Part three of BBC2 espionage drama London Spy was so Dense and Dark that it made me squirm.
Danny really is in a spot of bother. Arrested by armed police in the dead of night, his involvement in some dubious practices in the past with some very unsavoury characters, are brought back to haunt him in falsified evidence in the Attic Room where they allege, Alex and he had indulged in an auto asphyxiation experiment that had gone terribly wrong.
They assert that the trunk that Alex had used in his car to store his rambling maps, was used for a seedier purpose and that a drug addled Danny had left him in too long and he had died. ( I had to look up "G" as I had no clue what it was... "GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a naturally occurring component of human cells. It is used most commonly in the form of a chemical salt which is taken recreationally as a depressant with effects quite similar to those of alcohol. These salts are powders but are most often mixed with water for recreational use."
To further incriminate him, the private conversation he had with Alex in his bedroom after meeting for the first time, is now presented as an incriminating recording of a telephone call and forensic evidence is planted on bedsheets.
Danny is forced to revisit spectres from his past. Mark Gatiss in superlative form plays ghoulish hedonist who smokes crack and likes young men en masse. A performance so chilling that I will never see Mycroft in the same light ever again, much should be made of the pure forces of nastiness that emanates from his every pore. Rich is a revolting human being and it makes it all the more heartbreaking that Danny had escaped the seedy underbelly of this life in his relationship with Alex/Alistair and yet his love for him and what Alex knew has drawn him back into it front and centre.
Things could not look anymore grim right? Sadly the tension and horror for young Danny is ratcheted up to a point of unbearable terror when a routine HIV test, that Danny knows should be negative suddenly comes back positive. His antibodies are reactive. He knows his promise to Scottie has never been broken, he knows he has never risked infection , that both he and Alex were Negative and yet a double test shows him to be infected. The sheer level of duplicity necessary to discredit Alex and silence Danny here is incredible.
Scottie believes that he was deliberately infected. The thing I thought was a bullet in last week's episode was in fact an antiviral drug capsule given as a warning that Danny's life was in someone else's hands. This has all been orchestrated to create a sordid cloud around him; to utterly destroy his credibility so that whatever it was contained within the coded capsule currently nestled in a pipe in a factory, is never revealed.
Scottie dusts off his espionage hat and he and Danny set out for answers. Into the murky world of academia and the murkier one of private member's clubs where the great and the good of the Civil Service do all their real work. Harriet Walters and James Fox add Gravitas to proceedings as our intrepid pair realise that they stand against the Combined colossus of Secret Service power of not one, but every great world power united in keeping whatever Alex knew, from ever being made public.
Ben Whishaw is utterly compelling, never before has every twitch, scratch and explosive exaltation of denial been delivered with such mesmerising authenticity. The long shot in the HIV clinic was a master class in subtle nuance. The dreamlike cinematography only added to the nightmarish quality of the scenes. Not in a long time has a show held me so taut and anxious. I was honestly breathless as he absorbed the enormity of his situation.
The ever brilliant Jim Broadbent is also incredible as friend ( but also possible foe) Scottie. His demeanour when Danny first met Alex pointed to jealousy and I am not ruling out a project to scupper the romance from an old hand in the espionage game! The scene where he describes a lover, obsessed the colour blue and one of the first to be infected in the eighties was again exceptional in the power of it's imagery and impact, further compounded by Jim Broadbent 's distracted delivery. This is British acting talent at it's zenith.
A cliffhanger ending of a ringing phone handed to him by Rich is a master stroke... I will most certainly be back for more!