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London Spy (Television Mini Series Review)

London Spy is one of those shows I came across by complete fluke. I saw a few posts on Tumblr that revolved around the show and I found them to be quite intriguing. Upon further research, I determined that London Spy would probably be yet another television program filled with gritty, intense content, which are of course, my favourite shows to watch. London Spy is definitely one of those shows that you need to watch twice. It’s so complicated and intricate that details are probably missed when watching it for the first time. Basically, London Spy is mysterious as hell. Half the time you have no idea what the hell is going on while you sit there hoping and praying that you’ll get answers and that you’ll get them soon.

London Spy plays with you right from the start as the first episode is completely unlike the rest of the season. Although there are some definite dark and mysterious undertones, it does NOT prepare you for what you are about to go through during the rest of the mini-series…until the very end of the first episode.

London Spy is filled with phenomenal actors that I am embarrassed to say I had never seen in anything beforehand, except for Edward Holcroft’s appearance in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Charlotte Rampling’s quick stint as Evelyn Vogel in Dexter. I know what you’re thinking… “Maria, are you saying you’ve never seen a James Bond film?! Have you really never seen the excellence that is Ben Wishaw?!” As I said, I’m embarrassed. I was not aware of the fandom that surrounds Mr. Wishaw, but I can tell you that after watching London Spy, I completely understand it. He is perfection. That is it. That is the only way to describe him.

Although I definitely enjoyed this show for the most part, there were also definitely a lot of things that I had issues with. The lack of clarity and answers generally drove me up the wall. I expected a lot of unanswered questions throughout the first bit of the mini-series, but I was hoping that things would feel a little more wrapped up by the end. Instead, I was left feeling a little unsatisfied as the series came to a close.

As I was watching each episode, I took down some quick notes and later turned them into little mini-reviews after completing each episode. As the episodes went on, you will notice my reviews became a little more manic as each episode left me with more unanswered questions that made me completely insane. It’s actually quite funny and interesting to go back and read my initial reviews and reactions after watching the full series. I will warn you now that these little reviews are full of huge spoilers. If you have any inclination of watching this mini-series, I highly suggest that you do not read past the jump! You have been warned.

This is your last spoiler warning.

 

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Episode 1: Lullaby

London Spy wastes no time getting right into the heart of the story. This episode was extremely fast paced, maybe even a little too fast paced? I found myself feeling a little lost at times and not knowing how much time had passed within the story line, if any at all. It seemed as though there might have been a bit of a time jump through Danny and Alex’s relationship, and I’m totally okay with that, I just wish it was made a little more apparent. Having that time jump could potentially provide the audience with more flashbacks into their relationship that could possibly reveal more secrets about the two men. We know there was an eleven day gap between the last time the two men spoke and Alex’s disappearance/possible death, but how long had they been in a relationship before this happened? On the surface, their relationship seems powerful, beautiful and pure, but could it all have been a ruse? Alex and Danny both seemed genuine, but there is definitely a lot more to learn about these two characters.

This first episode definitely had me very intrigued, especially once we hit the last half hour or so. There are so many secrets and so many unanswered questions that draw the audience in. Danny even proclaims that he no longer wants to have any secrets after revealing a troubling story from his dark past, but it turns out that Alex is the one hiding something maybe even more disturbing. I’m also curious about Danny’s friend, Scottie, and what his intentions are. Something seems a little off with him. I’m sure there is still more to learn about Danny as well, but the big questions still remain with Alex and his “secret” life.

So far I don’t have any real predictions or solid guesses regarding the twists and the cliffhangers, but I will say that it does seem as though Alex, or Alastair I should say, was living a double life.


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Episode 2: Strangers
This episode begins quite literally where the first one left off. Danny is unraveling the mysterious object that he found within Alex’s computer’s battery compartment. In the previous episode, after Danny asks Alex to go away for the weekend, Alex oddly turns up the volume on the radio and states that he would be unable to leave until he replaced his laptop battery to which Danny simply replies “I understand.” Fast forward to Danny discovering Alex’s secret attic and he almost instantly remembers what Alex had said as he opens the back of Alex’s computer to find a mysterious object. Is this some sort of secret code. Honestly, the more I watch this show, the more I’m unable to tell who the spies actually are. Could it literally be everyone?

It is unclear what the object is that Danny found in Alex’s computer, but from what I can tell it looks like some sort of lock/puzzle. Danny keeps this object a secret and close to him at all times, but even he seems unsure of what it could be. Either the discovery of this object is important and people have begun to follow Danny, or he’s starting to become paranoid. On top of the unidentified object, Danny is also secretly hiding what seems to be one of Alex’s notebooks with incoherent scribbling. Or is it Danny’s notebook? Honestly, it’s so hard to tell with this show.

