So, when I decided to give London Spy a chance via OnDemand, I had a general idea of what the series was gonna be about. You know the usual slick suited, debonnaire gent who’s equal parts playboy and genius, filled with seizure inducing editing, sexy bodies, fun tech toys and enough ‘splosions to make Mr. Bay pop a tear of pride.
Welp, I was totally wrong.
London Spy follows Danny (Ben Whishaw), a young man in the midsts of a rough patch in his life, where drugs, partying, and a thankless job are de riguer. After a night of partying, Danny, weighed down by his aimlessness, dissatisfaction with life, and drugs, collapses into himself on a bridge at the same time the gorgeous “Joe” (Edward Holcroft) is jogging past. The two babes, clearly have a connection, a romantic one that is, when “Joe” checks on Danny handing him an energy drink (I think), and keeps on his way. This small exchange isn’t lost on Danny who’s feeling invisible and is touched deeply by this small act of kindness. Needing to get another hit of “Joe”, Danny takes up early morning jogs in the hopes of crossing paths.
Eventually they do and that’s when things really heat up. When I tell you their scenes together are steamy, believe that to be an understatement. These characters have a spark that’s undeniable, sweet and intimate despite their short courtship and watching them so quickly fuse into a loving bond is captivating and can only be explained by the talent of these actors who so phenomenally portray their attraction.
Anywho, as their trust quickly grows “Joe” reveals his real name to be Alex and that his life has been a chain of well planned serious decisions leading him to work with other very serious people at a very serious investment firm that’s sucked the life out of him. Though he has a very stoic sensibility that all washes away in Danny’s jokey, light hearted presence.
Soon, Danny is introducing Alex (now boyfriend of 8 months) to his long time friend Scottie (Jim Broadbent) an older man who has taken a liking for Danny and helps him out when he gets into dire straits, and a dash of longing for his young friend. It’s clear that Scottie is reticent about meeting Alex…I’ll leave that right there for now. 😉
Danny and Alex continue to find a solace in the other that’s not afforded them in their separate lives which makes the tension of the overall story so much stronger. See, as we’re watching their relationship bloom, there’s this underlying feeling (fueled by shots of them via video surveillance and an always following enigmatic plume of cigarette smoke) that the other shoe is soon to drop.
A few more subtle hints (that you should experience yourself) follow and quite suddenly this story of romance is plunged into a fog of confusion, heartbreak, and possibly betrayal when Alex vanishes and Danny finds a hidden room in Alex’s home along with a small device hidden in Alex’s computer and another mysterious item that may hold the answers as to why.
As Danny explores this dark nook, covered in dread, he finds a metal framed bed (straight out of X-Files’ ‘Home’ episode), across from a wardrobe full of serious leather and metal fetish items, definitely not in-keeping with Alex’s style or depth for that matter. Danny-boy’s attention is ultimately drawn to a closet in the rear of the room sheltering a large trunk and mysterious stain beneath it and before I go on…ummm…yeah it might be what you think. After calling the police and being taken into custody it’s revealed to Danny that Alex is actually Alistair Turner, an MI6 agent with more secrets than an illuminati meeting. Before the interrogation gets too deep, Scottie sends a lawyer to get Danny out who is now completely dazed, confused and broken.
I couldn’t imagine a better way to get a five-part series like this started. By taking its time with character development and keeping a steady pace in revealing the plot this suspenseful mystery is what all shows in this genre need to take a lesson from.
Can’t wait to see what happens next!
Episode 2…What Happens Next–Spoilers Abound!
And we’re off! Welp, if you’re caught up with the first episode, you know that Alex/Alistair is the dead body in the trunk Danny found in the attic! Yes, cry all those stinging bittersweet tears.
There’s no cause of death yet mentioned in regards to Alex’s death, not even the supposition of murder which, duh finding a dead bloody in a trunk will make one wont to do. Anyway, we open with a very spy-like Danny hiding the little device he took from Alex’s computer, which appears to be a very advanced decoder ring, in a not-soon-to-be-found spot and turning to the press in hopes that they’ll tell his story and aid his cause. This proves to be futile as the press betrays his trust and writes a scathing and lurid account of their relationship. Danny is made to look like a harlot and Alex, a sadistic dom with a laundry of lovers and kinks, destroying both their names and well, Alex’s reputation. Now with his personal life on the brink of destruction and the truth of Alex’s demise on the fast-track to a cover-up, things seem to look up when, to Danny’s surprise, he’s contacted by Alex’s parents who he was told were dead. Led by curiosity and perhaps the prospect of a sympathetic ear, off he goes to the country to meet the mysterious Turners.
Well, as you might expect things just get more crazy and convoluted in the country when Danny is played with by his lover’s family who are trying to figure out his intentions. Frances, the cold Turner matriarch played by Charlotte Rampling (now the crazy and convoluted bit makes sense), weaves lie after lie about her son, in a clear attempt to derail Danny’s quest for truth but he won’t be derailed, he only grows more defiant and eager in his mission.
What’s even more bizarre about this seemingly wasted trip to Turner Manor, is that neither one of Alex’s parents show any indication of being affected by their son’s death, I mean poppa Turner never says a word even when Danny mentions that foul play is responsible for his son’s death, it’s Frances who rules the home and the people therein like a dictator. The only semblance of a soul in the household at all troubled by Alex’s death is the housekeeper who cared for him and tended to his emotional needs but the only intel she has for Danny is to get away from the Turners asap, hmmmm…
Well anyway upon Danny’s return to the city he’s approached or perhaps cornered by…Lester Freamon?! Sorry I mean Clarke Peters, referred to only as “The American” (via IMDB) who offers his assistance to Danny in uncertain terms and through a veil of coded language. At the end of their “interaction” he leaves behind a card (with no number) and a candy with something inside. Now on the verge of being afraid Danny once again employs the advice of Scottie, who we learn earlier has a previous relationship with MI6 as an outed and disgraced former agent who may or may not still be on the payroll, to get some idea of what in the hell is going on and what to do! Getting nothing more than a “let it go” from ol’ Scottie, our hard-headed Danny continues his indie investigation at home, where he discovers a suspicious blue pill at the heart of Lester’s…sorry “The American’s” half eaten candy, threatening him in its silent presence.
It looks like anyone could be involved in this murder and I’m happy we have a protagonist who’s hip to this fact and is realistically motivated and fearless enough to keep pushing; but it’s hard to tell just how far he’ll get…until next time!
Remember you can catch London Spy on BBC America, Thursday at 9pm CT, OnDemand or via BBCAmerica.com.
Joyy Norris is a snobby cinephile, with a love of the written word and penchant for exploring its hidden treasures. She is a Writer, Program Assistant at Black Cinema House with the Rebuild Foundation, on-call Props Master and budding filmmaker in the Chicago area. Her current pursuit of an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking is the jumping off point in a life-long dream of creating films that re-engage audiences in the overlooked landscapes around us. You can find Joyy’s writing on bentlily.com, glossmagazineonline.com, a few self-rendered blogs in the process of updating (more on that soon) and on blurb.com home of Ode Vol. I, her first work of self-published poetry.