Jakob Verbruggen

London Spy E1 (BBC2)

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Contains plot spoilers for episode 1.

londonspy1Having seen Spectre only a few days earlier, I confess there was a bumpy initial transition to watching the first part of BBC2’s new thriller series London Spy. That’s because both feature Ben Whishaw, and while he delivers a commendably different and indeed exemplary performance in each, he nonetheless possesses something of a unique presence and appearance and consequently it was hard not to get distracted by thoughts of Q at times. It wasn’t helped by the fact that one of the first shots of Whishaw in London Spy has him framed against the looming bulk of the MI6 building in the out-of-focus background.

This and most of the other espionage aspects of London Spy were very low key for much of the initial 50 minutes of the hour-long first episode. If it wasn’t for the title, you’d assume that you were watching a rather sweet if slow-paced urban contemporary gay love story set in the capital. Whishaw’s character Danny is a late 20-something who up to now has been indulging in a life of partying, clubs, drugs, casual sex and brief but intense love affairs, while spending his days as a drone working solo in an Amazon-esque automated dispatch warehouse. However, early one morning Danny has something of an existential crisis about the state of his life while standing on Vauxhall Bridge, his misery so profound that it’s even apparent to a passing jogger who stops to ask him if he’s alright. (Hey, it could happen – even in London!) Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall S1 E5 (BBC2)

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Contains full spoilers for the final episode.

I reviewed the first episode of The Fall when it aired last month and have no intention of going over the same ground, but in light of some of the critical comments made about the final episode of the first series I thought I’d come back with a (relatively) shorter piece focusing just on the finale.

We’ve had a lot of brilliant crime shows of late that have stumbled at the very end – all three series of Forbrydelsen suffered from problematic conclusions, and even Broadchurch’s much ballyhooed last episode has similarly come under fire from those who expected more. With The Fall, viewers wanted either a resounding, satisfying climax to the current case in which the bad guy is caught, or else a major cliffhanger to put them on the edge of their seats for the next few months before the now-confirmed season 2.

The problem is that the producers themselves didn’t know if they were going to get a second season or not, so they had to make a final episode that could work equally both as climax/resolution and as cliffhanger/to-be-continued with just minor changes depending on what the network verdict turned out to be. (And when the very first episode set new records for a drama début on BBC2 the decision was not long in coming nor much in doubt.) Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall S1 E1 (BBC2)

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Apologies, I’m a week behind watching this series and although episode 2 aired last night as I write and post this, I’ve only seen the first episode so far. Even so, I still wanted to pen a few words on it before the series went too far into its run for people to decide whether or not to jump on board. This post does contain spoilers for episode 1, but not beyond.

This is a new five-part psychological thriller by writer-producer Allan Cubitt (Prime Suspect 2, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Runaway) that takes the serial killer crime procedural into welcome new territory, both in a storytelling and geographical sense. Set in Belfast, there are echoes of the time euphemistically referred to as ‘The Troubles’ but refreshingly these are neither the point nor the focus of the story that unfolds.

Instead, the series follows two characters, both of them outsiders but in very different ways. DSI Stella Gibson is from the Metropolitan Police, asked in by her counterparts in Northern Ireland to conduct a review of a murder case that’s gone cold despite having a high profile victim, a successful young architect who was also the former daughter-in-law of a Unionist MP – which immediately suggests political pressures will apply. Read the rest of this entry »