Department S 1.22 – The Duplicated Man

Another very twisty spy story, again featuring Basil Dignam as the incredibly untrustworthy head of MI5. This time, the trail of a man played by guest star Robert Urquhart who bailed out of an airplane over the English Channel and started a brand new life that he set up for himself many years before turns up evidence that he’s a double agent. Department S learns he’s a double agent, the narrative shows he’s a double agent, there are three Russians looking for him, so why doesn’t MI5 believe that he’s a double agent?

Unlike Smith’s previous appearance, this is a very kid-friendly story, with nothing in the episode that’s too weird or underplayed. Plus, there’s a great little car chase where Annabelle is being followed by one of the Soviet agents through central London and loses him very imaginatively. Later on, she gets the predictable “you stay here” from Stewart, but she acquits herself really well in that scene, I thought.

Department S 1.21 – The Perfect Operation

Well, I thought this episode was just blindingly good, but if it was like this every week, we’d have shelved it because our kid would be completely lost every week. This time, the remarkably weird crime leads Department S into a very complex story about spies and double agents. The complexity comes by the way the story is told, relying on hints and feelings and understandings that sometimes governments are going to very quietly do terrible things. It trusts that the viewers will be intelligent enough to see what has happened and what is going to happen, but unfortunately the nine year-olds in the audience will be left behind this time.

Also, the story introduces Basil Dignam as Smith, the head of the British Secret Service, who will return in the next episode, an uncommon example of a recurring character in an ITC series outside of the leads. If Stewart is still as mad at Smith as he is at the end of this installment, Smith may exit the next one with a black eye.