Saturday, 13 June 2020

THIS SPY THRILLER’S A SHOCKER



By Margaretta wa Gacheru (May 2020)

Netflix is doing a booming business now that the COVID-19 pandemic has got everyone cooped up inside their homes. The lockdown has been a blessing for not only Netflix but also for most of the other streaming channels, from Hulu and Showmax to Disney Plus. And recently it was rumored that even Facebook is getting into the game of attracting eyeballs bored with indoor living.
But while others are catching up fast, Netflix still seems to be the top dog in the game. Offering the choices of everything from comedy and drama to documentaries and mysteries.
Personally, I have a preference for spy thrillers like ‘Traitors’, a British-American murder mystery that I highly recommend. It’s rather complicated, but it’s also historical fiction since it is set right at the end of World War Two and in the early hours of the Cold War between the US and UK against the USSR.
It’s a fascinating tale that starts out with an inexplicable murder only to turn into an apparent love story between a young woman graduate of Cambridge named Feef (Emma Appleton) and her attractive American boyfriend Peter. That doesn’t last long however since he gets bumped off by an OSS (soon to be renamed CIA) colleague named Rowe (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Peter’s murder by his ostensible friend compounds the mysterious intrigue of this six-episode series. But we quickly can see that Rowe is the villain whose ulterior motive seems to be that of winning the incipient Cold War.  He wants to get his hands on Feef, not romantically, but to turn her into a spy whom he plans to ‘handle’ while he guides her into infiltrating the British Foreign Office to detect who’s the Russian mole working there.
‘Whatever it takes’ is clearly the stealthy Rowe’s motto, only Feef doesn’t have a clue until much later on. She believes Rowe who he claims Peter had an urgent assignment but he would be back soon. He successfully strings her along, disclosing only what she needs to know.
Feef has her own ambitions so she’s prepared to play the spying infiltrator although it’s more of a gamey pastime as she awaits Peter’s return. All of these characters are deftly drawn with Feef the most endearing. However, she too gets into the game once she finagles herself into the inner sanctum of the British Foreign Office where its boss is a middle-aged spinster who is apparently married to her job. Yet Priscilla Garrick (Keeley Howes) is possibly the most complicated character of all. But to find out how and why that is, one will have to see the series.
What is fascinating about ‘Traitors’ is that no one is who he or she appears to be. What is equally absorbing is the fact that the series is set at the cusp of a new historic era, that of the Cold War. It’s a war that clearly has global implications since it is also a time when the British Empire is winding down, having already lost most of its imperial power and only needing to ‘tidy up loose ends’, like its role in the Middle East and, as Kenyans know, also in East Africa where it will take a few more years to carefully hand over the reins of power to the locals there.
Be assured ‘Traitors’ is not your typical spy thriller. Suffice it to say that the most serious shocker of the series is in the last episode. So I recommend you not stop until you get there since I doubt you will second-guess what you will find just there!

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