Litvinenko, the review: the spy who loved me

David Tennant and Margarita Levieva are at the center of a family spy story, Litvinenko – Investigation into the death of a dissident, based on a true story and fictionalized for narrative purposes: four episodes on 25 January and 1 February on Sky Atlantic and NOW.

It is a story of spies but above all a family story and relationships that at the center of the review of Litvinenko – Investigation into the death of a dissident, the four-episode miniseries aired on January 25 and February 1 on Sky Atlantic and streaming on NOW based on a true story. The true story of Alexander Litvinenko also known as Edwin Carter, a former Russian spy and later dissident, killed in London in 2006. This is certainly the story of Sasha, as his wife and close friends used to affectionately call him, but above all that of someone who remained, the widow Marina Litvinenko and her son Anatoly. A woman who never gave up to get justice for her husband, fighting against the British bureaucracy and the Russian government and, ultimately, against none other than Vladimir Putin, accused of murdering Litvinenko.

The strength of a man

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Litvinenko – a scene photo from the series

It all starts in November 2006, when Alexander Litvinenko (a David Tennant particularly steeped in character, having been the Tenth Doctor and recently a singular priest in Inside Man on Netflix), a former KGB officer, is dying in a London hospital, claiming he was poisoned. When the police arrive to take his testimony, Litvinenko accuses none other than the Russian president himself, Vladimir Putin. From there a sort of political and espionage domino is unleashed which obviously will also involve public opinion, strongly shaken by the news; also because the man together with his family had recently obtained citizenship of the United Kingdom, which allowed him to be considered a British citizen in all respects in the eyes of the government and the law. From there a series of investigations by the police and then by the secret services and the government will lead to the discovery of a chemical attack in the heart of London, the inevitable death of Litvinenko and a more than ten-year lawsuit to obtain justice and truth before the law and in the public eye by the widow.

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The strength of a woman

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Litvinenko – a picture from the series

She’s Russian-American actress Margarita Levieva (who you may have already loved or hated in Revenge And The Deuce) to interpret, almost unrecognizable, the wife and later widow Marina Litvinenko. It will be she who will have the moral and emotional responsibility of taking charge of her husband’s death and of wanting to do him justice in front of everyone. It is interesting because the disclaimer at the beginning of each of the four episodes that make up the miniseries immediately warns the viewer that what he is about to see is a true story but fictionalized for narrative purposes, with the addition of some facts and characters probably to create emphasis. This is in fact the serial’s major flaw, the excessive emphasis given by editing, music and more sentimental moments to the story told. However, it remains a great family novel rather than a story of spies. A story made up of relationships, which lasted more than a decade and evolved over time, just like the one between Marina and the detective in charge of the hospital case, who was the first to believe in Alexander and took him to heart.

Many souls for an important story

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Litvinenko: a scene photo

There are many genres and tones that Litvinenko – Investigation into the death of a dissident mixes inside. There is the spy story and the family drama, as mentioned at the beginning of the review, and there is the legal part of the process that Marina will be able to obtain. The staging is a mirror of these many souls, making the show truly unique. Just like the upstream investigation, one of the most complex and dangerous in the history of British and international policing as it was initially a homicide investigation without the murder and a spy investigation without evidence… at least until the cause was discovered of death. Everyone’s interpretations first David Tennant And Margarita Levieva they are particularly exciting, especially hers because she has to demonstrate tenacity and at the same time weakness for a woman overwhelmed by fluctuating feelings, who has become a symbol of truth and hope.

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Litvinenko – a scene from the series

The Cold War and its aftermath, as we have said several times in recent months, has ended up at the center of many serial spy stories, from Slow Horses to Treasonfrom The Recruit to Jack Ryan, this for the innate and timeless charm it arouses in addition to the political implications on reality. In this case, however, it is a family thriller and what one is willing to do to get justice on the one hand and revenge on the other. Just to make the final result – even if still fictional – more realistic, the former agents who handled the case, Clive Timmons and Brent Hyatt, the lawyer Ben Emerson and Litvinenko’s family collaborated as consultants on the miniseries. In this regard, it is interesting how the police do not make the usual barbina figure with respect to genre stories, and rather the bureaucracy is an obstacle to overcome, both in Russia and in the United Kingdom, for different geopolitical reasons.


A mix between family drama and spy story, this is what emerges in the conclusion of the review of Litvinenko – Investigation into the death of a dissident. Thriller and legal mix to give life to a story of relationships that evolves over more than a decade, for an important chapter in History with a capital S that should not be forgotten and is perhaps a little too emphasized, with two excellent interpreters captain the cast.

Because we like it

  • David Tennant and Margarita Levieva are especially brilliant.
  • The mix of spy thriller and family drama combined with legal drama.
  • The relationships between the characters and the positive portrayal of the police who cooperate, unlike the government.

What’s wrong

  • The story, leaving aside the narrative freedoms, is perhaps a little too emphasized even in terms of editing and soundtrack to appeal to the viewer’s heart.

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