Litvinenko – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

Episode 1

It is November 1st 2006. Alexander Litvinenko announces to his family that they have been granted British citizenship. Marina and Anatoly will have a bright future. As Alex sits down to work, he rushes to the bathroom covering his mouth. He vomits blood and we cut to 16 days later.

Detectives Jim & Brent arrive at the hospital to see Mr Edwin Carter, the man who thinks he has been poisoned. Edwin wants the whole world to know what has happened. The doctors don’t believe Edwin but Marina, his wife, feels that they do not understand him. Edwin wants the detectives to hear his story before it is too late. He predicts that he will die in 4 days and hence the police should know the when and why of the murder. Before the detectives can leave a doctor flags them down. She says that they need to leave and not come back because Edwin is seriously ill.

She says that they have tested Edwin for all sorts of toxins but have not found anything. Even though the detectives are inclined to believe the doctor, they will still go ahead and take Edwin’s statement. But when push comes to shove and the detectives ask the doctor for her personal guarantee that Edwin will still be alive come morning, she is scared. They proceed to take his statement.

Edwin reveals that his real name is Alexander Litvinenko. He reveals that he is a former FSB officer from Russia and he held a senior post. He explains he was the deputy of section 7, the department to kill enemies of the Russian state. He is in the situation because he refused to do so. Alexander also wrote a book uncovering the truth. That is why he is being targeted. Vladimir Putin, the former head of the FSB, is the one trying to kill him.

The detectives report back with their findings. The entire nation is shaken by this sensational case and the newspapers are covering it in the headlines. Alexander gives the names of Alex, Boris, and Anna when the police ask the names of the Russians with whom Alexander has interacted with in London. He reveals that Anna was recently killed in the streets of Russia for criticising Putin. An Italian intelligence expert called Alexander the day he was poisoned to have lunch with him. His name is Mario Scaramella.

Alex Goldfarb and Professor John Henry request the detective to meet Alexander and assess his situation. Henry is a top toxicologist expert and will determine if he was poisoned or not. Although Brent cannot give them permission to examine Alexander, he gives them his car to keep him posted if they are able to get permission. Deputy commissioner Peter Clark Informs SIO Clive that he will be joining the detectives to handle the case as a joint inquiry.

Alexander met Mario at Piccadilly Circus and then they went to a sushi place called Itsu. But Mario did not have any lunch. Only Alexander ate & Mario seemed very anxious. Mario gives Alexander a white package to keep in his bag. Brent is also given a copy of the book that Alexander wrote. Henry calls Brent with his findings. He believes that because the doctors tested Alexander with a Geiger counter it was not able to pick up things that are called alpha emitters. It also explains hair loss. To test the presence of radioactivity in his samples Henry says he needs Alexander’s urine to be tested at Aldermaston, the only place in England that could run such a test.

Alexander’s urine samples are taken and sent for testing. Clive briefs his team about the case and says that they need to be careful of the unknowns. The detectives request Clive give them access to Litvinenko as they have built up a personal dialogue with him. But Clive is not too forthcoming. Alexander is provided with a translator Nina Tapper to expedite proceedings. He next met a former colleague Andrey Lugovoi. He brought the meeting forward to catch a football match in time. Dmitry Kovtun was also with Andrey.

At the hotel bar, Lugovoi prevented Alexander from ordering a drink of his own and asked him to drink from the tea left in the pot. Alexander asks the detectives to go to his house and take the file that he had prepared on Lugovoi. The reports have come in and confirmed the presence of a substance called Polonium 210. In a tender moment, Marina confesses that although she believes Alexander she hopes he is wrong. Brent invites Marina into the room for the final sessions of the interview.

Alexander feels he is likely to die but he’s happy that he will die as a free person in Britain. He even told his son that for all his life he must be grateful to this country. Alexander makes Brent promise him that despite all the pressure he will get from the top Brent will make sure that this case comes to a just end.

Back at the Headquarters, Clive reveals that all of the personnel who came in direct contact with Alexander will undergo testing for radioactive materials. At that moment Bryant is scared for his wife as Alexander gave him the book and he gave her that book.

The results thankfully come out negative. As Litvinenko flat lines in the hospital, Peter gives directions to the police officers to carefully tread with the investigation. He directs them to secure all the spots where Mario probably could have stayed or visited. Brent takes Marina to the streets to show her how seriously the country is taking Alexander’s demise and assure her that they will do their best to catch the killer.

The Episode Review

No matter what anyone says, David Tenant was quite sublime in episode 1. Sadly, we will not be seeing any more of him barring any glimpses through flashbacks of Litvinenko’s life.

The truly sensational headlines that the case generated stand in stark contrast to the reality of the case. It took a long time for the ends of justice to touch the Litvinenko family and this miniseries aims to do just that. The bizarre circumstances of a public health emergency that we will see unfold blend nicely with the investigative side of things.

Episode 1 makes a nice impression and I did not find that much wrong with the accent. Movies have been whitewashed before and this event should be no different for critics to assess neutrally.

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You can read our full season review for Litvinenko here!

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