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ALEX RIDER Season 2 Review

Neil reviews the second season of IMDb TV’s ALEX RIDER saying season 2 “is an excellent return” for the young spy thriller.

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Alex Rider (Amazon Prime Video)

The second season of Alex Rider streams on IMDb TV via Amazon Prime Video from December 3, 2021.

Synopsis

In season two, Alex is still reeling from the traumatic events at Point Blanc, and desperately wants to return to a normal life. But when his new friend Sabina’s father, journalist Ed Pleasance, is attacked by Yassen Gregorovich, the man who may have killed his uncle, Alex reluctantly finds himself drawn back into the world of international espionage. Cut loose from his one-time allies within shadowy MI6 division The Department, Alex discovers a link between Ed, a dangerous hacker known as Smoking Mirror, and tech billionaire Damian Cray. With the help of his guardian Jack and trusted friend Tom, Alex must unravel a sinister political plot with global repercussions, the answer to which may be locked within Cray’s latest product, the global phenomenon video game Feathered Serpent. This season is based on the fourth book in the franchise, Eagle Strike.

Review

In its first season, Alex Rider brought all of the tropes of big screen spy thrillers to a devoted YA audience. Sony Television and Amazon Prime’s venture in to adapting YA fiction largely succeeded due to its inspired casting and ability to not talk down its audience. Though it toed a thin line between adult and YA it was able to provide both audiences with its serialised, eight episode narrative.

In season two the creative team and firmly grasped on to those sophisticated, serialised aspects and doubled-down on their success. Based on Eagle Strike, the fourth of Anthony Horowitz‘s Rider series of novels, season 2 pits Alex (Otto Farrant) against Damian Cray (Toby Stephens), a tech billionaire on the verge of launching a brand new video game set to take over the world.

For fans of season one, Alex is helpfully dragged back in to the world of espionage via the reappearance of Yassen Gregorovich (Thomas Levin). The connective tissue between seasons doesn’t stop their either. Alex is still suffering the emotional consequences of season one, undergoing counselling for his PTSD. The choice to add this level of emotional complexity lifts Rider high above the pack when it comes to television aimed at a younger audience.

Flanked, as always, by Brenock O’Connor as Tom Harris and Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo as Jack Starbright, Alex finds himself abandoned by the agency with whom he had become acquainted in season one. It frees him up in early season two episodes to sink or swim on his own, playing on his psychological weaknesses. But when it becomes clear there’s more to journalist Ed Pleasance‘s attack it’s not long before Mrs. Jones (Vicky McClure) is back on the scene.

Farrant continues to shoulder the brunt of the series’ narrative as the anguished Alex. His often stoic performance takes a knock this season with Alex’s PTSD. New storylines offer Farrant the chance to add new layers to Alex this season, showing more of his range. There’s a well defined arc this year which really pushes both actor and character.

Alex’s stoicism seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the cast this year too. At times everyone, apart from Jack, feels a little cold. With the stakes much higher this year, it seems the writers wanted to inject some of that in to the characters without drifting too far in to more grown up territory.

From the third episode onwards, season two ramps up at a measured pace, dropping hints and clues towards the eventual epic conclusion. The writers room exhibits much tighter control over the narrative this time around. Eking out the plot with buckets of suspense without ever turning its back on the teenagers at its core. Though there’s less teen drama than season one, Alex Rider still shows an understanding of its young characters and their development towards adulthood.

As with season one, this new season features an incredibly lush production. The various locales, which range from Central London all the way to the British coast, all look stunning. It doesn’t feel a million miles away from Bond or Mission: Impossible. Bolstered by the series sumptuous theme and contemporary soundtrack, it’s no surprise why Alex Rider is such a hit with younger viewers.

But as was noted by some reviewers of season one, the extremely measured pacing could be a turn off for some. The series takes chances by steering clear of generic high school drama, instead opting to place Alex in far more adult situations. The series, as with Horowitz‘s original material, skews older, relying on the appeal of the espionage genre to hook its audience.

Even at it’s slowest, I applaud the series for sticking to its guns and providing something unique for its audience.

Verdict

Upping the stakes and doubling down on its slick production and storytelling, Alex Rider season 2 is an excellent return for the young spy thriller.


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