Doctor Who Review: Spyfall Part Two

by thethreepennyguignol

Ah! I’m excited. I’m actually excited to write this review. Which is pretty amazing, given that you’d think I would have cast television itself from my home since, you know, that happened. But here’s Doctor Who along again to make everything better, to soothe my troubled soul and remind me that there is good in the world of the small screen once more.

Okay, so let’s start with the Big Brilliant Baddie that Chris Chibnall has finally gifted to us: Sacha Dhawan as the Master. With only a few seconds of genuine screentime last week, it was hard to get a good handle on this new iteration, but by the end of this hour, I am capital-s Sold on this version. It almost feels like an overcorrection by the character to make up for how very close they came to being decent as Missy in their last outing, in how purely and outrageously batshit evil he is: there’s a volatility to this performance that lends every scene with him and the Doctor a real unpredictability. Expressively emotional, this Master isn’t doing it for fun – he’s committing his atrocious acts almost as a compulsion, because this is the closest thing to an identity he has. Dhawan is outrageously hot charismatic, and brings this fiery, dangerous energy that is just electric as a centrepiece to this episode. I like a lot of what Chibnall has brought to the show so far, but Dhawan’s Master might just be the very best thing yet.

And, of course, that means that we’re getting a whole new side to the Doctor, too. Our leading wo/man is only as good as their villain, and watching Jodie deal with the deep and complex relationship between Doctor and Master lends her performance a new layer of sadness and anger that we just haven’t seen aside from brief flashes so far. Her scenes with Dhawan are by far the most Doctor-ish her version has felt so far, and her little sub-plot of bouncing through history and collecting women vital to the development of major technological advancements to help her in her schemes is a delightful and totally appropriate and also very gay I mean did you see that wee smooch on Ada Lovelace development.

Oh, and of course, the assistants were kicking around, too – this week had the good sense to stick them together and give them a bit of a capery subplot where Bradley Walsh shoots people with laser shoes to contrast against the Doctor’s more weighty story this week. It’s not the deepest or most illuminating storyline for them, but it does rely on some bouncy, bring chemistry, and allows for Lenny Henry (their major antagonist) to just stalk about with only the cape separating him from true comic book villainy.

I also really loved the way this episode was framed and shot – I thought the Spyfall title was really just a reference to the elimination of the spies in the first episode, but it’s really a summation of the stylistic points that this two-parter uses to unfold its brilliant little tale: the first episode was based on a modern James Bond-esque spy drama, where as this is The Spy Who Came in From the Cold business; all smoky Paris streets, high-tension silence, and messy emotional stakes. Shout out to the gorgeous, cinematic direction Lee Haven Jones, who really had a lot of fun with the teatime noir look of a lot of this brilliant outing.

Look, I just fucking loved this episode. It’s ambitious, but still fundamentally feels like it couldn’t have come from any other show in the world but this one. Chris Chibnall had a wobbly first season (one that, overall, I did really love, but still), but if Spyfall is anything to go by, this second season is going to be a riot. And frankly, I can’t wait to see just how he’s going to pull it off.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check out the rest of my Doctor Who recaps right here and hey, how about checking out my movie blog, No But Listen? If you just stop by for these recaps, then might I draw your attention to the fact that my first book, Rape Jokes,was released in between the last couple of seasons, and, oh, just so happens to have a few five-star reviews, not that I’m counting? As ever, thank you for reading, and drop your take on this episode in the comments below!

(header image via Blogtor Who)