I enjoyed this unexpected gem. At first I was annoyed at apple tv + cramming shows down my throat. (Between this and Severance perhaps I should trust apple more?) The previews mostly annoyed me and the intrigue did not pull enough interest for me to pull the trigger right away. It took a couple of false starts but I finally gave it a go, I already had a subscription, and I’m glad I did.
I tremendously enjoyed watching the flawed characters doing spy work (i.e. digging through garbage) in a derelict building that is their office. Gary Oldman’s character, farting and not giving a fuck, and cutting down his team at every opportunity was surprisingly refreshing. And I enjoyed the contrast with Kristin Scott Thomas’ clean-cut, proper and prim, MI5 character in her shiny high-tech modern office building. She of course skirts the rules and plays the game just as much but sans the acknowledgment and perhaps with less self awareness? Flawed characters also doing shiny MI5 work, ups the ante and added a nice contrast. Saskia Reeves was another stand-out for me and her character gave a welcome Miss Marple vibe.
The meta storyline connecting the episodes into a season did not interest me at all. For me it was a backdrop for the personal drama and intrigue between the characters and I wish the show-runners did the same. Some of the twists and turns I enjoyed but more than a few were so unrealistic and writerly that they annoyed me and snapped me out of the realism of the show.
I could also do without the love story, and despite so much hullabaloo about the show focusing on outcasts there was still way too much screen time for the young white reasonably attractive male lead while the rest of his team spends multiple episodes sitting in a grungy restaurant. All or nothing, writers! They do give some lip service to that character getting a bit of a knock on his ego at the end of the season, but not enough to counter him being the lead for many scenes.
The setup for season two has me intrigued and I am excited to watch more when the show comes back. I know they won’t, but even more focus on the downtrodden deadbeats would be welcome. On second thought, most of them are are not that interesting, just give me more Gary Oldman and Saskia Reeves.