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On its face, the premise of “Alex Rider,” a streaming show about a teenager who is recruited to be a spy, does not inspire much confidence for the prospective viewer.

One can just imagine a whiny teenager trying to balance finding a date for prom and finishing homework by day while sparring with supervillains and thwarting their world domination schemes by night. In between ever more ridiculous scenes, this boy would also struggle with his identity and weep bitter tears over a lost father figure. This was exactly what happened in the 2006 movie, which was a critical and financial flop.

Fortunately, the new Amazon Prime series from IMDB TV and Sony Pictures Entertainment — based on the hugely popular young adult series by Anthony Horowitz — has learned from these mistakes and makes the story of “Alex Rider” work. It dispenses with most of the adolescent and secret agent tropes and creates a compelling show that features a great plot, likable characters, and solid action and suspense. More importantly, the show takes itself and its audience seriously.

Like any spy thriller, the plot of “Alex Rider” is what holds everything together. Nevertheless, unlike most spy thrillers, which tend to veer into complex world-building and subplots, the show keeps it simple: Alex’s uncle, a secret agent, is mysteriously murdered, and this leads Alex, ably played by Otto Farrant, to participate in a secret mission to figure out what happened.

After the first few episodes show how Alex ends up agreeing to the mission, the rest of the season focuses on his mission. He goes undercover at Point Blanc, a school in the Alps that specializes in reforming the wayward children of billionaires.

Alex slowly learns the ways of the school while his team gradually uncovers the school’s connection to other illegal activity, precipitating intense action and plot twists in the final episodes. All of these scenes are faithfully executed, looking realistic, not cheap or overdone.

The simplicity of the plot, however, does lead to serious underdevelopment in the main character and his setting. Alex’s backstory, such as how his parents died and how he learned to be a spy, is occasionally hinted at in the dialogue, but almost none of it is clear. The viewer simply has to accept he’s a trained agent on a mission.

The agency he works for is equally undiscussed. Again, the viewer simply has to accept that these people who stare at their screens in a poorly lit industrial building are a special division of MI6 operatives coordinating missions and gathering intelligence.

Although these omissions detract from the show’s realism and prevent more emotional investment in the protagonist, the general restraint in development does help to keep the focus on the plot, and it prevents the characters from becoming an annoying distraction. Even Alex’s nerdy friend Tom Harris, played by Brenock O’Connor, satisfies as the comic relief and character foil and manages not to overwhelm a scene.

Thankfully, the less filled-in characters still retain their believability — a rarity in shows featuring adolescents — acting with the maturity appropriate to their age. For the most part, the teenagers are not wise beyond their years, nor are the adults impetuous morons in need of lectures from the youth they supposedly supervise.

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At no point does the show degenerate into slapstick or parody. Each person does his part with a straight face, and the show is surprisingly serious the whole way through. There are a few angsty moments with Alex and Tom, but this is minimized. Although they occasionally seem a little obtuse or make dumb mistakes, adult characters are also mostly capable in their roles.

On a deeper level, “Alex Rider” has the uncommon virtue, particularly among youth entertainment, of not being preachy. Alex doesn’t have to learn to respect women more, nor do to tame his toxic masculinity (on the contrary). He is not a minority trying to overcome systemic prejudice, nor is he breaking stifling social conventions with his sexuality or political wokeness. In an unexpected move, the creators stayed faithful to their source material and kept him a teenage straight white male who shows unusual strength and courage.

That said, the cast includes a variety of different looks, and women play key roles in helping Alex succeed, particularly his handler Mrs. Jones, played by Vicky McClure, and classmate Kyra, played by Mayli Siu. Yet, rather than competing with Alex and taking him down a peg, these women complement him and play their parts competently. In general, both the men and women in the show shine in their proper element, without anyone being denigrated or overpowered to make a point.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the only real theme that seems to surface from the show is friendship, which is rare in a genre where the protagonist is mainly alone — both because no one understands him and so that he can keep his friends and family safe. While Alex’s friendship with Tom indeed puts the latter in danger, it also keeps Alex grounded. Seeing this play out is gratifying and refreshing, especially when such relationships are painfully absent among so many young men today.

