TV REVIEW: London Spy - Lullaby


London Spy revolves around Ben Whishaw's Danny, a fairly carefree man living a life of clubs and late nights in between his shifts in a warehouse moving boxes and scanning barcodes. On a morning after the heavy night before, he meets Alex (Edward Holcroft), a fastidious, socially awkward banker. 

Despite their obvious differences, they strike up a tentative conversation that evolves into a serious, months-long relationship, in which both of them appear to be heavily invested. Danny soon introduces him to an old, also gay friend, Scotty (Jim Broadbent), who seems to have met Alex before, despite the denial of both parties. Before long, the mystery around Alex increases and Danny finds himself in a situation far beyond his expectations.

There's an embrace here with the noirish elements, which gives the show an evocative feel; Danny gazes out of his window into the lives of others a la Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and Alex is a classic noir archetype, albeit in male form, an homme fatale around whom the central mystery builds. He cuts a handsome, enigmatic form and Holcraft manages the tricky task of performing a character who feels like a blank slate, but bringing forth Alex's unique kind of warmth in his scenes with Whishaw's Danny. 

Director Jakob Verbruggen works well with Holcroft to portray Alex as just slightly out of step with the world around him. He appears on the edge of shots, just out of the main focus of the camera or emerging out of the grey London landscape, nearly camouflaged in his also grey running gear. It's easy to understand Danny's fascination with this mysterious, beautiful stranger and again, the audience sees him often through Danny's perspective, blinding us to the secrets yet to be revealed.

Lullaby wisely doesn't throw us into the espionage deep end just yet, instead devoting its runtime to the development of that crucial relationship between Danny and Alex. The scenes between them are intimately shot and their scenes together are really quite sweet, offering a tender grounding for whatever lies ahead. The dynamics of their relationship shift elegantly throughout its development with Danny's experience allowing him to take the lead before it becomes apparent that he is just as emotionally broken as Alex and needs him perhaps more than we initially realised.

Though the slow pace may put some people off, it feels crucial to what follows in the revelations that the last few minutes of the episode brought us. An audience must understand why a person such as Danny would take such risks to find out what killed Alex and therefore, building their relationship and showing their increasing devotion to each other provides us with that motive. It also means that not only does Alex break Danny's trust, but he also breaks ours. It was apparent he was a man with secrets, but the extent of which comes as a shock, particularly his apparent Christian Grey alter-ego. 

Ben Whishaw is easily one of the most interesting actors around today, as capable of spinning a one liner out as Q in the Daniel Craig Bond movies as he is of carrying the dramatic weight of a series such as the criminally cancelled The Hour (no, I'm still not over that)He's the most fantastic chameleon of an actor and to find him in an espionage thriller on BBC Two is a welcome development. He anchors the drama and provides an emotional centre for the audience in contrast to Holcroft's still performance, one which I'm sure will continue as the series develops.

Too many television thrillers like to confuse their audience early with plot twist upon plot twist so the slow and simple opening to London Spy is refreshing, whilst it is also fully aware of the archetypes it is playing with. With an intriguing set-up and a stellar cast still waiting to make their entrance, London Spy looks set to be a rewarding viewing experience.

- Becky

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