Thinking of the spy world instantly throws up images of James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer. A world of dark suits, sunglasses and guns. A world of danger, suspense and mystery. With gadgets we can only dream of and, in turn, a life idolised by many a small child.
It is certainly a lifestyle in stark contrast to that of the eternal clubber. Indulging in their youthful excesses, it’s a world of alcohol, drugs and hedonism, where the music is deafening and the troubles of tomorrow are perpetually on hold.
Yet those are the backgrounds from which Alex and Danny find themselves. Regardless of their differences, a chance meeting sees the reclusive Secret Intelligence Service agent Alex fall for the romantic and gregarious, yet drifting, Danny. Yet while the love between the two is mutual, so too is the distrust. With neither completely honest to the other, it’s only a matter of time before things turn bad, although not in the way either quite expect.
For not long after the two begin to realise how perfect they are for each other, Alex is enveloped in the mystery. Leaving almost without a trace, only Danny is left to fight for the truth behind Alex’s disappearance, taking on the troublesome world of British espionage in the process.
Yet while Danny may be wholly ill-equipped and unprepared to lead the search, the actor bringing him to life finds himself on the other side of the action this time round. After featuring as Q alongside Daniel Craig in both Skyfall and Spectre, Ben Whishaw takes centre stage in this five part series.
Edward Holcroft, most recently seen in Kingsman: The Secret Service, similarly steps back into the spy life to play Alex, while London Spy also calls upon the services of a duo of British acting veterans. Jim Broadbent stars as Danny’s confidant Scottie, while Broadchurch’s Charlotte Rampling features as Frances, a woman right at the heart of British espionage. Hustle alum Adrian Lester also stars as Professor Marcus Shaw.
Yet it’s the breath-taking backdrop which steals the show more often than not. Capturing London at its finest, the thriller paints a picture of beauty and fine architecture, rich with the traditions and stereotypes of the British spy. But as Danny quickly discovers, scratching beneath the surface only drags you deep into the bleak and volatile world beyond the pretty lights and towering skyscrapers. With its disturbing secrets inviting you in, London engulfs you, much like it has with Alex, until you’re nothing but a mystery yourself.
But while London Spy dabbles in the worlds of espionage and romance, to label it definitively as one or the other would be grossly underselling its brilliance. The romantic lens fits seamlessly into the espionage angle, giving a contemporary dynamic to an old tale. Familiar, yet in stark contrast to its predecessors. The human angle is played on greatly, with the love between the two shared with the viewer, as is their heart-breaking sense of loss. Characters are introduced with a sense of suspicion from the outset, with the paranoia almost crushing.
Only one thing’s for sure: this gripping, emotional, and utterly unpredictable thriller promises to leave you stunned and craving more.
BBC2, Monday, 9pm