Review

Alex Rider – “a mostly faithful interpretation”

Source: Martin Pettitt (via Flickr)

By Iris Knapman | Review Editor

Anthony Horowitz’s renowned spy thriller book series Alex Rider came to TV back in June of 2020, starring South London actor Otto Farrant as Alex. It was produced by Eleventh Hour Films, known for other British creations including the war-time detective mystery Foyle’s War and Safe House. More than a year has passed since the show’s initial release, but after giving the show a chance (despite not being a fan) I felt the need to share my feelings on the show.

For those unaware, the original book series began at the turn of the millennium. Conveniently the first book celebrated its 20th anniversary the year the show first aired. Its titular character, Alex Rider, is a teenager living in the custody of his uncle after his parents died. Due to events I cannot name without spoiling, Alex is forcibly recruited as a child spy by MI6 and thrown into the lion’s den, so to speak.

I never read the books before, so this was my contact with Alex Rider outside the 2006 movie. Through my own research, I concluded that while the show is a mostly faithful interpretation of the books (in comparison to other page-to-screen renditions), it by no means follows them religiously. This first season adapts the plot from the second rather than the first book in the series, Point Blanc, which takes Alex to a mysterious school in the French Alps for the troubled kids of extremely rich and powerful men. Meanwhile, the upcoming season is based on the fourth book, Eagle Strike.

Speaking of which: they officially announced November 2020 the series will return for a second season. Although there is no release date as of yet (due to filming delays caused by the pandemic), I’m excited to know that a continuation of this chilling action series lies just beyond the horizon. It provides you with ample time to go read the books and/or catch up before the next season airs (likely) sometime next year.

Before you do that though, I should probably tell you why this show is worth watching.

PLOT: 4/5 STARS

The plot is the creative property of the original author, Horowitz, rather than the exclusive work of showrunner Guy Burt and the writing team. Nevertheless, the premise of a strange school isolated from the rest of the world by miles of snowy mountains makes for a thrilling story. It follows Alex’s initiation into MI6, a direct consequence of a tragedy that leaves him hunting for answers and revenge. Alex no longer worries about asking his crush Alisha to the school dance but whether he’ll even survive long enough to see it.

There’s an interesting twist surrounding the school and its students. However, as a writer I personally believe that the concept’s execution could have been improved both in the show and the book. Additionally, the introduction of some characters felt purely for the sake of generating conflict rather than progressing the story.

CHARACTERS AND ACTING: 3/5

The standard of acting throughout the cast is decent with the exception of a few minor characters. I want to specifically praise the acting ability of Brenock O’Connor who plays Tom Harris, Alex’s best friend. His character exists as the source of comic relief and relatability in the show. He’s a loud-mouthed but loyal nerd who inadvertently causes nothing but problems for Alex. Despite this, he’s easily my favourite character in the show because of the likeability O’Connor brings into his performance. He feels like a friend you would have back in high school. That sense of realism experienced across the cast sealed the deal for me as I approached the end of the first episode.

Alex himself is well-acted, albeit awkward and moody in personality. While he’s not the best protagonist I’ve ever seen he definitely isn’t the worst. Farrant does an excellent job of conveying the grief and trauma following Alex’s heavier experiences.

PRODUCTION VALUE: 5/5

Regardless of my gripes with the acting or plot, the show wins in the visual department. Each camera shot is purposeful, aesthetically pleasing and does well especially during the action scenes to capture the adrenaline of the moment. I found myself genuinely tense at points, particularly at the “meat” of the show where Alex sneaks around the poorly-lit hallways of the school late at night to uncover its secrets. The direction truly hit the mark when creating that thriller essence and overall the production house demonstrated their talents.

Iris Knapman Review 

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