Three Reasons You Should Watch The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent is a three-part series produced by the BBC that aired on BBC One in July of 2016. The Exclusive US Premiere will be on, a streaming service, with one new episode per night from September 12-14, 2016. It stars Toby Jones, Vicky McClure, Tom Goodman-Hill, Ian Hart, and Stephen Graham.

The program is based on the novel of the same name by Joseph Conrad. The book was published in 1907 and is itself based on a real event that occurred in 1894. In that year there was an apparent attempt to bomb the Greenwich Observatory. For those unfamiliar, the Greenwich Observatory defines the longitude of the prime meridian, and hence the starting point for time zones around the world. That fact is a key reason it was chosen as the target in the book.

The Secret Agent is set in London in 1886 and is a period drama, but really in many ways could be something ripped from today’s headlines. Terrorism is now a part of our everyday reality, and I find it interesting that this book, written over 100 years ago, deals with a topic that resonates so clearly with our modern experiences. In fact, this book has been turned into a movie or TV program before, and there seems to be a correlation with those following major acts of terrorism. Even if it is not made into a movie or TV program, it will usually be referenced in articles about the act.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you might want to watch this program.

Complex Plot

Verloc and Vladimir - The Secret Agent

Make no mistake about it, this story is a tragedy. If you are looking for a light-hearted, fun program, this is not the one to watch. If, however, you are in the mood for a gripping, dark drama, with unexpected twists and turns, then you can’t go wrong here!

I have not read the novel, and that perhaps somewhat alters my view of the TV program. Some reviews criticize it for changes made to the story. Since I am unaware of those changes, I can blissfully say that I enjoyed the story as it was told. In fact, from what I have read, the TV version untangles the plot a bit, because Conrad is known for writing very convoluted narratives on purpose.

Interesting Characters with Disparate Motivations

Winnie and Stevie - The Secret Agent

The main characters consist of Mr. Verloc, his wife Winnie, her younger brother, a group of anarchists which includes “The Professor,” a foreign diplomat, and Chief Inspector Heat of the London police. There are other characters that also play important parts in the plot, but those listed above are the main focus of the action.

The Secret Agent is a not a whodunit, because we are shown each crime clearly as it is committed, but rather it explores what motivates these people to behave as they do. I must admit to being a little confused during the first episode, as I tried to figure out who the main players were and what they were up to. Thankfully, by the end I did understand the events that transpired and why the characters made the choices they did.

Having to figure out the motivations can make the story more interesting in my opinion. I have a need to understand what makes these characters tick, how they think, and what drives them forward with their actions. As the story unfolded, I gained that understanding of each character.

Compelling Story

The Professor and Heat - The Secret Agent

While I do not want to spoil The Secret Agent, I can say that there are shocking and surprising deaths. As could also be expected, there are betrayals and high drama.

As I mentioned above, this story resonates with our modern times. In addition to dealing with the threat of terrorism, there is also an examination of the potential conflict between the Government’s charge to protect the citizenry and British citizen’s personal freedoms, another feature we are very familiar with today.


Do you think you might watch The Secret Agent when it airs on If you do, then please come back and let me know what you thought of it! I really enjoy reading your comments.

About The Author

Pat lives in Maryland with her husband. They have two grown children. She works part time as an English Composition Assistant in a public high school. She raised her children on a steady diet of science fiction, and is proud of her geeky family. She loves science fiction and fantasy TV the most, but also enjoys good crime shows and comedies. She mourns many TV shows that were killed prematurely such as Firefly, Chaos, Moonlight, The Good Guys, Breaking In and The Dresden Files.