Victoria Walker finds the second half of Spyfall is a great vehicle even though it puts the brakes on
Spyfall part two was, if anything, a satisfying conclusion to the events of the first part. However, it did not live up to the promise of its first half. The question is: was that ever a possibility?
It is quite evident that the whole story has been structured around the cliffhanger to the first half: the Master’s reveal. As a result, there is then a peculiar weighting of content on either side of this apparently crucial moment. The second half was comparatively slow and almost, in terms of pace, felt like a denouement. It is not, as the climax of the narrative comes much, much later. This is squarely due to the fact the first half had so much to get through, and the second half didn’t, especially so far as Yaz, Graham and Ryan are concerned. The sluggishness of the second half would not have been perceptible had the first half not been running at Mach 5.
That said, I did enjoy watching it. Sylvie Briggs as Ada Lovelace was lovely to watch on screen (despite the slight inaccuracy of her gown) as was Aurora Marion as Noor Inayat Khan. While the section of the TARDIS team left on earth were at a bit of a loose end, they were not waiting around for the Doctor to save them and Bradley Walsh dancing around in a tuxedo with shoes that shoot lasers was not something I knew I wanted. Sacha Dhawan plays an excellent Master and just like all before him he brings a new dimension to the role. The subtly of his role is interesting, although if you are like me, the comparative slowness of this episode leads to a certain disengagement. I perhaps missed some of the dialogue between the Master and the Doctor, simply because I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been.
It was an interesting, but not unheard of, choice for Chris Chibnall to split the team like this for the majority of the episode. I recently read Mark Gatiss’s The Roundheads, where the Doctor and Jamie are in particularly passive roles for the majority of the book. It can go either way: either we get a refreshing shake-up where the companions drive the narrative (The Massacre springs to mind) or we simply end up with a jettisoning of the companions in favour of some newer characters. The problem was that there wasn’t much Yaz, Graham and Ryan could do. This was handled well, as they all still took initiative.
I shall refrain from commenting on some of the more controversial areas of the narrative, such as the Doctor revealing the Master’s identity before he is captured. I shall only say that I feel there were a few moments in this episode that were there to plug holes in the narrative that no-one would have thought too hard about. The most obvious one is the enclosed space excuse from Graham. In the future, I hope to see these holes left open, since they give ample room for fans to debate and fill the gaps.
I don’t think this episode could have lived up to the speed of the first half, and in all honesty, I wouldn’t want it to. It has set up a good question on behalf of the Timeless Child and Gallifrey, giving Chibnall a good scope for the rest of the series. Spyfall, despite its need for a good trim and balance, functions well as a series opener and, unlike any episode from the last series, I would be quite happy to watch it again.
The double issue of Tides 45/46 is, at time of publication, available to buy through this link