Saturday, December 12, 2015

London Spy - Series Review

I was going to review this episodically but in the end, I decided to wait for the whole of BBC2 five part series, London Spy to air before reviewing it in one complete blog. Here goes nothing.

Written by Tom Robb Smith
Directed by Jakob Verbruggen

Love stories are always interesting to watch, even if you're not the most romantic of people such as myself and the love story between hedonistic Danny Holt (Ben Whishaw) and mysterious Alex/Alistair Turner (Edward Holcroft) becomes the very backbone of this whole saga. It's an interesting one in which the two of them meet up, fall in love, challenge each other's perceptions on certain things and then one of them goes and mysteriously dies. That would be Alex/Alistair in this case and his death became the very thing to throw Danny into a life and death saga into trying to find out what exactly happened to his lover over the course of the series.

At every opportunity, it seems that Danny is having everything thrown against him - his distant, unsupporting family, his reputation and even a moment in the middle of the series where it's discovered he's HIV positive. Not to mention the fact that Alex/Alistair was actually a child prodigy/spy and the people he worked for along with a controlling mother (played excellently by Charlotte Rampling for two episodes) go to various lengths to stop Danny from uncovering what actually happened to his lover until the last episode revealed everything in a somewhat frustrating manner.

For five episodes, this show certainly moved at a polarising pace. There were times when I'd find myself begging for actual action to take place (my hopes of Danny being an actual kickass spy never materialised) while other times, the slow and intimately revealing conversation between Danny and various characters were just a testament to the writing and acting being on top form. I don't know if this is a controversial opinion (and neither do I care if it is) but the more the show progressed, the less interesting Danny's relationship with Alex/Alistair became and the more gripping his budding friendship with retired agent, Scottie (a knockout performance by Jim Broadbent) instead became.

I do love that following the likes of Cucumber/Banana/Tofu on Channel 4 that BBC2 did give us this interesting series and while I would've preferred a bit more gadgets and stunts at times, I can appreciate the depth that writer Tom Robb Smith went for with Danny's characterisation and the people he interacted with throughout the series. There were some notable performances from the likes of Samantha Spiro, Lorraine Asbourne, Harriet Walter, Mark Gatiss and Adrian Lester.

The ending though was undeniably unsatisfying, though perhaps hinted at a potential promise of seconds and if that happened, then maybe I might get my wish of Danny becoming a kick ass spy after all. Hopefully with him living to tell the tale and moving on from Alex/Alistair's death as well.

London Spy aired on BBC2 and will air on BBCAmerica in 2016.

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