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London Spy: Episode 4 Review

SPOILER WARNING: The following contains significant plot details for London Spy episode 4

London Spy episode 3 ended with Danny handed an envelope and a promise of “the impossible”. Inside was a mobile phone which rang the moment it dropped into his hand.

Episode 4 begins with Danny falling down yet another rabbit hole as the digitally distorted caller directs him an a labyrinthine trek through nocturnal London. Ordered into a black cab with automatically locked doors and a silent driver in black leather driving gloves, the threat was palpable – black leather gloves being an automatic red flag in an espionage drama. Forcing Danny on the journey was the promise of the ‘impossible’. Could Alex be waiting at the end?

Alas, there was no sudden happy ending. In fact the promised revelation was a disappointing damp squib, albeit a very stylish, charming and attractive one. Danny meets an escort for the tenebrous organisation he has been tracking. The man tells him he was hired to seduce Alex while he was in their relationship. Without the inspiration to crack the code of Alex’s code key, and now with doubts planted over his relationship, Danny is tired of the game.

Nonetheless, he cannot quite shake the puzzle of the code key. In the end, it was not a grid reference, or a date, or a message scribbled in the margin of well tumbled paperback that held the key but a conversation about soulmates and romantic notions.

London Spy episode 4

Adrian Lester guest starred as Alex’s College Professor Marcus Shaw, a rather thankless role as he was essentially there to deliver ‘the science bit’. Contained within the code key is a complex algorithm which can apply to all human communication as a kind of universal lie detector. The ultimate code breaker that will decode language itself into a simple binary of truth and lies. Of course this would mean the end of diplomacy and politics. No wonder every intelligence agency in the world seems to want them dead.

This was the weakest episode of London Spy so far. After the relentless descent into horror in episode 3 it suddenly applied brakes to the drama. The solution to the code key seemed simplistic – and the Macguffin it protected like something out of a pulp nineties cyberpunk thriller. It was the human drama – not the spy action – that gave the episode its best moments. Whishaw continues to be superb. Danny’s improvised ‘funeral’ for Alex was moving and sad. Jim Broadbent was terrific as Scotty succumbed to a relapse into the crippling depression and alcohol abuse.

London Spy episode 4

London Spy has been one of the most strikingly original dramas of the year and it was disappointing that the momentum of the previous 3 episodes seemed to have been lost somewhat. However, a truly horrifying final image leads into next week’s finale and it is to be hoped that this was a necessary intake of breath before a final flourish.

It has never seemed that this is a story that will have a happy ending, but with dark and powerful forces gathering against him Danny remains defiant. Will he be crushed like a butterfly on a wheel?

Directed by Jakob Verbruggen

Written by Tom Rob Smith

Cast: Ben Whishaw; Jim Broadbent; Riccardo Scamarcio; Adrien Lester; Harriet Walter; Edward Holcroft


Review by Stuart Barr.

Did you tune in for London Spyepisode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below – and don’t miss the finale on Monday 7th December at 9pm on BBC Two.

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