‘London Spy’ Episode 5 review: An excellent end to a riveting drama

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BBC Two’s five-part thriller London Spy has been a gripping and intriguing drama from start to finish.

The final instalment had a lot to live up to; over the past four weeks, we’ve watched as Danny and Alex fell in love, as they were ripped apart in horrifying circumstances, and as Danny searched desperately for any hint of truth as to how his lover died.

We’ve seen him grieving, numb, frightened, furious – a complex and ever-changing cocktail of emotions portrayed, beautifully, by Ben Whishaw, in a series which never relented on throwing out yet more secrets and mystery.

This episode more than any other highlights just how much Danny has changed over the series. In many ways, the aimless dreamer who bumped into Alex on Westminster Bridge has grown up a vast amount.

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Danny is now pro-active, determined, with a steely resolution and a refusal to let his unknown assailants intimidate him into submission. When boxes are left in his garage in the dead of the night, he goes straight out into the darkness to examine them. Danny is not going to be cowed; that much is clear.

And yet, when reflecting on his memories of Scottie, Danny retreats to the edge of the Thames to sit and stare at the water for a while and get some time alone with his thoughts. In moments like this, it is apparent that the events in which he has become entangled have not changed him too much. Danny is still himself – he’s just a tougher version.

After his parents (threatened, naturally) become involved in stealing Alex’s research from him, Danny’s determination does seem to waver a bit – attending a HIV support group, he spills all, and when asked what he is going to do next he simply replies, “I’m going to do nothing.”

But this is Danny, and if London Spy has taught us one thing, it’s that Danny does not give up. His journey takes him back to Alex’s childhood home, to the family we met in the second episode. And here, at last, some light is shed on the situation – and the truth of Alex’s end is revealed in all its grim horror.


We learn that the woman established to us as Alex’s mother was not in fact his biological mother – that was his nanny – but both loved him. We learn that his apparent mother brought Alex up to be a spy out of frustration and anger over her own lack of opportunities. And finally, we learn exactly why Alex died; because his research into de-coding lies was used against him – and when, under threat of death, he promised to abandon his research and abandon Danny, he was proved to be lying. And so they killed him.

Special mention must go to Edward Holcroft and Charlotte Rampling for the flashback scene in which we see the events leading up to Alex’s demise – Holcroft’s panic as the suffocating Alex and Rampling’s descent from dignity into terror as she realises her son is going to die are both heartwrenching.

There’s no ‘happy ending’ as such in London Spy; Danny has still lost his lover and his best friend. But he knows the truth now, and the last scene sees Frances join him in his fight to let the truth be known.

It’s not exactly a happy ending, but it’s a deeply satisfying one, and it feels true to the atmosphere of London Spy to end the drama with Danny still on a quest of sorts. All in all, it’s an excellent end to a riveting drama.


Aired at 9pm on Monday 7 December 2015 on BBC Two.

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