The Game, Series 1, Episode 6, TV review: Finale of '70s spy thriller lacked oomph

KGB agents and more red-herrings than a fish market do not a tight series closer make

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The Independent Culture

'The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket.' So speaks the greasy, bomb-wearing Professor in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent. 'Counter moves in the same game.' The finale of BBC's mostly excellent, occasionally clunky 1970s spy drama The Game brought move and countermove to a fatal stop as we desperately tried to work out who was agent, double-agent or simply confused bystander. 'Sometimes everything is what it seems' said Yulia (Zana Marjanović), now reunited with moody MI5 agent Joe Lambe (Tom Hughes). Yeah, right.

The Game's subtitle could easily be 'Trust No One' (but that's taken apparently) and we finally found out just how far that extended as it transpired that a whole host of 'top brass' in British society, from the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Met to the Deputy Prime Minister, were KGB moles. Or 'the unwashed brethren' as the continually tremendous Head of K Branch put it.

Operation Glass it turns out has been bubbling since 1945, when the KGB embedded a small army of sympathisers into key roles and watched them rise (very nearly) to the top. A quick bullet to the Prime Minister's head, followed by the inevitable redundancies, would result in a very neat, and silent(ish), coup. Their plot was, of course, foiled by elfin Joe and his impossible cheekbones.

This series closer lacked the oomph of last week's bomb/mole double header but at least we got to see MI5's unhappiest couple, The Montags, go face to face (always sours a marriage, I find, when one of you has to pretend to be a communist traitor in order to bail out the other) and Joe finally caught up with that pesky Odin (Jevgenij Sitochin). However Odin's dying breath, which he used to sew doubt in Joe's head about his lovely Yulia, meant that it didn't quite play out as our Scouse beauty imagined it might. 'I win' said Odin, dying. We'll call it a draw.

A typically excellent cast (the BBC never usually gets this department wrong) has held The Game together during the moments it's veered from stylish and fun to extremely camp and hammy. Shaun Dooley's gruff copper Jim has developed nicely, as has Chloe Pirrie's wide-eyed Wendy, and it was pleasing to finally see Daddy (Brian Cox) show why he's made it from MI5 trolley boy to the top chair. Sadly we won't be seeing Victoria Hamilton in series two (come on, BBC, series two), as her Sarah Montag is now banged up in some windowless, unofficial jail somewhere in the Highlands (I imagine).

Lord knows, I've written enough about Paul Ritter as Bobby Waterhouse, the louche confirmed bachelor of MI5. However, now I'm going to write some more. Alongside Raised By Wolves's Della (Rebekah Staton) Bobby is 2015's gift to the pantheon of great British TV characters. 'If it's any consolation' he told Daddy, 'I'm not a Soviet spy. I'm not going anywhere.' Hoorah.

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