Danny then meets Alex’s parents, or so he thinks at first only to use his perceptive skills once again in figuring out that he is being fed yet even more lies. Then Alex’s real mother shows up. Right when you think you’re about to get some solid answers, the show flips you upside down while spinning you around. What is with all the lies and the secrecy, from both Alex and his parents? Are they a family of spies? There is definitely so much more that needs to be revealed.

After watching the second episode in its entirety I can safely say that I still don’t trust Scottie. He seems off and maybe even a little obsessive in regards to Danny. I just don’t like him.

Throughout literally the second half of the first episode and the entirety of the second, all I’ve been asking myself is “what the hell is going on?”. Everything is extremely vague and being that this is only a 5-part mini-series, I’m hoping some questions start being answered as soon as possible. I would hate for the conclusion to be open ended.

P.S. I swear if they pull a Fight Club/Mr. Robot and Danny and Alex are the same insane person, I will be severely disappointed.


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Episode 3: Blue
 With every episode of London Spy that airs, I feel even more unsure of what the actual hell is going on. I have one opinion after an episode airs and then after watching the next my opinions and predictions have completely changed. Remember back during the first half of the first episode. Everything was fine and dandy. We saw the blossoming of a beautiful relationship and everything was great…and then we got to the end of the episode and everything got flipped upside down. That almost feels like a completely different lifetime compared to where we are in the story now. Everything has gone completely crazy.

The biggest reason why I believe my predictions and thoughts keep changing after watching each episode is because Danny is one hell of an unreliable narrator. I can’t tell if he’s slowly going insane due to the loss of his loved one or if he was already insane to begin with. Bottom line, Danny is starting to lose his damn mind.

As the police interrogation continues and incriminating evidence against Danny begins to pile up, I began to further question whether or not Danny is actually going mad. Had he done all of these things and not remembered it? Is he choosing not to remember it? Did he actually talk to Alex about his past on the phone rather than face to face as he remembers? Did he and Alex actually have an adventurous sex life that he chooses not to remember. Could he be choosing not to remember because said adventurous sex life might have been the cause of Alex’s death. Could Danny have killed Alex and simply be choosing not to remember it out of trauma? Here are my favourite far fetched predictions that my mind has come up with: could Danny be sending himself all of these clues. Could have sent himself the box of keys at the warehouse. Could he have put the weird coding cipher into Alex’s laptop. Honestly, this show is driving me to think of every possible conspiracy theory. I might be the next one to go mad.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. I don’t trust Scottie. He’s got to be some sort of double agent or something right? Something is off about him. He’s too quick to accept Danny’s innocence and he too easily believes that Danny is being framed when in reality, everything points to Danny being guilty.

Can we also talk about the HIV test scene for a minute. That scene was acted to perfection and there was hardly any dialogue. The scene itself lasted for quite a long amount of screen time, but it felt so much quicker. Danny goes into this test knowing that it would be impossible for him to have contracted the HIV virus. He sits down and calmly lets the nurse take his blood. She leaves the room and Danny is left waiting for the test results with a sense of certainty. He slowly and curiously looks around the room as he patiently waits. When the nurse comes back with a positive test the scene completely changes. The nurse states that it’s common to take two tests to be absolutely sure that the test is positive. She takes more blood from Danny, who is completely distraught this time around. As she leaves the room to prepare the results, Danny is left in a state of shock. He had only been with one person, Alex, since his last test and they were always safe and neither of them had the virus to his knowledge. The scene is shot almost exactly the same way as when Danny was initially being tested, yet this time the tone and feel for the scene has completely changed. Danny is completely panicked which leads him to come up with yet another conspiracy theory in which he believes that he was given the virus during his interrogation with the police when they had taken some of his blood via syringe. Not to mention the only reason Danny went for this test was because a mysterious man left him a mysterious pill that happened to be the medication that you would take if you were HIV positive. Honestly, what the hell is going on?!

Also, how does anyone expect me to wait a week after that ending?! Are you joking?! Who was on the other line?! Who is calling Danny?! Ahhhh!

I’ll end this ridiculous review with a quote from Danny:“I don’t understand.”
Yeah, me neither Danny, me neither.


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Episode 4: I Know

Oh boy. Here we go. The penultimate episode. Will questions be answered? Not nearly enough. Who else was hoping and praying that Alex would be alive and was the mysterious caller on the other line? One can dream right? Wrong. Instead it was some creepy escort man that made weird suggestive hand gestures instead of just saying the word “fucking”. Honestly, it was really strange.

