Sky Atlantic TV review: Fleming Episode 3
Ivan Radford | On 26, Feb 2014
If Episode 1 of Fleming introduced us to the Ian the man and Episode 2 introduced us to Ian the lover, Episode 3 completes his credentials as a Bond-like figure by introducing Ian the action hero.
The chapter starts with that classic trope: the government training exercise, giving Dominic Cooper the chance to stalk through shadows with gun held out and hair perfectly gelled. Matt Whitecross shoots the sequence with typical flair, while Peter Christelis edits it together at an alarming pace.
While Fleming looks the part, though, John Brownlow and Don MacPherson are sure to emphasise that his brains are his best asset. Creating a blueprint for the Americans after failing operational training, his work is hailed as “a real page-turner” by superiors. Where did it come from? “My own imagination mainly,” smiles Cooper’s creative chap.
That balance in favour of thinking versus fighting marks Episode 3 of Fleming out as one of the most truthful – Ian was indeed the head of an intelligence commando team, 30 Assault Unit, who were tasked with the seizing of information from the enemy. Cooper ably handles the short bursts of conflict, but Whitecross undercuts every blow with a bout of writing. Shots of him at a typewriter or clutching John Buchan’s The 39 Steps might be a little unsubtle, but perhaps for the first time, we’re firmly on the factual side rather than fantasy – a welcome reality check after the 007-aping opening chapters.
With that reality check comes an effective stab of drama: Lara Pulver continues to impress as the dark, occasionally messed up Ann. Breaking into his flat, she raids his poetry collection – another writing nod – inspiring his cunning Naval Intelligence plan and neatly using one strand of drama to inform the other. Meanwhile, Lesley Manville is hilariously withering as his perpetually disapproving mother. “Ever since the war, they let anyone in,” she despairs of Britain. “It’s like Paddington.”
Their romance grows with convincing passion, indulging in Bond-like bedroom action without getting lost in the fictional haze. “You’re a coward just like me. Heroics are best left to your brother,” Ann declares at one point, as Ian resists the urge to step up and marry her himself. Surrounded by stern officials, who resent Ian’s rebellious army of red Indians, Episode 3 of Fleming proves that Ian is insubordinate, but no action hero – tellingly, the nearest he gets is in a decoy corpse used to smuggle in a papers, which slowly begins to mirror himself. The result is a nuanced entry in a programme that’s learning to spend as much time behind a desk as it does daydreaming. Accomplished entertainment.
Fleming is available to watch online on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can stream Fleming online on NOW as part of an Entertainment Membership for £8.99 per month, along with Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Sky Witness and FOX UK – no contract.