When the first season of the “Alex Rider” television series came out, there was very little reason to be hopeful about it. The premise of a show — a teenage spy who saves the world — seemed bound to be cringingly corny.
However, when the show on IMDB came out, it was surprisingly fun and well done. For the most part, season two continues to deliver on the virtues that made the first season so enjoyable: a strong plot, well-choreographed action, likable characters, and relatively few of the obnoxious tropes that plague the spy genre.
A Mission Unfolds in Cornwall
Admittedly, it does take a couple of episodes for the series to hit its stride again. Taking place soon after the events of the first season, Alex is visiting a therapist in the first episode to work through some PTSD. He says he feels like he is being followed by a man that he saw at Point Blanc.
Indeed, he is being followed, and another plot is afoot, this time in Alex’s home country. While on vacation in Cornwall with his guardian and best friend, he witnesses an explosion at the summer home of a girl he recently met there. Although everyone, including the girl, thinks the explosion was a gas leak, Alex believes it was intentional and eventually discovers it was part of a much larger scheme that, yes, threatens the world once more.
Unfortunately, Alex has to work alone, because the spy agency that previously used him now doubts him and wants to keep him out of trouble. Although most of the characters eventually come around and work with Alex as he gets to the bottom of things, it’s frustrating to see them take so long to do so.
Not only does their doubt seem utterly illogical in light of what they know about Alex, but it detracts from the development that has happened in the last season. Alex saved the world and has proven himself, yet somehow they insist on seeing him as a helpless teen who shouldn’t be included.
Like the first season, much of the action is surprisingly grounded and well done. In general, Alex and his friends rely on their wits and own two hands to solve the problems they encounter. They don’t rely on high-tech gadgets or superpowers, and they occasionally make mistakes and get hurt.
That said, there are a few lapses in the plot where some miraculous coincidences, uncharacteristically dumb moves by the antagonists, or magical hacking keep the story going. While this hurts the realism and believability of the story, it’s still not quite as egregious as Alex Rider snowboarding down a mountain peak on an ironing board and fighting a clone of himself at a high school dance.
A Strong Protagonist Carries the Story
However, what the show loses in these regards it makes up for in a strong protagonist. Alex Rider, played by Otto Ferrant, is simply a great hero — a rarity in today’s action cinema. He’s not overpowered, smug, obnoxious, sanctimonious, pretentious, stupid, or whiny. He’s just supremely competent and pleasantly humble. True, some of his talents as a spy could be explained a little better, but an origin story at this point in the show would seem tedious
Alex’s character also continues to defy any leftist virtue-signaling — another rarity in today’s action cinema. His masculine virtues of courage, strength, and perseverance complement the virtues of his female counterparts.
And the diverse set of characters around him is just that: diverse. While the representation seems a little contrived, reflecting more an ideal than reality, there aren’t any speeches to communicate some kind of progressive agenda, beyond a stray remark by a token black female CIA director that England and the U.S. were both colonizers.
Altogether, “Alex Rider” retains its integrity in its second season and is well set for more seasons to come. It’s a solid show that delivers on fun and intrigue without the baggage of too much drama, moralizing, or over-the-top production. It’s still a great escape and quality entertainment.