Alex Rider episode 1 makes for a strong opening, introducing its core characters and the outline of a conspiracy.
This recap of Alex Rider season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
The opening sequence of Alex Rider episode 1 proves an essential truth of life: Men with scars on their faces are always dodgy. We see such a man, conveniently dressed as a deliveryman or some such, sneakily access a building’s elevators so that one Mr. Roscoe, whose son Parker (George Sear) has an extremely punchable face, tumbles right into the empty shaft to his death.
Much more likably-faced is Alex himself, who we catch up with at school along with his beanie-clad BFF, Tom (who promptly gets his phone confiscated — remember that feeling?) Since Alex is apparently part monkey, he clambers up the school with surprising ease in order to retrieve the phone. He easily fashions a paperclip into a lockpick — resourceful! — and then gets caught on the exit by a couple of teachers, who, of course, prove themselves to be narcs.
Alex’s next destination is the doghouse, courtesy of his uncle Ian, “the world’s most boring man.” The Rider family has a housekeeper, Jack (Ronke Adekoluejo), who doesn’t seem to be great at housekeeping. The dinner table conversation falls to the late Michael Roscoe, apparently a client of Ian’s at “the bank”. Parker turns out to be an insufferable internet prankster, so I was clearly right about him being punch-worthy. Also, Parker Roscoe? Ugh. According to Alex, after the pie-face prank, Parker was sent off somewhere, “like a boot camp” in France, to straighten him out. Now he wears a suit. Growth!
Ian makes a clandestine call about this mysterious boot camp, which he thinks is Point Blanc. He also gently chastises Jack about some vague dereliction of duty regarding Alex, whom she seems to think is a bit too old and switched-on for mollycoddling. This whole housekeeping business was supposed to be a part-time thing for Jack until she got her degree, and now she has her degree, so it doesn’t take a secret spy to figure out what she’s getting at here.
Two things swiftly become apparent in Alex Rider episode 1: Alex isn’t particularly fond of being told what to do, and Tom is kind of a bad influence. They both nip out once Ian leaves; you can’t miss a big party, after all. Ian, meanwhile, meets with a buddy for a clandestine late-night meetup that surely doesn’t bode well for him. Also, Ini Kamoze’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper” is on at the party, so it’s obviously the place to be.
Alex, drinking “beer and vodka and whiskey”, proves himself less adept at chatting to girls than he is as picking locks and climbing buildings; Tom fares slightly better by wielding his knowledge of X-Men’s sociological undertones, but admittedly the lass he’s talking to spews her guts up all over the place. Still, if you’ve pulled, you’ve pulled, right?
Ian and his so-called mate Martin go tooled up to meet with their man from Moscow, who turns out to be Scarface from the beginning, and it turns out that Martin is a rat. He twitches a bit when Mr. Moscow coldly executes Ian, so he seems a classic reluctant baddie — especially when he has to catch a bullet of his own in the shoulder to make his cover story look believable. Things are heating up.
Alex, cycling home — drunk on beer and spirits but still wearing a helmet, naturally — catches the tell-tale flash of blue lights, clueing him in to the fact that Ian has snuffed it; apparently in a high-speed collision. How believable is it that the death of man posing as a buttoned-up bank manager has been covered up in a way that has him behaving entirely out of character? Always niggles me, stuff like that. Of course he wasn’t rocketing around way over the speed limit. It’s almost as if the bad guys want Alex to look into it.
“First his parents, now his uncle,” says a stern, bespectacled Vicky McClure, as Ian’s body is zipped up and wheeled away. She’s a representative of “the bank”, and goes to visit Alex, who quite rightly points out that Ian never drove above the speed limit. See! Alex drops that “Point Blanc” was the last thing Ian said to him, and he wrote it on his desk, so it must have been important. The kid’s smart, and clearly determined. Also alone, now more than ever, though he has Jack and Tom, who seem to be his only confidantes at the moment. The latter pays him a visit and finds him looking into the matter, aggravated about the lack of hospital records. Bright, contemporary idea from Alex: Using a Find My Phone app to lead them back to the scene of the crime, an industrial estate near the river.
Alex namedropping Point Blanc leads McClure’s Mrs. Jones to a new lead, a clue that she suggests Alex put together himself, which isn’t strictly true, but we’ll allow it. The chap’s certainly enterprising, though. He and Tom cycle to the location of the phone, and Alex sneakily records the cover-up, during which the words “cover story” are bellowed really loudly in a way that I don’t suppose they would be during an actual cover-up. Again, we’ll let it slide. Alex is accosted on his way out by some fella who he promptly Judo tosses and stoves in, so it seems climbing and berating hospital staffers over the phone aren’t his only talents.
Alex pursues one of the cars from the industrial site on his bike, and he’s able to slip inside their dilapidated HQ building just in time. He runs into a man who claims to know “shooting people in the head” in response to Alex’s claims of knowing Krav Maga, which I suppose is a fair response. This bloke considers Alex a security risk, given he’s an emotionally unstable teenager and all, but maybe that’s just what’s needed by the shadowy organization described by Stephen Dillane’s Alan Blunt as “a specialized subdivision of the British Secret Intelligence Service.” He reveals to Alex that his uncle Ian lied to him about everything, and also that they’d quite like him to do a job for them — something he’s not particularly happy about, given the circumstances. Blunt tells him to pick up the phone in the morning if he changes his mind. Mrs. Jones thinks this is “wrong”, but Blunt explains, “If we play by the old rules, we’re going to lose the new battles.”
At home, Alex is unspecific with Jack, though insistent that Ian’s death wasn’t an accident. The doorbell starts chiming, once and then again. First, it’s immigration officers, coming for Jack, whose visa is apparently fake, then it’s child services coming for Alex, who apparently doesn’t have a responsible adult in the house. He picks up the phone, explains that he knows they’re listening, and says they have shown exactly what kind of people they are. He isn’t wrong, is he? He tells them to call off the dogs, and they do. He’s going to carry out their mission. Alex Rider season 1, episode 1 ends with Alex getting in a car and being driven away.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.