11 June 2015

TV: The Game - Episode Three

And so The Game rumbles on. Apologies for the lateness of this review, but I've been pretty busy of late. I've managed to go some way to catching up with my favourite thing on telly at the moment though, so it's not all bad. 

It's a shame that we've seen the majority of the episodes of this series that are scripted by Toby Whithouse now though, as he nails the format so perfectly, balancing character, plot and subplot with expert ease. I was almost worried though that this, for a while at least, would become a series of 'what lead has Arkady got for us this week?'. But with this third episode, Sarah Dollard changes things up a little. It was immediately apparent to me that there was a different writer at the helm purely because of the style and structure of the script. 

More of this episode than usual is occupied by Daddy and his affairs. I think posing the authoritative, world-weary but doggedly determined patriarch against Mother Russia is a subtly shrewd decision, and it really works. The strength of the character, never mind the excellent Brian Cox, is apparent from the subplot of this episode being hung on him. His affairs outside of MI5 aren't particularly dark, and certainly don't seem to be linked to the Reds so far, but it's excellent that some colour is being added to effectively the series' second lead. 

Dollard also affords some development to Sarah and Alan, and their relationship. They're probably my favourite pairing of the series so it's a little heartbreaking to see disparity emerging between them. I applaud the writer and executive producer for working to not let any plot strand lie, ramping up the claustrophobia and paranoia of the Cold War climate, but the emotional investment I have in the characters makes me resistant to the idea that this marriage may be falling apart - or already have, from one particularly unsubtle clue.

The rest of the main team - including Bobby, Wendy, Jim and Joe - are all dealt with pretty satisfactorily, which is quite an impressive feat given the number of plot lines there are to juggle. Bobby and Wendy's relationship is a particularly interesting one and I must commend Paul Ritter and particularly Chloe Pirrie for excellent performances. They bring the pair to life, and ensure they're never anything less than believable - a statement true of the entire lead cast. Tom Hughes' Lambe isn't left much in the way of character development but is undoubtedly the star of the show. Hughes' powerful intensity and commanding presence are a perfect fit with Joe as scripted, and I can't imagine anyone playing the role better.

Perhaps the only member of the team neglected is Shaun Dooley's Jim Fenchurch. He was a fascinating perspective on events through the first two hours of The Game, offering a unique point of view amongst all the potentially world-shattering chaos. Here, though, he barely featured and when he did I didn't get a sense of the character at all; he could well have been any other MI5 employee. To afford an actor of Dooley's capabilities such little material is a pretty sorry affair but he still does the best with what he's given.

All in all, this is still a high quality episode of a great series, but unfortunately it doesn't meet the standard of the first two. It looks beautiful thanks to the great work of Niall MacCormack and Urszula Pontikos, and I can't fault the performances, but overall this was just a little less exciting and engaging than either of the first two parts. Don't get me wrong, I still immensely enjoyed this, and I am looking forward to Dollard's later episode, the penultimate of the series. And the suspicion regarding the MI5 mole is ramping up. I don't have space to go through the candidates here, but my basic feeling is that at this stage it could be anyone - I could list multiple reasons for each's guilt. 

In short, The Game is still my favourite thing on the box at the moment.

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