Alex Rider Season 3 reviews Episodes 5 - 8


Episode five

A gripping episode sees this season really earn its spy points courtesy of three separate yet intertwining strands. Alex is sent on what seems like a traditional mission to infiltrate a house to lift the contents of the safe. Yassin will be joining him and needless to say there aren’t any funnies on the way. Yet this turns out to be different from expected – after all Scorpia don’t specialise in conventional crime- challenging Alec’s moral stance over killing people as he watches Max Grendel being shot. After Alex is incensed by this he uses some of the kit from the job to break into Julia’s office which of course he was expected to do. Scorpia’s sneakiness knows no bounds.

There he finds more evidence over his father’s death- and the jaw dropping reveal that it was actually Miss Jones who ordered the trigger to be pulled on his father twenty years back. This is like a lot of shapes suddenly fitting into holes and explains her unusually caring attitude towards Alex. Or does it? There’s bound to be more twists but this plot really fizzles. You can feel the rage bubbling up inside Alex- both Otto Farrant and Sofia Helin are excellent throughout this episode as both chracters are playing the cat and mouse game.

The issues raised are knotty indeed- Alex wants revenge, he says, for what happened to his father yet so far he has been both reluctant to kill or even allow others to do so. His reaction to Yassin’s murder of Grendel suggests he will always find it hard to pull the trigger.

This is also an episode that gives Ace Bhatti’s Crawley and Nyash Hetendi’s Smithers something more to do than peer at screens or look concerned. After Scorpia allow three days only for their demand to be met, its up to the duo to try and find clues as to why the footballers died, all of the same heart condition and all at once. The results are ingenious though terrifying to consider. The discovery of how its done doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to stop further attacks. You hope nobody watches dramas like this with ill intent because there are plenty of ideas here. Both this and Alex’s mission feel like real secret agent material and are played with a sweep and atmosphere needed.

Sandwiched in between we see Tom and Kira’s more low rent espionage as they gamefully find the Scorpia base and follow Alex on his mission. There’s quite a chemistry developing between these two and it does lighten the sombre mood a little. The narrative does well involving everyone in the cast in what is definitely the best episode of the season so far.


Episode six

There’s a slow dramatic fuse burning during this compelling episode. Everyone is back in the UK now; Alex is with Yassin preparing for his mission to assassinate Miss Jones while Kira and Tom are also back and ready to tell all to Jack who gets involved as only she can. It’s great to see Ronke Adekoluejo getting more back into the centre of the story. There edginess of the episode revolving around whether Alex will go through with the plan. There’s a lot of ground for Otto Farrant to cover this time and he gets an opportunity to stretch his acting as well as wear a disguise that makes him look like a heavy metal biker!

Meanwhile the Department are trying to catch up especially after Jack has disputed the place a bit. What you can see in Vicky McClure’s nuanced performance is that Miss Jones knows what is likely to happen- later on as soon as she is aware her apartment has been broken into she realises it is Alex before he even appears.

The tone is understandably even more serious than usual though there is time for some lighter fare; even some of the dialogue between Alex and Yassin has the feel of two uneasy flatmates. At the end Miss Jones is facing Alex and the gun- we hear shots being fired but we don’t see what happens. This is what cliffhangers were invented for!


Episode seven

An episode that’s largely exposition can be a bit dull but this is presented to maximum effect and because we know the characters so well becomes an engrossing watch. We pick up where part six left off with shots ringing out but Alex has not carried out the assassination; rather he’s put three rather well separated bullets in the fridge. What follows is his gradual thawing out as the true, true facts are revealed. After the Departments somewhat cursory treatment of the teenager in the past they are positively caring this week if only because time is running out in the countdown to Scorpia’s city wide deployment of Invisible Sword.

The crisply written script releases a lot more facts than you’d normally get in one go and has to pivot Alex from being bitter and vengeful to changing sides back to the Department. That it manages to do so in forty five minutes yet in a convincing manner is to its credit. When it comes to a sequence where Blunt and Alex visit the bridge where Alex’s father was apparently shot by Miss Jones we have a well mounted reproduction of the events around the two which brings a lengthy scene to life. Very cinematic and very well done, even down to a youthful looking Miss Jones as she was.

What appeals so much about this episode in particular and the season as a whole is an emphasis on making the characters more identifiable than you’d expect. They may be spies and counter spies but this season has drawn more out of them and the cast rise to this opportunity. Stephen Dillane’s Blunt is a standout this episode as he takes Alex through the tale and yet the character remains focussed on the wide threat.

Bath is the city Scorpia are targeting, it’s not mentioned in the episode but anyone whose been there will recognise the particular stone most of its buildings are made from or the curved Geogian exterior of the Circus buildings. With Alex not having been aware of all this going on despite his incursion in Scorpia the episode sets him up- willingly- for one more mission. And there’s still time for a romantic interlude too! That the last scene has him promising he will come home makes one rather worried as you know what usually happens when someone says that…


Episode eight

A wonderfully calibrated finale sees Invisible Sword deployed in Bath to potentially devesting effect. Alex has pretended to go back to Scorpia albeit with a tracking device in his gut but that’s not all that’s in his body. In a casual forgotten scene earlier on in the season he was given some pain relief inhaler by Julia- this turns out to have been a dose of the thing needed to trigger problems when Invisible Sword is launched. So that gives us two countdowns as he’ll only have a couple of minutes to get clear. Setting all this inside and above a church setting adds a strange combination of the old building and the modern technology.

The episode reveals too just how much personal feelings have driven Julia’s plan all along, whatever she might say. There are some neat twists and some action too when the Department storm the Scorpia operation. Its satisfying that even at denouement Alex doesn’t kill anyone though it looks like he might have to despatch Nile. Jason Wong has been a real asset to the season, more than just a henchman he is clever as well. The lengthy combat scenes between him and Alex on the roof of the Abby are really well done. One small thing though- surely a lot of people would notice such a great big object on top of the place?

A victory then for the Department and for Alex too who seems like he’ll get to live his best life without being bothered by further missions. However, the door is still open and now Mrs Jones is in charge he could be more receptive to future offers. The episode does have a mid-credits sequence that rounds things off perfectly.

It’s been stated that this is the last season of this particular iteration and while the younger cast have gown up and many of the older cast may be harder to get in future this production team should surely make something else. All three seasons of this series have been produced to a very high standard and maybe the slightly ambiguous look Alex gives at the end shows that there could be something in the future.

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