Amazon’s Alex Rider smartly adapts the best-selling books with a family-friendly style but with plenty of charm and energy.
This review of Alex Rider (Amazon Prime) is spoiler-free.
There’s absolutely no shortage of teen-focused shows on major streaming platforms these days, but Alex Rider (Amazon Prime) is a different ballgame. Rather than being tedious coming-of-age claptrap about relationships and getting drunk for the first time, it’s a splashy espionage story with a family-fun sensibility and a great helping of charm and energy.
Adapting the best-selling books by Anthony Horowitz about the titular teenage secret agent, Alex Rider is smart in both its longer TV format – eight 45-minute-ish episodes – and its pace, which knows that we don’t want to get bogged down in melodramatics. It also strikes just the right tone; not childish, but not try-hard edgy or too adult for its target audience, either. That balance is keenly felt, especially in how the series modernizes its source material for a hip contemporary crowd and a slick small-screen landscape.
The fittingly baby-faced Otto Farrant plays the title character, an orphan whose seemingly boring uncle Ian (Andrew Buchan) turns out to have been a spy – that was before his murder, anyway, which occurs in the first episode and so doesn’t constitute a spoiler and draws Alex into the ambit of MI6 under the watchful eye of Mrs. Jones (Vicky McClure). Cue lots of training and such for Alex’s upcoming undercover mission to the Alpine academy of Point Blanc, a kind of toff halfway house with some sinister goings-on.
The show’s pretty distinct in both its Englishness and its teenage boy-ness, neither of which are bad things and are, as it happens, both charmingly handled. The slick production and familiar action beats are courting a big international crowd, which you have to imagine it might get given the popularity of the source material, but it feels like just the right kind of for-all-ages entertainment that should keep everybody plenty happy.