22 June 2015

TV: The Game - Episode Six


What a blistering conclusion.

After five weeks of intrigue, deception and build-up, Toby Whithouse can finally pay off the storylines he's been plotting with varying degrees of transparency. And what a pay off this is. As if things weren't exciting enough last week with the apparent reveal of the mole's identity and the KGB's first discernible strike, the stakes are ramped up from the very first scene of this concluding episode.

As soon as it was revealed Alan was covering for Sarah, I realised just how stupid I'd been. Of course he was covering for her - how could I ever have thought anything else? Alan really has quite a tough time of it through this episode too, what with learning the truth about his marriage, betraying his friends and an attempt on his life. His eventual fate come the end of the series put a big smile on my face though.

This really is an extremely busy. As well as the main plot of Operation Glass, which - delightfully - is resolved largely by Wendy and Daddy, we are afforded resolution to Odin's machinations and Yulia's story, plus several seeds are planted, seemingly for future harvest. This is a phenomenal script from series creator Toby Whithouse, as he ably manages to wrap up all of the threads left dangling all series without short changing the character, plot or individuality of this episode. I'd say it was pretty essential to see at least the majority of the preceding five episodes, but that's standard for television nowadays. 

Tom Hughes is once again excellent in the central role. Joe's story throughout this episode did remind me a little of one in particular from Spooks, but I suppose the same could be said for the series as a whole to a lesser extent. Joe's been framed as the second mole in MI5, and has to prove his innocence to his colleagues. We learn at the climax though that they did trust him after all. Of all the team, it's Daddy's reaction that cuts deepest. It's often seemed that he's building Lambe up as his star agent, and sometimes treats him like a son, perhaps appropriate given his pseudonym, and so when it appears he's been betrayed, he takes it personally. Brian Cox is once more perfect in the role, giving the role just the gravitas it deserves. His confrontation towards the climax is prime proof of the calibre of The Game's cast. In fact, this whole episode is.

Jim Fenchurch really comes into his own here too. He's back in more familiar territory and is given much more to do when written by Whithouse than by either Debbie O'Malley or Sarah Dollard. His and Joe's relationship is unique amongst the web of lies, politics and distrust that's overridden this series. There's an unspoken respect between them and I highly doubt now either would defect. Expect both to reveal Russian sympathies come series two then. That's the strength of Whithouse's series - I could go on all day about his vivid, distinctive characters without ever mentioning the amazing cast behind them. Drama is all about the people, and this series has stood apart from other espionage series not just because of its setting but because of its figureheads. 

Shaun Dooley, Jonathan Aris, Victoria Hamilton, Chloe Pirrie and Paul Ritter, in addition to the already-mentioned Hughes and Cox, are flawless across The Game's six hours. They inhabit their parts totally and I can't imagine anyone else playing them. It's so hard to pick a favourite character or actor as they've all had excellent moments in the spotlight. For development and really coming out of her bubble, Pirrie as Wendy was one of the most impressive though. 

This whole thing has looked amazing too, courtesy of Niall MacCormick, Urszula Pontikos and Daniel O'Hara. This is such a sumptuous series, with every frame looking like a shot for a film poster. It's staggering how much television has come on, especially the time which The Game is set in. Films didn't look as good as this in the seventies, never mind television - especially on a BBC budget. Television is undoubtedly a much more exciting medium for me these days, and things like this prove why. Whithouse has created a truly excellent series and I for one really hope it gets a second run. My only complaint would be that it ought to be in a better timeslot, perhaps Sunday evening. There it might attract the kind of audience it deserves. Not being delayed six months from BBC America would probably be a bonus too.

In summary then, this has been one of the best series of 2015 so far - and that's a big statement given the level of talent we've seen on the small screen this year. This last - for now - episode is gripping from the very start to the credits. What a beautiful final shot, by the way. Cranes are great. This is highly recommended viewing, and certainly the best spy drama I've seen for years. 


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