014 (2014-08-07) 2.26 4 September 2014 (2014-09-04) 0.093[21]
Nessa goes out drinking and ends up being kidnapped, beaten and raped by a man who picks her up. Nessa is later contacted by Jalal El-Amin, a Palestinian businessman who is affiliated with Kasim's kidnappers, who demands that she set up a business partnership with him in exchange for Kasim's release. Meanwhile, Shlomo begins investigations of his own to find out who has set him up and tapped into the telecommunications cable. He shows his evidence to Nessa, who tearfully confront's Ephra about how he has now compromised their company and good name. Shlomo also tells Sir Hugh about it, leading to Sir Hugh figuring out that the Americans were part of the wiretap and that was why they killed Samir Meshal.
7 "The Hollow Wall" 14 August 2014 (2014-08-14) 2.33 11 September 2014 (2014-09-11) 0.089[22]
It turns out Nessa's rapist/Kasim's kidnapper is working with Monica Chatwin. Nessa also reveals her secrets to Sir Hugh, and he then begins to investigate Monica Chatwin's actions, which are completely unauthorized. Nessa travels to the West Bank to inaugurate her new project with El-Amin, while Ephra and Atika reconcile and sneak away to a cottage, where Nessa's rapist kills Ephra, with Atika's cooperation. Ephra's wife Rachel walks in on the assassination and kills her husband's killer. Simultaneously, a bomb explodes at Nessa's event, killing everyone in its path, and the TV news declares Nessa dead. Rachel then goes into labor, and Atika helps her deliver the baby while MI6 agents arrive to arrest her. It is then revealed that it was a radical Israeli terrorist group who set up the twin assassinations of the Steins, because they condemned their policies and distrusted Nessa due to the child she had with a Palestinian terrorist.
8 "The Paring Knife" 21 August 2014 (2014-08-21) 2.23 18 September 2014 (2014-09-18) 0.177[23]
Sir Hugh and Dame Julia piece together the events of the last few weeks, involving the Americans, the Palestinians, and the Israelis listening in on the information transmitted through the cable and each carrying out their own assassinations. The upshot is a lot of people are dead, and the Americans have shifted their policy and will no longer oppose Palestinian statehood in the UN. Much has been engineered by Monica Chatwin, who is gunning for the top spot in MI6 and who was using the peace process to accomplish this goal. It is revealed that Nessa survived the bomb blast but has been kidnapped by the same group that kidnapped her 8 years earlier. The man who engineered it all confronts her and tells her of his plans, then lets her go but refuses to give her her son back. Sir Hugh convinces Atika that Palestinian statehood can be achieved within the next few days, but if the Palestinian involvement in the attacks becomes known, it will destroy the peace process. Atika is freed by MI6 in order to get Nessa Stein back, which she does, killing Nessa's Palestinian kidnapper and Israeli would-be assassin in the process.


The eight-part series was announced in June 2013. It was commissioned by Ben Stephenson (Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning) and Janice Hadlow (Controller, BBC Two), and co-funded by the Sundance Channel. Written and directed by Hugo Blick, it was made by production companies Drama Republic and Eight Rooks, with Hugo Blick and Abi Bach as producers.[24]

Stephenson describes the drama as "really grown up, complicated" and said he was keen to work with Blick again following the 2011 series The Shadow Line.[25] The President of the Sundance Channel Sarah Barnett said that it is "a superbly wrought character piece about hope, compromise, guilt and families".[25] Speaking about her casting, Gyllenhaal said: "I couldn't put the scripts down. Nessa is such an exciting and intricate character. I can't wait to begin filming."[26]


The three-month filming schedule began in July 2013 in London and Romney Marsh in Kent,[27] with further filming in the Middle East and the United States.[24][28]


Critical response[edit]

The series was warmly received upon its initial debut in the UK, with The Guardian‍ '​s Gabriel Tate summarising the series as "the most satisfying, densely plotted TV series for years."[29]

