Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Exciting, tense and tonally on-point, Alex Rider is a show that knows exactly who it’s targeting its story to and does a pretty good job setting the foundations for this espionage hero. While you do need to suspend some belief in regard to a few of the plot points, on the whole Alex Rider is a really exciting young adult drama and does a great job bringing the espionage genre to the young adult market.
The story during this first season essentially combines elements of the first two books, the second of which titled “Point Blanc” which plays a crucial part in this plot. At its essence, the story revolves around young teen Alex Rider who’s thrust into action after his Uncle Ian is shot dead by a Russian called Yassen. With the authorities keeping things quiet about what really happened, Alex is called to action by a shadowy organisation that operate under the veil of secrecy and need his help in uncovering who killed Ian.
As the story progresses, Alex is thrown head-first into the viper’s pit, forced to adopt the alias of Alex Friend and enrolled into a secret academy for troubled kids called Point Blanc high up in the Alps. With the mysterious Dr Greif overseeing proceedings and secrets lurking in the basement, the first half of the series preps Alex for the mission ahead before the back-end adds action and exciting twists that quicken the pace and revel in that aforementioned espionage drama. All of this builds up to a satisfying but equally ambiguous ending that leaves the door wide open for future seasons to come.
Alex Rider is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to its visuals. On the one hand, some of the action is really well shot and there’s a consistent dark, grimy tone hanging over this one that manages to balance that with the young adult market this is clearly shooting for. At the same time, Alex Rider’s desire for a darker story also means there’s not a lot of room for light comedy or quips. Even more troubling is that some scenes are blanketed in thick shadows that obscure faces and sometimes make it difficult to discern exactly what’s happening. It’s not a deal breaker but it is something worth bearing in mind before jumping into this one.
Although it does take a few episodes to get going, when Alex Rider settles into its groove the series plays out like a YA version of Jason Bourne and it’s all the stronger for it. The interaction between characters is good and Otto Farrant does a great job stepping into the teen spy’s shoes and bringing Anthony Horowitz’s character to life. Interestingly, the decision to adapt the second book, Point Blanc, rather than a direct adaptation of Stormbreaker, seems like a deliberate ploy to step away from the 2006 film adaptation and march to the beat of its own drum.
Having not read the books, I can’t comment on how well adapted this is but tonally, Alex Rider does a great job making it accessible to teens and adults alike. This is the sort of show you could quite easily throw on and enjoy, regardless of age, and although there’s a niggling feel that the show could have done with a few more jokes just to lessen the impact of the melodrama, it’s a minor gripe in what’s otherwise a really engaging and exciting first season.
Overall then, Alex Rider is well worth a watch. It’s not perfect and the show does slip up a little with some of its stylistic ticks, but beyond that the story is well written and has enough twists and unpredictability to keep you watching through to the exciting and open ending. There’s enough of a conclusion to this one to prevent it falling into cliffhanger territory, and given how well Alex Rider does to revel in the tone and feel of teen espionage, I hope Amazon do renew this one as there’s a lot of potential, especially given the number of books that could be adapted in the future. For now though, Alex Rider bows out with a surprisingly strong first season.