The more I watch this show, the more I don’t know what to believe and the more I think I’m slightly starting to go insane. This show takes apart your brain, plays with it, and then puts it back together in all the wrong places. My entire thought process while watching each episode goes along the lines of “what the fuck is happening?” “Who the fuck is this?” “What the fuck is that?” and literally none of those questions get answered by the time the episode is through. Or if they do, they get answered with a million other questions.

Ever since the first episode, we have all been wondering what the hell was in the weird lock/puzzle/cipher thing, which we now know is called a locked cylinder, that Alex had hidden in his laptop’s battery compartment. We finally, FINALLY, get an answer…sort of. First, Danny had to really push his brain to the limit to figure out what the code was in order to open the locked cylinder which proved to be difficult at first until he finally, IN THE MOST HEARTBREAKING WAY POSSIBLE, figures out what the code is. I won’t ruin that much of the show for you, but just know that I, along with multiple other people on tumblr especially, felt completely depressed and heartbroken by what the code ended up being. This show WILL tug at you heart strings.

We finally discover the secret behind the locked cylinder…or do we? It was a little cryptic and super confusing and complicated, but I guess it does kind of explain why so many people could possible have wanted Alex dead. I still honestly have no idea what to believe. Is this all in Danny’s head. Is he actually being framed? I DON’T KNOW. The locked cylinder contained a USB key and within that USB key was the same strange file that Danny saw while snooping through Alex’s apartment/laptop within the first episode. There was an attempt to explain what it all meant, but it was super complicated and it was explained way too quickly that my brain just really didn’t comprehend it too well. Something to do with 9/11 and a new way to distinguish whether or not a person is lying based on their facial patterns. I’m not sure the writers even want us to understand. Maybe they just want us to know that whatever it is was super important and multiple secret intelligence agencies were willing to have Alex killed because of it.

As this episode continued, my feelings remained the same regarding Scottie and the fact that he seems shady as hell. Until the final frame of the episode…oops. Once again, I won’t ruin too much, but just because of the incident that occurred at the end of this episode does not mean that Scottie isn’t suspicious. I still think he had something to do with everything that is happening to Danny, one way or another.

With only one episode left and so many questions that still need to be answered, I hope the writers can successfully wrap this up. Either that or they pull a Mr. Robot and turn this mini-series into an actual series due its success.


 

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Episode 5: If This Is A Lie

Alright, so…I’m still not sure how I feel about this finale to be quite honest. Ultimately, I felt as though London Spy was leading up to something crazy and shocking, meanwhile I ended up feeling a little disappointed and let down instead.

New concepts and storylines were still being introduced…in the final episode…of a mini-series finale. Once I hit the half way mark of the episode I found myself thinking, “well how in the hell are they going to wrap all of this up in a half an hour?!”

There were so many things that weren’t explained, or maybe they just went straight over my head, who knows, but this episode seemed oddly vague and obscure compared the episodes previously aired. Why would they introduce Danny’s parents so late in the story? What the hell was up with that whole storyline in general? Why did he shred the photograph his parents took, only to re-tape it together in an odd way? He seemed to have figured out something by doing this, but I honestly have no idea what the hell he was talking about. Clearly, I have been left with a hell of a lot of unanswered questions.

I know I stated that I had no idea what was going on in previous episodes, but I figured that was because there would be an end game and that questions would be answered that allowed me to understand the more confusing parts of the story. Nope. This episode did none of that. I really had no idea what the hell was going on and I still don’t to be quite honest.

Although I generally disliked this episode especially, it did have one moment in particular that stood out to me. Shockingly, this scene did not involve Ben Wishaw as Danny, but instead the most memorable scene from this episode came from Edward Holcroft as Alex. Seeing him being questioned by authorities using the formula that he created was just awful. Think about it. You create this way to be able to tell when people are lying based on their facial patterns. Not only does the government want to have you killed for it, but they ultimately use it against you, without your knowledge, while they have you trapped inside a locked box. While in this box, Alex is told he needs to move to the United States, take on a new identity and completely forget about his life in England, to erase it completely from his memory, and only then would they allow him to leave. When he is told he would not be able to contact anyone that he once knew, he completely loses it with the most depressing look of anguish on his face as it is clear that he is thinking about how he will never be able to see Danny again. This scene was completely heartbreaking and I almost couldn’t bear to watch it.

Well, I’m still here. Still thinking about this episode, knowing full well that there are no more episodes to come. I wish things were more clear. I wish things weren’t so vague and obscure. I wish they tried to make more sense out of everything. I’m confused as to why Alex’s “mother” changed her mind so quickly at the end. I don’t know, I was just left here to feel confused and incomplete.

This is so frustrating.

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