Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Exposed as an ex-Russian spy, an American single mom must juggle family life and unique shape-shifting skills in a battle against an insidious enemy.
Review: Watching the spy thriller In From the Cold was like playing a game of darts blindfolded. You’ll probably get a few hits in there and if you’re lucky a bullseye or two, but mostly you’re going to end up hitting the wall or worse taking someone’s eye out, which is a thing that happens in one of the episodes but I digress. Simply put, In From the Cold is a bit of a mess.
This first season consists of eight episodes but it honestly felt like 12. Telling the story of newly divorced mother of one, Jenny Franklin (Margarita Levieva), who seems like your typical soccer mom. That is until one day while she’s in Italy with her daughter for an ice skating tournament she gets abducted by a man named Chauncey (Cillian O’Sullivan) who accuses her of being a Russian ex-spy named Anya who was also known as The Whisper. Of course all of this is true because if it wasn’t we wouldn’t have a show, and so Jenny/Anya is forced to work with Chauncey and his assistant Chris (Charles Brice) to take down a terrorist organisation run by an elusive and deadly leader simply known as Gideon.
I’m a sucker for spy thrillers so I happily clicked play on this one, but as the first episode ends with a huge “what the hell” moment that took the seemingly straight forward thriller into sci-fi territory, I realised this wasn’t going to be your typical ode to James Bond. While I was intrigued by this reveal, it ended up being one of the biggest problems with the show (along with a side plot involving Jenny’s daughter which I will get back to) and totally unnecessary when you look at this tangled ball of yarn with a critical eye.
The whole “enhanced” spy angle feels like it belonged in another story and as we say in Trinidad “plain talk, bad manners” I thought it was an extremely lazy way of moving the story forward without having to think too deeply or give the writing any real effort. As you can tell I’m trying to be vague as to not spoil details for anyone who hasn’t seen the show but seriously, this entire plot device felt like one writer sat down to make an intriguing suspenseful spy thriller, only to have the studio manager’s ten-year old run in the room and say “Yeah, but what if she was a superhero too!” It’s honestly that bad.
Considering the crazy nature of her character, Levieva (The Blacklist, The Deuce) is remarkably effective as Jenny/Anya. Not only is she a believable bad ass, with all the hand-to-hand combat she has to sell us on here, but she also hits all the right emotional notes needed to make this work, and I honestly think in lesser hands I would’ve given up on this show by episode four.
O’Sullivan strikes the perfect balance as the thorn-in-her-side Chauncey too and their chemistry is undeniable, not to mention it went a long way in keeping me invested. Most of the actors here handle their parts well but we don’t spend much time with them so it’s hard to care. And I can’t really talk about the villain without giving away key information so I’ll just say it’s a shame considering the plot twist they didn’t spend more time developing this character into someone who is more than just another moustache-twirling bad guy. We’ve outgrown these types of characters and I don’t like wasting time with them.
The main plot about the terrorist and Gideon inexplicably using mind-control to make ordinary people do terrible things (I’m not kidding, it’s never properly explained) isn’t half bad but every time they shifted focus to Jenny’s teenage daughter and her drama I groaned out loud. And by the fourth episode I was hitting fast forward whenever her annoying face popped up on screen. Maybe I’m being overly harsh but why is it every time a kid is involved in a movie/show where their parents are adventurers or heroes said kid is the worst! The Mask of Zorro? Perfect. The Legend of Zorro? Meh. The Mummy? Love it! The Mummy Returns? I was hoping Imhotep would eat that kid’s soul. Same thing happens here and no I’m not blaming the actress, it’s more the way the character of Becca was written. And yes, she’s a plot device to make things difficult for Jenny/Anya here and there but damn if she didn’t get on my nerves!
Before I come off sound like a total hater, I will say I did enjoy the flashbacks of Anya’s origin. Stasya Miloslavskaya, who plays the younger version of Anya and who looks a bit like Millie Bobbie Brown (Stranger Things), is quite effective in her role as a young woman forced to become a spy for her country and the personal cost she suffers due to this. Good stuff all around and I usually hate flashbacks when they’re heavily utilised (I’m looking at you early seasons of Arrow).
So while I wouldn’t call this one a total bust, In From the Cold is a mess of ideas and genres that don’t quite go together as well as they should. Still, the lead actress is captivating and call me a glutton for punishments but that ending was surprising enough and intriguing enough to make me want to see more. Dammit! Now I’m gonna have to watch Season 2!
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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