‘London Spy’ Episode 2 review: BBC Two’s drama has a sleek, sinister atmosphere

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The second episode of BBC Two’s London Spy gets off to a sharp if initially confusing start as we are reunited with Ben Whishaw’s Danny and promptly plunged into a tense journey through the London Underground, where every passer-by seems to be watching just a little too closely.

It’s a quick and effective way of entering Danny’s world again; after an update on the events of last week’s opener, there’s little time wasted before the audience is enveloped once again in London Spy’s distinctively sleek, sinister atmosphere.

It soon becomes apparent that some time has passed since Alex’s death. Danny now has a wall filled with newspaper clippings and notes related to all that has happened; he’s become totally obsessed with unearthing the truth.

London Spy 1 2 Danny (BEN WHISHAW)

But Whishaw’s performance bears no hint of cold calculation, even though Danny is essentially a determined man on a mission. Instead, Danny is vulnerable, obviously still grieving and missing Alex terribly; there’s an incredibly touching scene early in the episode wherein Danny struggles with his tie, only to be overcome with a memory of how Alex used to do it for him.

He cries, and this tiny scene has a strong bearing on the rest of the episode – no matter the situation Danny finds himself in, and no matter what people say about his relationship with Alex, we remember that the young man really did love Alex, and still does.

London Spy Scottie (JIM BROADBENT)

This episode tackles the past of Danny’s elusive older friend Scottie. There are some strange contradictions, here; Scottie is gravely insulted at the insinuation that Danny may not trust him wholly, and yet in the same rant he reminds Danny just how little Danny actually knows about Scottie.

“What do you know about me?” Scottie demands, scornfully, when faced with Danny’s perceived distrust – something which seems to go entirely against his point. For all Scottie’s apparent friendliness, his admission that he has spied on people for a living makes him one to watch.

Danny’s attempts to unravel the truth lead him to delve into Alex’s past, and directly to Alex’s childhood home. Here the episode sinks from a quietly sinister atmosphere into the realms of downright menace as the sleek modernity of London Spy merges with the eerie thrill of a Gothic horror.

London Spy 1 2 Mr Turner (DAVID HAYMAN)

David Hayman, in particular, as Alex’s (alleged) father, is creepy enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. It’s here that we realise just how deep Danny has entangled himself in a web which seems to have no end. Alex’s world was full of liars and, undeniably, danger – the end of the episode sees Danny get threatened by an unknown source, and thus sets up the immediate thread for the third episode.

London Spy is all about the little moments – the crossword puzzle which Danny scrawls ALEX ALEX ALEX all over, the lingering shot of a crucifix hanging lopsided on the wall. This episode is a bit slower than its predecessor, but it’s still highly engaging, and the performances are fantastic.

A change in pace is understandable; the mystery at the heart of London Spy is worth drawing out.


Aired at 9pm on Monday 16 November 2015 on BBC Two.

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