Alex Rider Season 3 reviews Episodes 1 - 4


Though it doesn’t always seem to receive a lot of high profile support in the media Alex Rider is a class show. Compared to how much publicity and hype other shows have it has slipped in though a side entrance rather like its main character might do. It hasn’t helped that the show has had to sprawl over a lengthy period due to actors’ availability and the pandemic.  This time there seems to have been a more concerted effort to push it though this is the final season, partly I imagine because the teenage characters are now being played by actors in their mid twenties, and promises to complete Alex’s story.

It’s not just the actors who are maturing, the production this time seems geared towards a slightly older audience – and I note that Otto Farrant gets an executive producer’s credit too. Whereas we had the school setting of season one and the game background of season two, this third offering is less contained and wilier as a good agent would be.  There is a layer of sophistication to things, the kids are no longer fumbling about but this time are being more proactive and prepared for things. They’re operating on their own too unaware of the Department’s dealing with a new Scorpia threat. There are lies and deceptions but played out in a very human context with a pleasing minimum of unlikely ideas.  Of course, a James Bond adventure is done and dusted in less than half the run time this eight part series of 45 minute episode so the pace is slower though this only adds to the tension. Along with the series’ trademark understated electronic score it also helps distinguish Alex Rider from other spy genre material.



Episode one

I watched each episode at least a day apart over an extended period to better absorb the atmosphere and as I’ve said about other shows this is a good way to get the best from a series. Otherwise binge watching means you miss out on things. The action develops from the climax to season two in which assassin Yassen Gregorovich gave Alex something of a clue if he wanted to discover the truth about his past. So he, Tom and Kyra have been travelling around Europe in search of the mysterious “Widow” armed only with a vague photo of someone with long blond hair in front of a wall. Not sure how they’ve been able to afford this trip but anyway they’re now in Malta which proves a more promisinglocation for thier search. That wall proves to be the larger clue as it being outside a mansion owned by a widow, name of Julia Rothman. Viewers already knows she’s working for Scorpia with a project called Invisible Sword. The fiendish details are not yet clear but we see a demo in which someone drops dead seemingly at the moment she predicts it.  

It’s a good set up for what seems like the most Bondian of the series yet. Not only is it set in a glamorous locale – as opposed to the wet and windy UK places of the first two seasons (they didn’t really film season 2’s Amsterdam sequences in the city)  but Alex has to don a tuxedo to go undercover at an art exhibition held in a cathedral. It’s a location that the production gets the best out of using mood lighting and during a chase at the episode’s climax, the full extent of the impressive architecture.

The series does have its own steady pace, slower than Bond perhaps, but it allows the cast some space and ensure a minimum of grandstanding from villains who are more matter of fact. As Julia Rothman, who seems to be the primary antagonist. s, Sofia Helin is poised and contained with just a hint of venom underneath. 

There are two main action sequences- Alex and Kira are attacked by guards when they try to get into the mansion and this is done effectively in semi shadow. The chase at the end takes us through the cathedral ending with one of those more literal cliff hangers. Even though her henchmen believe Alex jumped hundreds of feet into the sea, Julia knows better though it does stretch believability to discover just how high above the window Alex has managed to climb.

The episode also shows a better balance of humour too with the interaction between the three leads benefitting from the familiarity they have developed and the reason they give Tom’s brother, at whose rented apartment they are crashing, for Kira’s injury is just the silliest.


