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'World on Fire' Recap: Season 2 Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
Gregor holds Kasia's face while she holds his arms, smiling, with Jan in the backgronund
Kasia reunites with her brothers in England. Credit: Mammoth Screen. Photo by Steffan Hill

World on Fire airs Sundays at 8:00 pm on WTTW and is available to stream via the PBS app and at Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Harry believes he is keeping his wife Kasia safe by bringing her to his mother Robina’s home in Cheshire after helping her escape Poland in a secretive mission. But nearby Manchester experiences German air raids so frequently that there is a sort of routine to them. British pilots like David and Shortbread rush to planes to try to shoot the German bombers down while ambulances driven by people like Harry’s onetime lover Lois and her friend Connie set off to bring anyone injured in the bombings to the hospital. 

But things can still go badly wrong. David’s plane gets hit and Shortbread loses contact with him. He and other people on the Royal Air Force base, including Kasia’s brother Gregor, who works there, anxiously wait for news of David. He shows up the next day on the back of a truck driven by an attractive farmhand with whom he now has a date: he crash-landed on her land. 

Despite the warning of a fireman, Lois drives her ambulance past a crumbling building that nearly collapses on her because the way is faster. Connie chastises her for risking lives, asking her to think of her baby, Vera. (Harry is the father.) Connie also wants Lois to talk about her grief over the death of her father Douglas in a bombing, but Lois is tamping it down: she has a baby to raise as a single mother.

Lois has to break the news of Douglas’ death to her brother Tom when he returns from Navy duty. He blames Lois for the death: she should have been with him. But she angrily explains that it was a direct hit; she and Vera would be dead, too, if they had been there. 

Lois does have some help with Vera from her daughter’s grandmother, Robina. Lois brings Vera to Robina’s and is surprised to find Kasia there. She awkwardly meets the wife of her daughter’s father. Kasia’s brother Jan, who has been living with Robina since Harry escaped from Poland with him, is delighted: he wants his Polish family and English friends to meet and get along. But dynamics are complicated: when Harry appears and asks to hold his daughter, Robina’s maid takes Vera away for a nap. 

Kasia’s first meeting with her mother-in-law, Robina, was already uncomfortable enough. Her presence in Robina’s house is only made more difficult by her scream-filled nightmares, which Robina mentions the next day. You’ll get over them quickly, just like Jan did, she tells Kasia. 

Jan brings Kasia to a tea parlor to reunite with Gregor, her other brother. Gregor informs Kasia that he hasn’t yet told Jan their mother is dead. A blustery Englishman is rude to Kasia because she is speaking Polish. He denigrates refugees, and she argues back despite Gregor’s attempts at polite conciliation. She ends up punching the xenophobic man.

Robina tries to get her lawyer to prevent the man from pressing charges, and tells Kasia she must behave better, for Jan’s sake. Harry tells Kasia that she is safe now; she doesn’t have to fight anymore. He has saved his wife. She responds that she’s just a woman he got trapped with because of bad timing. 

Jan guesses that his mother is dead, and Kasia confirms it but doesn’t tell him the whole truth about the circumstances. Jan wants to fight, but Kasia doesn’t want him to. 

Jan is so eager that he has made a map of North Africa, so that he can prove to Harry his knowledge of the battles there against the German-allied Italians, who are trying to access oil supplies in the region. Harry is due to deploy there soon.

Harry’s old comrade, Stan, is already in Egypt. His English unit is due to follow one made up of Indians, led by Rajib, that will clear the road of Italian mines. Rajib insists on disarming some of the mines himself; he doesn’t want his men to have to do anything he wouldn’t do. 

One of his men accidentally sets off a mine while trying to disarm it, badly injuring himself. A sandstorm is bearing down and Rajib’s unit doesn’t have any vehicles. Stan arrives in one, part of an advance convoy, and agrees to take the casualty back to safety. But his truck has stalled. 

Rajib spots another truck in the distance as the sandstorm overtakes them, but it’s not moving—it probably can’t see the flags marking where mines have been cleared. He, his men, and Stan’s set off in a line with Rajib in the lead, carrying the injured man towards the truck through the blinding sand, hoping they don’t stray beyond the flags and hit any mines. 

There’s plenty of luck involved in surviving war, as the German bomber pilot Ralf knows. He thinks his sister Marga is his lucky charm helping him survive campaigns over Manchester. 

Marga is a devoted German who sings songs praising the Reich and its soldiers in school. She is delighted to be chosen to be part of the Lebensborn program to ensure a pure Aryan line. She’ll be paired with a young SS officer to have children, even though she’s very young. Her best friend Gertha is appalled and argues, earning a slap from Marga. A teacher asks what the argument is about.

He then reports it to Marga’s parents, trying to get them to convince her not to be “raped” by the government. They, too, are devoted Nazis, and turn on him. Marga’s mother warns Gertha to stay away from Marga. 

And yet Marga’s parents tell her not to inform her brother about Lebensborn when he briefly returns home for leave, lest it distract him from his fighting—at least, that’s Marga’s father’s excuse.

Ralf’s enemy in the air, David, is a hotshot who tends to disregard orders both on duty and off. He wants to make the most of whatever time he has left, given that he could die at any time. His insubordination isn’t helped by the fact that he is Jewish, which causes some prejudice.

He asks Shortbread to cover for him when he misses a briefing to make out with his farmhand date at the movies, but Shortbread is a terrible liar and David has his next leave canceled as punishment. 

When he and Shortbread fly their next mission, it’s Shortbread who has issues. He has a fuel leak, and doesn’t bail in time. His plane goes down.

Lois has problems with her vehicle one night, getting a flat tire on the ambulance during German air raids. A scared young man helps her change the tire, and she comforts him as he does so. 

Lois calls Harry to a pub to warn him that she argued with her father the night he died, and never got to make it up to him. Don’t make the same mistake with Kasia, she tells Harry. Kasia doesn’t want to be in England; she wants to keep fighting and having an effect, and will feel even worse once Harry leaves for North Africa. Talk to her about it, but don’t pretend you want to stay, Lois advises—she won’t appreciate that, either. Lois just wants things to be right with Harry; it will make her life easier. 

Robina had hoped Harry would help Kasia settle into England before redeploying, but he’s due to leave in a few days. When he talks to Kasia, she worries that she is only good at war now and won’t be able to find her way back to being a normal person. 

Harry leaves for North Africa.

During another air raid, Lois goes into a building that has been hit to retrieve the dentures of an old man who wouldn’t leave without them. The roof collapses while she is inside.