Overall, one doesn’t have to be a teenager to enjoy “Alex Rider.” True, it may appeal primarily to a young audience, but adults will appreciate the good, clean fun that it offers. It avoids the common pitfalls of similar shows and movies, and, based on the developments of the final episode, it has the potential to continue delivering quality entertainment.



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COVID-19 Bill

Biden’s COVID-19 Bill Would fulfill Democrats far-left wish list

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It’s increasingly clear that the Biden administration’s nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package would appease special-interest groups rather than address the needs of those who actually need relief.

While about $1 trillion still sits unspent from previous relief bills, Biden’s bailout legislation would fulfill Democrats far-left wish list.

Among the many things that are unrelated to COVID-19 are a pension bailout, which could cost more than $60 billion, and a $350 billion bailout for states and localities.

Instead of a commitment to unity and working with Republicans to pass agreeable solutions, Democrats have decided to abuse the budget-reconciliation process to push through legislation that eclipses previous federal spending sprees.

They’re going to bail out special-interest groups and enact some of the worst fiscal policies this nation has ever seen. And unlike all five previous coronavirus relief efforts, this bill doesn’t have bipartisan support. 

This latest legislation is also the opposite of targeted: It throws billions and billions of dollars of good money after bad policies, using taxpayer funds for expensive bailouts that are unrelated to COVID-19 and unnecessary.

Predictions of plummeting state and local revenue have not come to pass. One recent report showed that tax revenue decreased only marginally, with 21 states reportedly seeing revenue growth in 2020.

In Kansas, tax revenues are already up now from where they were in fiscal year 2020, and neighboring Oklahoma is already projecting a $1.2 billion increase in its next fiscal year’s budget.

One bailout that’s included in Biden’s COVID-19 bill is an estimated $60 billion for pensions. Using coronavirus relief funds to bail out these pension funds is unfair to taxpayers, as many of the pensions have been mismanaged and continue avoiding reforms that would prevent insolvency.

As the former state treasurer of Kansas and trustee of the state’s pension program, I know that important management decisions can be made to ensure programs remain solvent.

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In Kansas, we proved it’s possible. Unfortunately, many in Washington think the answer to every question is to rack up billions, or even trillions, of dollars in debt on America’s credit card.

With such a dire budget situation at hand, Congress must ensure that any relief passed is targeted. Every dime spent on interest payments means less will go to what our federal government was designed to do by our Founders.

Uncontrolled spending by our federal government isn’t without consequence. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that $2 trillion in spending could shrink the economy by about $100 billion over the next decade, and with the national debt topping $27 trillion, our budget will have to shift over the coming years to accommodate larger and larger interest payments.

The Kansans I represent don’t want Washington to spend trillions of their taxpayer dollars on partisan projects. They want lawmakers just to work on crushing this virus so we can get back to building our families, businesses, and communities.

This nearly $2 trillion bill isn’t the right approach. It’s not targeted and is full of partisan handouts that have little or nothing to do with COVID-19.

Congress should instead be focusing on policies that increase job opportunities and wages for all workers, not mortgaging our futures.

It was just a year ago that we saw the results of tax and regulatory reforms; namely, the first actual wage growth in decades and historic lows in unemployment.

In order to return to that booming economy, we should focus on defeating the virus and reopening our country.

(daily signal)

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Democrats

Video: “Democrats’ stimulus relief bill is ‘too costly, corrupt, liberal’ – McCarthy

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy provides insight into the coronavirus stimulus bill saying the bill is “too costly, corrupt and liberal”.

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(Fox News)

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Fox news

Video: Glen calls Biden’s CBO nominee Neera Tandem “corrupt” and a “slanderer”

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Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald tears into President Biden’s CBO nominee Neera Tandem calling her “corrupt” and a “slanderer.”

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(Fox News)

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