Spy thrillers should be exciting and keep you on the edge of your seat. Throw in some science fiction experimentation on Russian agents, and you have yourself a recipe for a wild ride. That said, most of the spy genre is focused on presenting female spies as young and desirable, even when it’s an older actress in the leading role. But Netflix’s latest original series, In From the Cold, don’t turn away from its lead age. Instead, it’s a series that puts her age and past at the heart of the narrative.
Jenny (Margarita Levieva) is an American single mom chaperoning her teenage daughter Becca’s (Lydia Fleming) ice skating competition in Spain. After finalizing her divorce, what could have been a European getaway for her and her daughter changes into a life or death mission when her long-buried past as a Russian spy is pulled to the surface. Pushed into action by the CIA, she’s forced to confront her past due to a highly classified KGB experiment. With her unique abilities on display and her Russian past crashing into her current normal life, Jenny has to stop a villain’s mysterious murders to also save her family.
Sure, it’s pretty straightforward, but showrunner Adam Glass manages to pull it all together by centering Jenny’s life experiences building up to the point we meet her in the story. By using flashbacks of her life in her early twenties, we get the chance to see the part of her that wasn’t closed off or traumatized. Jenny’s age is her strength as a character. Her maturity and her pain not only help inform her character’s choices, but they help map out In From the Cold’s eight-episode structure. In moments where Jenny freezes or lacks control, the audience never has to wonder what drives her; we see it.
At times, the flashbacks overpower the main narrative with Stasya Miloslavskaya as young Jenny stealing the series. Early on, this proves a detriment to the main story, but by the series’ end, In From the Cold brings both plots together, culminating in a cathartic experience for its characters. Of course, the series ends up leaving more questions than it began with.
In from the Cold does a lot in eight episodes, and at times all of those moving pieces clash. Busting at the seams, we get a series that has mind-control, government secrets, romance, violence, sex, betrayal, angst, and motherhood that buckles under all the pressure. While the narrative struggles to carry the weight, the Levieva carries it well, and Jenny is a character well worth being the center of the story. In the flashbacks, the ensemble cast holds attention, but in the present, only Levieva and Charles Brice as the man in the chair, Chris, hold your attention. With other characters either feeling flat or in the case of Jenny’s daughter, annoying, somehow In From the Cold‘s story still manages to hold weight.
Even with its slip-ups though, In From the Cold is worth a watch because of its star and more specifically her ability to pull off the series’ action choreography. The series doesn’t have the perfect fight sequences, but it does have some pretty damn good ones including Jenny’s first fight of the season that shows a mild-mannered mom transforming into a fighter in a split second, hallway fight and all.
Overall, In From the Cold manages to pull off an eventful season that entertains even while it’s bursting at the seams. Levieva is a great lead, and as a character, Jenny offers the look at the trauma that comes with being owned by the state and this particular look at how it impacts creating a family. Jenny has been through pain. She’s had to kill people she loved, and that shapes her, but most importantly, it doesn’t harden her. A compelling lead can save a series, and that’s the case for In From the Cold.
In From the Cold is streaming January 28, 2022.
In From the Cold
- Rating - 7/107/10
In From the Cold manages to pull off an eventful season that entertains even while it’s bursting at the seams. Levieva is a great lead, and as a character, Jenny offers the look at the trauma that comes with being owned by the state and this particular look at how it impacts creating a family. Jenny has been through pain. She’s had to kill people she loved, and that shapes her, but most importantly, it doesn’t harden her. A compelling lead can save a series, and that’s the case for In From the Cold.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.