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R2 DVD Reviews
Monday, 25 February 2008 16:00
009-1All work and no play makes Marlene a dull agent, but no-one’s really giving her the chance to relax. Will she ever get any peace & quiet? Not likely in this series...

5 - Woman of Gold
Mylene's in Italy, taking a holiday she really doesn't want to be on, when she stops to help a young woman whose car has broken down - and finds herself in more trouble than she expected. The girl claims to be being chased, and as she tries to explain herself to Mylene, a heavily-armed gang in a black limousine bears down on them and opens fire - the girls pursuers have caught up with her. The pair make a quick getaway in Mylene's sports car and are soon able to outrun the gunmen, but Mylene (while secretly relieved that her holiday has suddenly livened up) is soon looking for answers to some questions, starting with what the girl did to merit being chased, but the girl isn't the most talkative of travelling companions. All she'll say is that she needs to get to the Trevi Fountain in Rome - but there's more to her than first impressions would have you believe...

Holiday girlRunaway

6 - Pop
Dr Etcetera, an Eastern Bloc scientist, had been working on a new top-secret drug, with very promising results - until he had the temerity to die before the final tests were completed. No matter - the remaining samples are handed over to the shadier side of society for some unofficial use. When word of that reaches the Zero Zero Organisation, Mylene is tasked to investigate - mainly as she knows someone with information about the drug, an old man codenamed Ironheart. It's her job to persuade him to help her recover whatever information he can - but Ironheart has his reasons for not wanting to get involved in this case...

Making contactPop!

7 - Port
Thomas Gustav: a famous chess player, who defected from East to West five years ago - but there are suspicions that he's really spying for the East, and so Mylene is assigned to keep an eye on him and see what he's really been up to. While on her assignment, she meets a young boy named Billy - Billy's being looked after by his alcoholic grandfather, an old sailor who would like nothing better than to be able to go back to sea, except that he can't while he has Billy to look after. It's a distraction from her mission, but there's just something about the kid that strikes a chord with Mylene, and she ends up tagging along with him for a while. She soon figures out, though, that there's a connection between Billy and Gustav that could prove that Gustav's a spy...

Isn't that illegal?Innocent victim

8 - Calendar of the Past
Mylene's latest target is to dispose of a double-agent who has been selling information to the Eastern Bloc. A sting has been set up to entrap the target - all Mylene has to do is complete the hit. The spy isn't the only one who's being set up, though - there are doubts within the Zero Zero Organisation's higher echelons about Mylene's apparent soft-hearted streak, and this mission is as much a test of her own resolve as it is a way to get rid of a problem. While Zero and his associates examine Mylenes past for clues as to how she might react to this test, Mylene herself is remembering how she came to be an agent for the orgnisation in the first place...

Board of inquiryYoung orphan

A bit of a change in tone for this volume – it’s still based around the missions that Mylene finds herself having to complete, but picking up on an aspect of Mylene’s personality that was first touched upon last volume, there’s a real focus here on what goes on inside her head during her missions. She’s not the compassionless killer that someone in her job really should be – these episodes all touch upon that, with the final episode revealing that it’s a quality that has come to the attention of, and is worrying, her superiors. Her mission in episode 8 – to kill someone she knows and who has helped her in the past – is as much a test of her own resolve as it is a genuine mission, and the ending of the episode is left open enough that it’s up to your own interpretation of events as to whether she followed through on her orders or not. 009-1 has a nice line in ambiguity running though it, and this is perhaps the best example of it.

While the final episode is probably the highlight here, though (and also provides some welcome information about Mylene’s past), the rest of the episodes are well up to scratch as well. Her motherly side is explored in episode 7, where young boy Billy catches her attention and soon comes to see her as a friend, while at the other end of the scale her dealings with the old and over-the-hill Ironheart form the basis of episode 6. The missions themselves provide a little action to lighten the tone, but they’re background to the show’s focus on Mylene and her personality – how she deals with her job and the people she has to interact with as she does it.

There are downsides to this approach, though. The rest of the 009 unit don’t make much of an appearance here – a few scenes in the first episode on the disc, and that’s your lot. There’s also no real sense of threat at any stage – thinking back to the first volume, there were some scenes where Mylene was in genuine danger, or where she was having to deal with someone who did have the ability to defeat her, but you never really get the feeling with this volume that she’s even remotely in trouble, and that does remove a lot of the feeling of suspense that this sort of show really requires.

The good definitely outweighs the bad, though. It’s quite rare these days that a series completely grabs my attention, but 009-1 has been one of the few to do that. It’s got enough aspects of the James Bond style of secret agent story that it catches your attention with that, but it’s different enough in its focus to still feel fresh, despite the age of the source materials, and the overall package works really well. Now if they could just have designed the males in the show to be a little less ugly...

Like most shows, 009-1 has its flaws, but they’re minor compared to the good stuff here. The show’s focus on Mylene and her nature, which is far more kind-hearted that you would expect from a spy, makes it different enough from other secret agent stories to really grab the attention, while the individual stories are a good combination of action and emotion that keep you entertained. 009-1 has been impressive so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the final volume can keep up the high standard.

Rating - ****

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