Pros: Interesting historical period; the story of an ordinary person who fell into the hands of the intelligence services of several countries; leading actresses; setting of post-war Great Britain Cons: Some plot devices seem too far-fetched; too obvious emphasis on gender and racial inequality Traitors / “Traitors”
Genre spy thriller
Creators Dearbhla Walsh, Alex Winkler
Starring Emma Appleton (Feef Symonds), Michael Stuhlbarg (Rowe), Keeley Hawes (Priscilla Garrick), Brandon P. Bell (Jackson Kohl), Matt Lauria (Peter McCormick), etc.
Channel 4, Netflix
Year of release 2019
During World War II, Britain was a haven for Soviet spies. Since 1933, a member of the Cambridge Five, Kim Philby, a future recipient of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and the Order of Lenin, and a high-ranking official in MI5 and MI6, collaborated with the NKVD. Since 1937, Melita Norwood, secretary of the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association, associated with nuclear research, who had been transmitting secret documents to the USSR for 40 (!!!) years, worked with the Soviets. By the way, on April 19, 2019, the film Red Joan will be released in the UK, dedicated to this Soviet spy, revealed only in old age. The role of the elderly Melita Norwood was played by the magnificent British actress Judi Dench, who has repeatedly played the role of the head of MI6. The Irony of Fate. But let’s get back to the Traitors series.
So, Labour, unexpectedly for everyone, won the election. Churchill resigned (he will return; Great Britain has a safety margin of 6 years). In Britain, the possibility of creating a Jewish state in Palestine is being discussed. The United States is reducing funding for OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the prototype of the CIA) and reducing the number of agents in Europe. Soldiers and spies return from war. And only a few of them understand that a new war has already begun, and the new enemy is former allies who use hybrid methods to influence public opinion, raise riots, and implement the laws they need.
Fif Symonds is a young girl from an aristocratic family who was preparing to be sent to France as an agent. Alas, the war is over, and the girl, due to the deplorable financial state of the family, goes to work in Whitehall as a secretary. The ready-made agent comes to the attention of an OSS employee, who believes that Soviet spies have infiltrated Whitehall and are leaking important information, including those relating to Britain’s plans for Palestine. The girl begins to spy on her own country.
Traitors is a very British spy film. It is leisurely, there are many details of British life, relations between classes, hierarchy, life in the post-war period. However, in their desire to follow modern trends, the authors went a little overboard with the emphasis on gender and racial inequality. No, both definitely took place, but just after the war, serious changes began in British society in this regard. Again, the deliberate addition of some scenes is literally striking and rather has the opposite effect.
Moreover, Traitors is weak as a spy thriller. By the beginning of the third episode (there are six episodes in total), you will have identified the Russian spy, while the main character still does not know her opponent. This is a very cheap trick, depriving the spy story of the main intrigue. In addition, some of the plot moves look very far-fetched and strange, and some are even pure Deus ex machina, which, it seems to me, is unacceptable for a historical and seemingly realistic film.
Traitors touches on a lot of interesting topics. The creation of the CIA and the Americans’ awareness of the vector of the next world confrontation. An attempt at compromise on the Palestinian issue, which only created problems that have not been resolved for 70 years, and accusing Jews of terrorism (yes, it was once the other way around). The problem of homosexuals in Great Britain (see the same The Imitation Game). The ruin and decline of the British aristocracy. Violence against women. Etc. The problem is that none of the themes, each of which is worthy of a separate series, are fully explored, only in passing, very on top.
But the helplessness of a person who has fallen into the hands of the special services is well revealed. There is no way out of this circle, regardless of whether you are on the side of those who do not put human lives at a penny or those who seem to be called upon to defend democratic values and personal freedoms. The security services are holding tight.
Actress Emma Appleton, playing the role of the romantic, patriotic and adventure-seeking Fif Symonds, perfectly succeeded in the image of a naive girl who, through her own stupidity, fell into a trap and flutters with all her might in attempts to escape from it. Even more impressive is Keeley Hawes’ portrayal of Priscilla Garrick. You may have seen this actress in the TV series Bodyguard or heard her in the Tomb Raider games; from 2009 to 2014 she was the voice of Lara Croft.
Honestly, I have doubts that the Traitors series will be renewed for a second season, it has too many problems and the show received too low ratings from critics and viewers. But, it seems to me, everything is not so bad with the series, it looks easy, and it ends relatively quickly. The post-war setting, the relevance of the topics raised and the very good performances of the two actresses make this mini-series highly recommended for viewing.
Interesting from the point of view of the period and surroundings, but weak in terms of spy history