Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ben Whishaw is fragile and out of his depth in new Spy Drama from BBC2

As is my way, I only realised this was on when the second episode was airing, but thanks to the magic of Catch Up , I have just done a "Double Bubble" viewing and cannot recommend this British Spy Drama more highly!

Danny ( Ben Whishaw) is lost. Living in a pretty disgusting Student flat complex, working in a warehouse and looking pretty down in the mouth sucking on his teeny tiny roll up cigarettes. He spends an awful lot of time on the banks of the Thames quite near to the MI6 building. One day he smashes his phone and handsome jogger  ( Edward Holcroft) stops, offers him a few moments of undivided attention and a isotonic drink and Danny is hooked.

Like a stalker he haunts the area  until he meets " Joe"  again and they begin a strange courtship.  Joe is odd to say the least, investment banker, so neat it is painful and much much older than his years. He likes country walks and is otherworldly in his demeanour.Danny  is messy both in his appearance and lifestyle but yet they are drawn to each other, two souls missing each other.

Of course this is a series called London Spy, so Joe is not who he seems. Alex as Danny comes to know him is not used to relationships and so their gentle drift into a love affair seems right, if a little unusual.

Danny is infinitely more experienced sexually and yet is also childlike and delicate. His only friend an older Whitehall civil servant, Scottie whose role in his life is revealed after Alex meets him for the first time and is grilled unmercilously. At  nineteen, Danny in a drug fuelled delusion has sex with multiple partners and turns to his acquaintance  who looks after him for a month while he goes through treatment to prevent HIV infection and they become a family of sorts. Jim Broadbent is tremendous in this role, but when is he ever bad?

Things turn sour when Alex fails to turn up for a weekend away and Danny spirals until he goes to the flat and in a bizarre torture attic finds the decomposing body of his lover in a trunk. Stealing a computer  chip from the crime scene, swallowing it before police arrive, he secretes it in a pipe in a disused factory.

The police question Danny about the death and they tell him that he was a spy, called Alistair and not the orphan he claimed to be  and engaged in sexual practices in BDSM. Danny is unconvinced and thinks his lover was murdered. All the while watched by as an as yet unseen chain smoker Danny starts his own project to prove this.

Giving a newspaper interview Danny is soon painted as a drug addled sex addict and he receives a call from Alistair's Parents to come visit. There follows the weirdest "meet the parents" I have ever witnessed. Suffice to say that Alistair's Mother played with chilling stillness by Charlotte Rampling) is one of the coldest and unfeeling women. She uses decoys to see if Danny is a gold digger, tells him blatant lies about Alistair's promiscuity, debunked within minutes by Danny whose own experience makes a liar of her. Alistair's Virginity was unequivocal.

Returning to London Danny discovers that Scottie had been a British Spy in his youth, forced out when his homosexuality was discovered in a sting operation from within the Organisation. He warns Danny to be careful and his warning proves prophetic as Danny is approached by an American, one presumes the chain smoker and a CIA agent ( played with panache by Clarke Peters) who threatens him and leaves him a little parting gift within a boiled sweet. A Bullet.

This was a TREMEDOUS start to an unusual and utterly gripping spy drama. Every character is perfectly cast and the darkness of the series, although bad for my eyes adds another ominous layer to the edginess of the piece.  Every Location is wonderfully picturesque be that the London Skyline or Forest and field of the countryside. I cannot wait for the next installment!

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