‘London Spy’ Episode 3 review: The claustrophobia is almost tangible

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This week in London Spy the mystery shows no sign of approaching any kind of closure, as the circumstances of Alex’s death prove more and more complicated.

The episode opens with a great piece of symbolism, as Danny dreams of Alex cramped up and twitching, locked in the trunk.

The claustrophobia is almost tangible, and it represents exactly where Danny is at this point in the story; he’s utterly trapped by what seems to be an appallingly cunning set-up. He gets dragged in for questioning regarding and even to our ears his excuses and explanations sound weak and unconvincing.

Two things soon become apparent in this episode. The first: the walls are rapidly closing in on Danny, and he is most certainly running out of time. The second: Danny himself is a much more important player in this game than perhaps he initially seemed.

London Spy 1 3 Danny (BEN WHISHAW)

Of course, he has always been important in the sense that he is the main character; he was Alex’s lover, and our eyes and ears for the purpose of the mystery. But before this episode, it seemed (to me, at least) as though Danny was essentially an ordinary person who had become caught up in a world of deceit and murder through his involvement with Alex.

This episode changed that perception. Whatever is going on, it is very personal. “They built that attic out of my past,” Danny tells Scottie, after he has been aggressively questioned by the police.

Putting this together with the one solid piece of information we gain from this episode – that Alex had discovered something which the combined intelligence agencies did not want in the open – and it becomes apparent that everything which has happened since Alex’s murder has been for a single purpose: to incriminate Danny by building a perfect, personally-designed scenario in which he appears utterly guilty on all counts.

London Spy 1 3 Scottie (JIM BROADBENT)

In his quest for the truth Danny pays a visit to the sublimely creepy Rich (Mark Gatiss), a man who by his own admission is used to getting what he wants, and a man who very much likes to play by his own rules. His manner flits, slick and sly one moment but with a nastier raw brutality the next. He’s something of a puppeteer, but whose side he is on is anyone’s guess.

If there’s one criticism for London Spy, it’s that it tends to get a little lost in its own daydream. There is a sense of the story deliberately dragging its heels from time to time. People like a mystery, but they like answers too – hopefully next week’s episode, the fourth of the five, will begin to provide some.

All the same, the performances never fail to engage, and this week it was good to see Danny and Scottie working as a duo to try to uncover some truths.

Scottie is an intriguing character, and given his past, his presence helps to shed some light on Danny’s attempts to unravel the web – and anyway, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent are, as ever, a great presence onscreen.


Aired at 9pm on Monday 23 November 2015 on BBC Two.

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