Spy/Master 2023 / This Romanian Cold War thriller is stylish, moody, and genuinely gripping


Stylishly shot and perfectly paced, Spy/Master is the kind of political thriller that will have you pressing play on the next episode as soon as possible. It starts in media res, losing no time in backgrounders (the artful opening credits efficiently fills you in on Romania’s role in the Cold War) as we follow Victor Godeanu (Alec Secareanu) simultaneously serve the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, work with the KGB behind his back, and cooperate with the CIA behind their backs. There is a lot going on, but by keeping the focus on Godeanu, the series remains gripping through and through. I just wish that, at least in the first three episodes screened for review, the show delved deeper into Godeanu’s motivations for double-crossing and defecting. I get that it’s aiming for a brooding anti-hero in Godeanu, but there don’t seem to be enough heroic traits to justify that title. The show hints that he had a poor upbringing, leading him to learn how “game the system” at a young age: this is a potentially rich backstory that hopefully gets explored more in the future.

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