9 p.m. Friday and Dec. 14; Sundance Channel
British espionage isn’t all fun, games and gadgets. Sometimes it’s just “Restless.”
The Sundance Channel’s two-part miniseries stars Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) as Ruth Gilmartin, a bell-bottomed Cambridge intellectual in 1976 who’s shocked to learn that staid, serious mom Sally (Charlotte Rampling) was a spy during World War II.
Paranoid that her past is catching up with her (she’s convinced the woods are full of spies), Sally spills her secrets to Ruth and draws her into some shady unfinished business.
Based on William Boyd’s 2006 novel, “Restless” jumps between 1976 and World War II, when Sally was Eva Delectorskaya (Hayley Atwell), a Russian-born British beauty recruited to go undercover (and, if need be, under covers) for England.
Eva teams with handsome spook Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell) and his cadre of agents working to draw the United States into the war. (Not coincidentally, Sundance is airing the first episode on Friday.)
Things go bad, of course, and agents begin dying. Eva slips off to idle away the next few decades as a country gentlewoman, her binoculars and a shotgun at the ready.
A coproduction of Sundance and Endor Productions for BBC 1, “Restless” has the earmarks of British TV drama: fine attention to period detail, a literate script nicely spoken (especially Michael Gambon as the aged 1976 Romer) and a pace that can slow to a crawl.
Except for the brittle interplay between Rampling and Dockery, the wartime flashbacks lack bite and the espionage feels generic. With “Restless,” the spy game is more cloak than dagger.