TV Review: London Spy

"People lie Danny, they lie very well" 

Well this was a disappointment wasn’t it, there’s no two ways about it. Tom Rob Smith’s London Spy started its five episode run most promisingly with its forthrightly modern gay love story – between emotionally reclusive Secret Service operative Alex and Danny, a shift worker and regular on the hard-partying Vauxhall gay clubbing scene. Edward Holcroft and Ben Whishaw made a powerfully effective couple, negotiating their differences beautifully and believably so that by the time Alex went missing, the substance of the emerging conspiracy theories actually meant something.

But as the plot wound vaguely into labyrinthine dead ends and red herrings, it became increasingly hard to get a handle not just on what was happening but what Smith was trying to say. And directed in would-be sepulchral (but actually just frustratingly dark) gloom by Jakob Verbruggen, the joys of recognising bits of my local Vauxhall soon wore off as you realised that such a stunning supporting cast as Adrian Lester, Clarke Peters and Harriet Walter were indeed being criminally underused or landed with heinous dialogue and what started off irresistibly disintegrated into implausibility.

The quaint notion of staying up for "the morning papers" in a digital age, the irresponsible casualness with which the HIV transmission was dealt (again, implausibly...), the huge contrivances on which the allegedly most sophisticated spies relied, the massive frustration of the final volte-face which just didn't work for me...and Jim Broadbent's Scottie deserved so much more. When a show's highlight ends up being Samantha Spiro’s detective wrapping her lips around such bon mots as sadism and erotic asphyxiation, something's gone awry. 

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