SoHo Recruits Period Spy Thriller

BBC Victorian spy drama The Secret Agent will premiere next month on SoHo.

Tony (Dickensian) Marchant’s three-part adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s reputedly unfilmmable novel will air 8.30 Mondays from September 12, as a curtain raiser to October’s launch of Westworld in the slot.

Set in 1886 London, it starts Toby Jones as a Soho shopkeeper who spies for the Russian embassy and embroils his family in a tragic terror plot.

“I’ve only seen the first episode, but I worry for the one-dimensionality of the series,” lamented The Guardian while The Daily Mail quipped: “It has absolutely everything going for it apart from – how to put this? – giving us any reason to watch? I’ve paired socks and found it more compelling.”

But Radio Times described it as “a gripping period tale exploring urgent modern anxieties” and The Telegraph dubbed it “an affecting trawl through a dark night of the human soul …

“There is such a dearth of decent human beings in The Secret Agent that it makes for a deeply uncomfortable viewing. Set at the precise point where political idealism and terrorism intersect, it features such cynicism at its core that, even 109 years since it was published, it feels utterly contemporary.

“Revolutionaries are portrayed as egoists and mad men. The concern for humanity loftily expressed by radicals and idealists is depicted as rarely extending beyond concern for themselves, let alone that of the ordinary man in the street.”

Reviews dwell on the maudlin relevance of the terror theme to modern Europe,” the Financial Times observed, “but the author’s insight into British laxity, as taken to extremes by the capital, would chime in any era.”

The series didn’t rate as well on Sunday nights for the BBC as its War & Peace and The Night Manager.

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