Betrayal Review - Say Hello to TV's Cutest Spy | TV

featured image

While nearly every actor on the face of the earth has enjoyed a stint as the favorite to play the next Bond, Charlie Cox appears to be the only exception.

Despite sharing an age, gender and race with every screen Bond to date – not to mention a useful sideline as a superhero, given that he plays Daredevil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – for some reason, he still failed.

The reason, it seems, is Betrayal (Netflix). A big part of Potential 007’s audition sequence is playing someone slightly Bondy on the small screen, as Tom Hiddleston did with The Night Manager and James Norton did with McMafia.

It’s an opportunity for them to don the role, meditate in a variety of opulent locations, and occasionally tinker with weapons. Betrayal – a spy thriller penned by Bridge of Spies’ Oscar-nominated co-writer – sounds like it should have been cut from the exact same cloth.

And yet, our first significant introduction to Cox’s spy comes during a scene in a school library, where he gleefully tells a group of elementary-aged children what it’s like to be a spy. Which, be that as it may, is not something you can imagine Daniel Craig doing.

Indeed, throughout Treason, Cox is less an international mystery man and more an adorable Labrador retriever who has somehow gained the ability to operate a humanoid robot.

Ciarán Hinds with another actor filming behind a door
Ciarán Hinds lasts a little longer than The English. Photography: Ana Blumenkron

But Cox is no mere spy. Despite appearing to be a particularly meek substitute teacher, he is actually MI6’s second-in-command. And when his boss (Ciarán Hinds, thankfully given a little more to do than in The English) is incapacitated during an accident of errant whiskey poisoning, it falls to Cox to command the ship. This is clearly ridiculous, as the man seems like his natural calling is to host a CBeebies series about the importance of hugs, but let’s move on.

It’s extremely difficult to mention anything specific about the plot at this point because that would unravel the entire series, but it’s safe to say that things don’t go well. Hinds’ poisoner is Olga Kurylenko, who has a past with Cox, and things get more and more complicated until her whole family gets involved in the mess.

I can tell you that the plot involves an English full of contemporary references – kompromat, obscure Russian lords, a conservative leadership campaign – and that the show takes place in London, because this is one of those shows where scenes don’t count unless there is an immediately recognizable central London landmark in the middle of the screen. More than that would wreck the tour.

It’s a pretty good ride too. Betrayal manages that brilliant television trick of sucking you in with its labyrinthine plot so effectively that you don’t realize how stupid it is until long after the credits roll, at which point it hits you like a ton of bricks. But still, it has the air of an unfulfilled promise.

It’s strange, in this age of Far Too Much Television, to wish a show could last longer, but that’s the case with Betrayal. It’s a five-part limited series, quite finite, but it feels like it was created to be something much more substantial.

What it looks like, in fact, is one of those great old-fashioned American network shows that ran for half a year at a time. One of those fast-paced, inexplicable spy thrillers, like 24 or Homeland, that never quite managed to wrap up with convoluted conspiracies that went all… all the… way… to… the… top🇧🇷

I dare say I would have enjoyed Treason much more if that were the case. Instead, clocking in at less than four hours in total, Treason hits all the necessary beats in nothing short of blind panic.

Someone is kidnapped, but found before anyone has a chance to start worrying. There is a government mole, but everything is resolved with a wave of the hand. If someone seems in any way suspicious or mysterious, their true motives are usually explained in a scene or two so the show doesn’t have to fall over the finish line.

It’s fun but frustrating. A few more episodes spent with Labrador Bond and all his stupid problems, and Betrayal could have been better.