Amazon have offered their own solution to family viewing and it’s in the form of the action series Alex Rider. Think a young James Bond, and although he’s still at school and had to trade the Aston for a push bike, it’s brilliant and now back for a second season.
This isn’t Alex Rider’s first on screen adventure – Anthony Horowitz’s hero made his cinematic debut in the 2006 Stormbreaker, but for those who have sat through that 90 minutes of floppy-haired Alex Pettyfer flouncing about, you’ll be pleased to know this TV adaptation is much, much better.
Season one saw the plot begin at the start of Horowitz’s second novel, Point Blanc, but with a bit of Stormbreaker blended in, and had young Alex playing posh and battling bad guys in a modern spy story that kids and adults adored.
Season two is very much on message with mental health issues and has Alex (once again played with panache by Otto Farrant) suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after the events of the previous season. But he is able, in these enlightened times, to be more open about it.
And its not surprising Alex is feeling under pressure, given that gaming mogul Damian Cray (Toby Stephens) has arrived to put a bomb under both his uncle and his new relationship with (the oddly Bondishly-named) Sabina Pleasure (Charithra Chandran). With his links to the Department of Special Ops vanished into thin air, and his therapist acting suspiciously, Alex must infiltrate a mysterious Alpine academy alone and unsupported except by best pal Tom.
The critics haven’t got round to seeing the second season – hey that’s what Must is for – but they all raved about the first outing.
The Independent’s Ed Cumming reviewing the first season says “this is more satisfying than the film, stylish but not sanitised.” And Anita Singh in The Telegraph is a fan: “It’s slick and stylish, bringing the stories up-to-date with smartphones and cybertechnology while sticking to the spirit of Boy’s Own adventures.” In The Times Hugo Rifkind says that as this is a family show, the series has to tread a fine line: “they slightly have to pull their punches when it comes to the sort of stuff that fictional spies normally get up to, but teenagers definitely shouldn’t, by which I mainly mean shooting people and shagging other people. Or the same people.” And he says, “it’s good. Maybe really good.”
We’d call the Alex Rider franchise a Must Book on the page, and this return to on-screen form for the Horowitz blockbusters is welcome indeed.
Season one first shown June 2020 and season two in December 2021.