14 June 2015

TV: The Game - Episode Four

The fourth instalment of The Game seems architectured specifically for all the whingers who said nothing was happening in the second and third. In her sole episode for the series, Debbie O'Malley manages to capture exactly the spirit of creator Toby Whithouse's early episodes and balances character development with the series' overarching plot in a really pleasing manner.

The way this series has been engineered makes it feel vast in scale - you believe the average man on the street could well die if the team put a foot wrong - whilst retaining the insular, introspective paranoia you expect from a Cold War drama. It says a lot about the way television has developed over the years. This isn't just a series of adventures where MI5 investigate potential defectors, only for all the big stuff to come in episode six. This is more like a six-part serial. You wouldn't have got this amount of development in the fourth episode had the series been made thirty or forty years ago, and really it's quite staggering how much changes over the course of this hour. 

The most notable one is of course Arkady's death. This episode concerns itself with Marcel Iures' character more than any so far has, putting him and his loyalties centre stage. Before long we discover his true sympathies, and there's a few heart-stopping moments where you really do thing he's about to die. His actual death reminded me a little of the latest episode of Endeavour, Neverland, but it's something that you should really expect from a spy drama at some point.

The script for this episode was excellent, and I was particularly impressed by the way supporting characters like Bogdan were created so vividly in the viewer's mind so quickly. It's a skill of writing I admire, and something which Russell T Davies is - rightly - often commended for. Concerning our leading team, Sarah and Alan look to be drifting still further apart. Jonathan Aris and Victoria Hamilton are superb in the roles and I can hardly bear to see them at odds. I really hope issues are resolved before the series' end and that one (or both) of them doesn't turn out to be the mole. 

Bobby and Wendy have an intriguing relationship. I really am quite sick of Bobby's mother Hester though. Whilst her son's motives may be a little mixed at the moment, he's no doubt doing great work to try and secure the safety of his country. Of all the team, he is the one I am most confident hasn't betrayed Britain. Given my track record with this kind of thing, no doubt he'll soon be revealed as the mole. Hester is truly painful, beating Bobby for rumours spread about him, which they both know to be false. She is all about public appearances, and this outburst is clearly just the latest in a long line given her performances across the preceding episodes. Chloe Pirrie continues to impress as Wendy; her sensibility and caution is judged perfectly against the repressed emotion. I look forward to seeing more from her in future.

Daddy, Joe and Jim are afforded something of quieter time this week, though that's not to say they get nothing to do, the spotlight is just off them a little. That said, Jim once again has very little prominence or impact on the episode whatsoever. I'm wondering if the focus being kept off him is deliberate deception - or is it a double bluff? Who knows. Certainly not me. Next week looks set to return this trio to the middle of the action though. It goes without saying that they're all acting at an exceptional level, and manage to own every scene they're in.

Daniel O'Hara comes in to direct the second half of the series with a markedly different style to Niall MacCormack. Immediately, the tone has shifted and he does some very unusual things with structure and flashback. A lot of the experiments work. Some don't, but that's the thing with experiments. I'd much rather watch that than something static, formulaic and a little dull. The framing and cinematography is once again excellent; this is a really stylish programme in all senses. A quality episode of a series at the top of its game (no pun intended), this really gives me confidence for the remainder of The Game.

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