The Honorable Woman (retitled to follow American spelling) premiered to universal acclaim in the United States, with strong reviews emerging out of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York, Entertainment Weekly, Time and the Los Angeles Times, and received a Metacritic score of 82 out of 100 based on 24 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[30] Particular raves came from Matt Roush of TV Guide, who described Blick's work as "written and directed with ruthless intelligence,"[31] and Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter, calling the miniseries "a spectacularly well-constructed story—intricate, dense, demanding and rewarding.[32]

Specific notices focused on Gyllenhaal—Hank Stuever of The Washington Post described her performance as "remarkably measured and moving,"[33] while Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times said "Ms. Gyllenhaal is remarkable playing a principled but conflicted woman whose quicksilver personality alters from hour to hour and flashback to flash-forward" and on the series' mature treatment of gender roles.[34] Sara Stewart of Indiewire credited The Honourable Woman with "upending the sexy spy drama," celebrating it for favoring the protagonist's intellect and interior complexity over romantic and sexual conflict.[35] Sarah Chalmers of The Telegraph, meanwhile, said: "For here, at last, is a new kind of female protagonist: one not only driving the drama and outwitting the male characters, but looking amazing as she does so."[36]

Responses in the UK to the series' conclusion were extremely positive. Julia Raeside of The Guardian wrote that it concluded as a "taut and perfectly controlled thriller ... something truly special."[37] Nicholas Blincoe of The Telegraph, claimed that the series achieved the "must-watch" label of the summer.[38]

The ending of The Honourable Woman was met with raves in the U.S.; Willa Paskin of Slate praised the conclusion, explaining that "The Honorable Woman, unlike so many series that claim to do so, genuinely complicates notions of villainhood and herodom. It does not shortchange historical atrocity, pooh-pooh grievances, or whitewash systematic injustices."[39] Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter said, in terms of the series' conclusion, "Few things this dense and ambitious are able to stick the landing when the last act comes, but The Honorable Woman does it with aplomb."[32] A more critical look at the series as a whole came from Sonia Saraiya at The A.V. Club, who explained that "The story lobs so many ideas into the air that it can't possibly give them all a safe landing. But along the way to the ending, The Honorable Woman is enthralling—a beautiful, dark portrait of a woman against the backdrop of the continued conflict between Israel and Palestine."[40]

The series ranked on several publications' year-end top 10 lists, including The Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Grantland.[41][42]


For the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, Maggie Gyllenhaal won for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film.[3] For the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries.[43] For the 5th Critics' Choice Television Awards, it received three nominations, for Best Limited Series Series, Gyllenhaal for Best Actress in a Movie or Limited Series, and Janet McTeer or Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Limited Series.[44] The series was nominated for the 2015 TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials.[45]

The Honourable Woman was awarded with a 2014 Peabody Award, with the organization writing: "A visually rich, densely-plotted thriller set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, it suggests complexities and age-old vendettas that often escape even the best documentaries, to say nothing of the evening news."[4]

For the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards, the series received nominations for Outstanding Limited Series, Maggie Gyllenhaal for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie, and Hugo Blick for both Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special.[46]

Home media release[edit]

The Honourable Woman was released on DVD in the UK on 1 September 2014,[47] in the U.S. on 14 October 2014,[48] and in Canada on 25 November 2014.[49]

The series was released on Blu-ray Disc in the UK on 20 July 2015.[50]


