Winter in the Pacific Northwest can be dreary – mostly due to the pervasive gray sky and relentless rain. However, my husband and I try to play golf as often as possible (though twice a week may not strike some people as “as often as possible”) – since I believe it’s playing golf regularly that improves one’s game. Playing golf on a misty day on a muddy course comes with its peculiar problem, that is, the balls tend to bury themselves deep into the muddy soil. It is often difficult to find a ball that falls onto the muddy surface from high altitude. In fact, we are more likely to find somebody else’s ball hidden in the muddy soil before we can find our own balls. I have to say that digging out buried balls from the mud with fingers is rather unpleasant. Yet, even in such a rather negative experience there is always a silver-lining: we have more balls than we start with when we find our balls as well as others’ ones.
I am currently very much intrigued by a TV mini-series produced by BBC, London Spy. The title may strike one as banally generic, but in its banality there is some insidious significance: London is populated with spies that monitor people’s conversations and moves with surveillance cameras and other methods. In addition, London is the capital of United Kingdom that had produced famous spy-story writers from Joseph Conrad, Ian Fleming to John le Carre: this fact underscores the past glory of the Great Britain as the most powerful nation up to the end of WWI.
In a nutshell, London Spy is a story of a romantic but careless/ fearless young gay man who gets involved in political intrigue when he falls in love with a young intelligence officer Alex who works for MI6. I was much interested in the TV mini-series because it was listed as one of the must-sees in a few magazines. And – as soon as I started watching it I was captivated by its moody, atmospheric narrative style. Since the plot unfolds solely from the point of view of the ordinary, “non-spy” main character Danny (superb Ben Wishaw), the viewer is kept as much in the dark as Danny during most of the first 3 episodes. Many shocking and unsavory events transpire but without much explanation, producing a heightened sense of mystery and suspense. As Danny quickly becomes a competent investigator motivated by his love for Alex with the invaluable assistance of his old patron-like father-figure Scottie who used to be a spy himself, the viewer comes to know the extent of control that the government /power exercises upon the people in London. The narrative development is at times confusing because Danny’s perception of reality, recollections of past events, and nightmares are seamlessly juxtaposed. Since moving images resemble dreams and visual thoughts, these mushed-up sequences are initially confusing to the viewer; nevertheless they certainly help the viewer understand how confounded and helpless Danny feels. By the 3rd episode, London Spy, which started as a sort of romantic gay love story where characters seem to believe in lasting genuine love, reveals itself as a suspenseful story of overblown paranoid anxiety. The government/ power, which at times appears obscenely perverse, seems to be able to control almost all aspects of Danny’s life. I hope that Danny will come out of this harrowing experience as a triumphant and wiser person.