London Spy s1 ep 4

The mobile phone ringing at the end of last week’s episode isn’t a wrong number; it is, indeed, for Danny. Unfortunately for us – and, I suppose, for Danny – the distorted voice on the other end of the phone is a character beloved of TV and film writers: the Drip Feeder: “You’re looking for answers. But are you ready for them?” So just, y’know, telling Danny those answers isn’t enough: he needs to be directed to a hotel room, where he has to get into a bath, get out again, change clothes, get into a mysterious taxi, and then go to a restaurant. After that he can meet the Drip Feeder, who is dressed identically to Danny, looks just a little bit like him in a certain light, and reveals himself as an employee of the high-end escort agency we’ve heard about before. Danny, it turns out – more fuel for the unreliable narrator theory here – pushed Alex into having an affair with Faux-Danny, which Alex later regretted. Then Danny goes to the beach and burns some of his Alex keepsakes.

More or less half of the episode is taken up with this, at the end of which I would have paid good money to see the script of London Spy thrown to, say, the 24 writers’ room, for “editing”. Although we do discover that Danny is a fan of the dreaded “What are you thinking?” question which, particularly when asked post-coitally, should be a sackable offence in itself.

Things get a little better in the second half, leading to the revelation of the McGuffin, although it’s a problematic one. Danny works out how to get inside the spy keyring, which is a USB stick. With the help of the increasingly desperate Scottie he meets up with Alex’s former professor (Adrian Lester), who works out that Alex’s big secret was a kind of algorithm which functions as an infallible lie detector by reading facial expressions. Or something. So it would be possible to work out when politicians, for example, weren’t telling the truth. Well, it isn’t pensions, I suppose, although I was hoping for something better.

The episode saves its big emotional punch for the end, though, as Scottie, with a stoic acceptance of his fate, is driven in the mysterious taxi to – well, something dressed up to look like a suicide. Maybe it was. It hardly redeems the rest of the episode, though. Ben Whishaw is still doing a great job, but once again this looks like a British drama which is at least two episodes too long.

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