  1. ^ Bibel, Sara (12 May 2014). "Miniseries 'The Honorable Woman' Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal to Premiere July 31 on Sundance". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "BBC Worldwide premieres Hugo Blick's The Honourable Woman with Maggie Gyllenhaal at MIPTV". BBC. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Swift, Andy (11 January 2015). "Golden Globes 2015: Gina Rodriguez, Transparent, The Affair Win Big". TVLine. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Holston, Noel (16 April 2015). "The Honourable Woman, 74th Annual Peabody Award Winners". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "Nessa Stein". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Ephra Stein". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "Atika Halabi". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Dame Julia Walsh". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "Rachel Stein". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  11. ^ "Nathaniel Bloom". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "Monica Chatwin". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Shlomo Zahary". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Frances Pirsig". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Anjelica Hayden-Hoyle". BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "Top 30 Programmes". BARB. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  17. ^ Cantor, Brian (17 August 2014). "Ratings: "Rectify," "The Honorable Woman" Barely Register". Headline Planet. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (8 August 2014). "UPDATED: THE SKED CABLE/NETWORK THURSDAY SCORECARD - 8/7/14". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Cantor, Brian (22 August 2014). "Ratings: "Rectify" Improves Slightly for Finale, "Honorable Woman" Up". Headline Planet. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  20. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (29 August 2014). "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Thursday Cable Originals (and Network Update): 9.18.2014". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  21. ^ Pucci, Douglas (9 September 2014). "Thursday cable finals". TV Media Insights. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  22. ^ Pucci, Douglas (13 September 2014). "Thursday cable finals". TV Media Insights. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (19 September 2014). "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Thursday Cable Originals: 9.18.2014". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  24. ^ a b "Maggie Gyllenhaal cast as lead in new BBC Two thriller, The Honourable Woman". BBC Media Centre. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Deans, Jason (28 June 2013). "Maggie Gyllenhaal to star in BBC2 thriller set against Middle East conflict". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  26. ^ Philipson, Alice (28 June 2013). "Gyllenhaal to star in BBC drama as high-flying businesswoman". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  27. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Honourable Woman Article". 
  28. ^ "Maggie Gyllenhaal filming The Honourable Woman in London". The Independent. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  29. ^ Tate, Gabriel (21 August 2014). "The Honourable Woman recap: episode eight – The Paring Knife". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  30. ^ "The Honorable Woman : Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  31. ^ Roush, Matt (31 July 2014). "Thursday Review: SundanceTV's The Honorable Woman and Rectify". TV Guide. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  32. ^ a b Goodman, Tim (28 July 2014). "'The Honorable Woman': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Stuever, Hank (12 June 2014). "Summer TV 2014: Every new show, the schedule for every returning show, and what is worth watching". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  34. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (30 July 2014). "'The Honorable Woman,' Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  35. ^ Stewart, Sara (7 August 2014). "The Honourable Woman: Upending the Sexy Spy Drama". Indiewire. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  36. ^ Chalmers, Sarah (21 August 2014). "Why The Honourable Woman has captured our hearts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  37. ^ Reaside, Julia (22 August 2014). "The Honourable Woman review: a very human conclusion to a gripping thriller". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  38. ^ Blincoe, Nicholas (22 August 2014). "It was the attention to small details that made a drama out of a crisis". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  39. ^ Paskin, Willa (31 July 2014). "The Honorable Woman". Slate. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  40. ^ Saraiya, Sonia (31 July 2014). "The Honorable Woman is ambitious and riveting". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  41. ^ Dietz, Jason (9 December 2014). "Best of 2014: Television Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  42. ^ Tate, Gabriel (19 December 2014). "Best TV of 2014: No 3 – The Honourable Woman". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  43. ^ Mitovich, Matt Webb (10 December 2014). "SAG Awards: Modern Family, Thrones, Homeland, Boardwalk, Cards Lead Noms; Mad Men Shut Out; HTGAWM, Maslany and Aduba Get Nods". TVLine. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  44. ^ Li, Shirley (6 May 2014). "The Critics' Choice TV Awards 2015: And the nominees are...". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  45. ^ Mitovich, Matt Webb (4 June 2015). "TCA Awards: Empire, Transparent, Jane, Americans, Mad Men Lead Nominees". TVLine. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  46. ^ Hipes, Patrick (16 July 2015). "Emmy Nominations 2015 – Full List". Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  47. ^ "The Honourable Woman [DVD]". Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  48. ^ "The Honourable Woman". Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  49. ^ "The Honorable Woman / The Honourable Woman". Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  50. ^ "The Honourable Woman [Blu-ray]". Retrieved 21 August 2015. 

External links[edit]