London Spy sucked us into even more sordid espionage territory this week, with Ben Whishaw’s character Danny discovering he has been deliberately infected with HIV.
It’s a frighteningly gripping scene, matched only by a gruelling visit to Mark Gatiss’s drug dealer cum pimp ‘Rich’.
It all ends with James Fox, the British Establishment made flesh, telling Jim Broadbent’s Scottie a terrible – and terrifying – ‘joke’, before Danny receives a call from another mystery man or woman.
Three out of five episodes down, there are still many more questions than answers when it comes to Danny’s desperate search for what really happened to his boyfriend Alex (Edward Holcroft). Here are some of the most pressing conundrums.
1. Can Danny trust Scottie?
“The craft of a spy has always been to choose the right people to trust.”
Scottie’s pointed advice was ringing in our ears throughout episode three. Danny revealed to Scottie that he had indeed taken the code cylinder from his boyfriend Alex’s flat. He has decided to trust his friend – but has he chosen wisely?
Something Alex told Danny in episode one seems worth mentioning here: while walking on the beach, he admits that he conducted background checks on Danny after they first met, because he seemed too good to be true.
“The way we met was unusual,” he said. “That would have been the reason you were selected. The appearance of innocence.”
Well, by the same logic, Scottie is a fantastically convenient person for Danny to turn to in his hour of need. An ex-spy, the victim of a “fag hunt”, with just the right contacts needed to lead Danny to the secret of the code cylinder. Too good to be true?
The situation is slightly different – Danny has known Scottie for many years, before he even met Alex – but the point still stands. Might this be Scottie’s way back into the inner circle, by prising Danny’s secret out with kindness rather than killer injections?
2. Is Danny all he seems?
Considering how often everyone says how innocent Danny is, he’s proved remarkably adept at this spying game.
In episode one he picked up Alex’s cryptic line about needing to change his laptop battery. Episode two saw him masterfully evade a trail and make his way to a secret hideaway, hiding the cylinder in a teenage diary. His own? Alex’s? Either way, this is a man who knows how to hide both himself and things precious to him.
Then there was Frances’s (played by Charlotte Rampling) searing observation that Danny knew which bedroom was Alex’s thanks to “something akin to female intuition”.
Danny’s instincts are as sharp as the suit Scottie gives him. Underestimate him at your peril.
3. Who is calling Danny?
The climax of episode three saw Mark Gatiss’s character Rich hand Danny a phone. This came after Danny asked Rich about the symbol of the “specialist escort agency” seen on a business card.
The phone immediately rang, but who was on the other end? Was it that other business card devotee, the American played by The Wire’s Clarke Peters?
It was his blue pill after all that eventually made Danny get that HIV test. Perhaps he was peeved after Danny tore up his previous business card, and decided to make contact another way? More likely, it’s someone else we haven’t met yet.
4. Is Alex really dead?
No morgue scene, no body to identify – just the nightmare glimpse of a decomposing eye locked in a trunk. Is it being too suspicious to wonder whether this is all an elaborate ruse? Almost all the evidence suggests he is definitely dead, but then again, if all that evidence has been falsified to discredit Danny then we don’t have much to go on.
However, if Alex isn’t dead, then the whole thing – keys smuggled to Danny, eerie visits to dodgy dealers and London clubs – becomes a goose chase masterminded by dear old Alex. And right now, that’s way too much to think about.
5. What have we missed?
“Danny, you’ve got to figure it out. You’re the only one who can.”
Scottie tells Danny that he must know the combination to the secret cylinder from Alex. That almost certainly means we have seen or heard the solution already, but where?
The hint about the laptop battery stuck out like a sore thumb, but we’ve been racking our brains for a similar conversational dead letter drop that will solve the cylinder code – and can’t think of one.
House numbers? University age? Maybe it’s time for another iPlayer binge…
…Unless you have any bright ideas? Share all your London Spy theories in the comments, and we’ll solve this mystery together.