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An Ordinary Teen Lives an Extraordinary Life: 'Alex Rider'
November 13, 2020  | By David Hinckley

British spying somehow looks more exotic than American spying, a peculiarity underscored by a new British adaptation of the Alex Rider spy series.

Alex Rider, whose first season becomes available Friday on IMDb TV via Amazon Prime, follows the teenage adventures of Alex (Otto Farrant), who basically is good at figuring out what's really happening with whatever big or small thing is unfolding in front of him.

He's also good at schmoozing. The combination of those spy-friendly skills sets him up to be recruited by Alan Blunt (Stephen Dillane), head of the Department of Special Operations inside the British spy service MI6.

As Alan matter-of-factly explains it to Alex, MI6 learns what is going on. The Department of Special Operations then takes care of whatever that intel suggests needs to be done.

There's a lot of "don't ask if you don't want to know" floating around here, and the other members of Blunt's team are an appropriate mixture of mysterious and slightly menacing.

That includes Blunt's deputy Mrs. Jones (Vicky McClure), who becomes Alex's handler, chief of staff John Crawley (Ace Bhatti), and agent Martin Wilby (Liam Garrigan).

Martin is the crucial link here, having been a long-time friend of another agent, Ian Rider (Andrew Buchan), who is also Alex's uncle.

It's only after something happens to Ian that Alex gets pulled into the whole MI6 web, about which he previously knew nothing. He had always been told Uncle Ian worked in a bank.

Unlike some of the other recent young spies in the movies and on TV, Alex hasn't secretly thirsted for this life. He prefers being a normal kid hanging out with his best friend Tom (Brenock O'Connor).  
But Alex was raised by his uncle, with the continuing help of supernanny Jack Starbright (Ronke Adekoluejo), so he feels an obligation to, well, figure out what happened.

Oh yes, and Blunt also threatens devastating retaliation against both him and Jack if he doesn't cooperate.

Call it the old iron fist in a velvet glove trick.

Specifically, Alex's mission involves infiltrating an exclusive private school, the unsubtly named Point Blanc, that seems to cater to the recalcitrant offspring of the very rich. This enables the story to incorporate a wide range of interesting characters, some of whom seem to be more recalcitrant than others.

Point Blanc is run by Dr. Greif (Haluk Bilginer), whose equally unsubtle name strongly hints at what he delivers. He's an appropriate mix of arrogant and creepy, and good fun results when Alex duels with the good doctor and his academy.

Alex Rider also has teenage girls to make life more interesting for Alex and Tom, and menacing assassins with Eastern European names to hold the ongoing attention of Blunt and the MI6 crew.

Alex Rider originally was born in a series of novels by Anthony Horowitz and the first season of the TV version, based on the second book in the series, was adapted by Guy Burt.

To the extent it's a coming-of-age story, Alex Rider includes several familiar elements. On the other hand, coming of age in a special operations division of MI6 gives Alex's story enough unique twists to make it an engaging story for viewers of all ages.

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