REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
In the final episode of this generously-budgeted new version of the adventures of Anthony Horowitz’s popular teenage superspy, one character is depicted wearing a T-shirt proclaiming ‘the book was better’. It’s a knowing in-joke, of course, an acknowledgement from the show’s makers that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. The jury may be out for some time on whether this sleek, updated incarnation of the popular adventure character for older children hits the sweet spot, but the verdict will almost certainly be delivered by an adolescent audience who grew up with the books rather than the newcomers (children and adults alike) that the show will clearly be hoping, and ‘needing’, to attract.
The series is, however, a bit of a mongrel. Skipping lightly over the events of Stormbreaker, the first book in the series (already adapted into a flaccid 2006 feature film starring Alex Pettyfer), Alex Rider dives headlong into Point Blanc, the second of Horowitz’s novels. Here Alex (Otto Farrant) is living in London with his uncle (Andrew Buchan) and housekeeper. His uncle works in banking – until it suddenly becomes apparent that he doesn’t. Despite his better efforts, Alex becomes embroiled in the activities of a covert Government espionage agency and the machinations of a ruthless supervillain carrying out sinister genetic experiments at an isolated school in the middle of the Alps. The series is a curious combination of James Bond, Spooks and 24, with storylines and plot points which date back as far as ITV’s 1970 kid’s classic Timeslip. Alex has been turned into a moody sixteen year-old, he’s lost the Bond-lite gadgets of the books and he’s now a teenager out of his depth in a world he never knew existed. Trumpeted as an action series, there’s actually not much action or real spectacle, and after an intriguing and pacey first two episodes the story grinds to a halt until it cranks into a higher gear towards the end of episode six.
Despite tedious but inevitable tweaks to the established character however, the show is an impressive production and Farrant is a real find as Alex, ably supported by the likeable Brenock O’Connor as his friend Tom. Vicky McClure is, unfortunately, a bit wasted in her thankless role as Alex’s spy-handler. But now the series has set itself up, future seasons (God knows when we’ll see them) could really let rip and show us what Alex Rider is properly capable of.