Episode two

A tenser affair, the second episode sets up two scenarios that we see happen at a pace to maximise the effect. One is back in London where the Department have a lead on who sent a message that’s been delivered to the government threatening the deaths of many people unless they cancel foreign debt. It’s a morally striking demand though probably Scorpia would take the money instead.  Accompanying the raid is a new operative whose enthusiasm is sadly matched by her naivety as she falls for an obvious trap and pays with her life. The raid is shot through multiple angles including seeing POV of the agents on a screen and in an open plan office

This comes after Miss Jones has effectively handed in her notice. So it’s not a good day at the office, people who do this in dramas often don’t survive the series so we’ll see.  The episode also shows us the UK’s Home Secretary, a fictional version of course but one whose attitude seems meant to remind us of recent real incumbents. The other scenario involves the ship where Scorpia’s secret weapon is being devised and into which Alex ventures and ends up receiving an interesting offer of information. Of course when the ship blows up at the end of the episode Tom and Kira think the worse but we know he’ll be ok don’t we…


Episode three

This is the best episode that the series has done yet with two absorbing plotlines playing out over the running time interspersed with Kira and Tom’s attempts to discover what has happened to Alex. In fact he has been taken to Scorpia’s local headquarters and finally gets to meet Julia Rothman for conversations during which Alex learns his father was a Scorpia agent and ultimately it was the Department who assassinated him. Just in case Alex remains suspicious he is shown footage of the even complete with Miss Jones' voice ordering a marksman to "take the shot". This development is as much of a shock to the viewer as it is to Alex. Given all that, asks Julia, will Alex join Scorpia? This is a well presented set of developments which may seem rushed in comparison to the series’ usual slow burn style but works well. Like Alex the viewer will be scrambling to try and believe it all. Sofia Helin is poised and calm as Julia, yet the viewers know what else she’s up to in between these talks.

Thanks to the Home Secretary’s’ belief that Scorpia are bluffing, they have threatened that the whole England reserve team will die at the end of a match today. It seems an odd choice and I wondered how such a scenario might be managed by a show that doesn’t have unlimited resources. As it turns out they do it really well with eleven extras for the team and some impressive army vehicles.  Its an eerie sight to see these healthy individuals all die at the same time while Miss Jones and several soldiers travelling in the same vehicles are unharmed. There is a rough edge to this episode which the incidental music, brooding under the surface, successfully conveys.

I thought they were going to leave the question of whether Alex agrees to join Scopria till next episode but he says he will and then finds out his trainer will be none other than Yassin. This storyline fits so  well with odd incidents in the first two seasons where he had the opportunity to kill Alex but didn’t though you know there won’t be much banter during the training.

Episode four

Training sequences in shows like this are often either so perfunctory you wonder how agents ever learn their stuff or too uninvolving for the viewer. This episode which devotes a considerable portion of its running time to Alex’s Scorpia work outs manages to keep things interesting. Instead of the usual mixture of fellow trainees he’s put with a rum lot who scowl and don’t like him. Their surly attitude is translated into brutal training moves whereas Alex’s compassion is seen as a weakness especially as the exercises are fairly difficult. He’s mentored by Yassin which allows some more backstory of the latter’s history with Alex’s father; in fact the episode opens with a flashback where we see a younger, nervous Yassin nearly giving the game away before Rider senior saves him. In many ways he's the most intriguing character in the drama, its surprising to learn that in the books he actually dies at the end of the Damian Cray story which was last season. 

What is perhaps difficult to square in the narrative though is Alex’s decision to join the organisation so readily even after he’s learned the facts about what happened to his father. Either way you slice it- either he’s pretending or he is really going for it – it doesn’t really add up as well as it should. He’s seen first hand that Scorpia at their worst are far worse than the Department and it would be more  in keeping with the character we know from seasons one and two for him to use this information to go on a personal quest to deal with the Department. Surely he must know that even if Scorpia where to somehow wipe them out they would just be replaced by others. Regardless of that it does make for good drama and Otto Farrant makes excellent work transforming from the more affable Alex we know to the colder Alex who now has new priorities

In the midst of the edgy training we track the progress of Tom and Karla. The work between Brenock O’Connor and Marli Siu is nicely done in this episode and provides a much needed break from the serious faces in Scorpia.

Reviews of episodes 5- in a couple of days. The other two seasons are also reviewed on this blog- just search for Alex Rider.


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