Tag Archives: peter firth

Spooks: Going dark for the last time

First things first. Do not read this if you haven’t already watched every second of the final (sobs) episode of Spooks. Despite my best efforts I had a thing near the end spoilered in the week and  the emotional punch was weakened as a result. (It still made me cry even harder than I already was though.)

Alright then. Into the valley of death and the vale of tears we go…

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Lustbox: Harry Pearce

As Spooks faces the final curtain on Sunday, and most of us cross our fingers for a happy ending for the top Spook and his favourite analyst, it seems
appropriate to welcome Harry Pearce and his almost-permanently clenched jaw into the PLA
Lustbox.

Spooks has given us much more conventional eye-candy over the years (Adam, Lucas and Dimitri, for example), but ten years’ exposure to Harry’s buttoned-up persona, super-dry wit and botched wooing of Ruth has left me with a soft spot for the head of Section D.

In our X Factor, look-at-me, sex-sells world, Harry’s understated, but always totally dedicated, approach shines like a  diamond in a pile of ordure.

Like my other favourite spy (Michael Westen), Harry may be the best in the intelligence business, but is undone time and again by his inability to manage his relationship with the woman he loves, Ruth Evershed.

Their relationship is like something out of a Jane Austen novel, all meaningful glances, misunderstandings, witty banter, brief touches of hands, bad timing and other people’s problems getting in the way. (Although as I recall, there weren’t quite so many dirty bombs and terrorists in Pride and Prejudice.)

I love the fact that the Harry and Ruth relationship has grown from the genuine affection and chemistry between Peter Firth and Nicola Walker. You really should hear the two of them talking on Radio 4 Extra while you can. Not only is it a lovely interview, it’s a chance to wallow in Peter’s wonderful voice too.

Now imagine that voice reading out these lines (just some of Harry’s greatest hits):

HOME SECRETARY: You know, back in my days as a student radical, our dreams were all about the glorious proletariat.
HARRY: We’ve still got those dreams on file somewhere.
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JOHN RUSSELL: What aren’t you telling me, Harry?
HARRY: John, I’ve been up all night, my psychic powers are at a low ebb. Please elaborate.
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FERNANDO TORRES: La vida no vale nada, as they say.
HARRY: Not an expression we hear very much around these parts, but then again we did have rather more success in seeing off the Spanish than you.
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HARRY: Did I not say to shut that bloody journalist up? We’re supposed to be MI-5, not the Stoke Newington branch of the Green Party.
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HARRY: I’m aware I have not played nicely with the other children.
HOME SECRETARY: Would it have killed you to pick up a golf club every once in a while?
HARRY: It may well have done, yes.
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DIMITRI: How was your, er, um, break?
HARRY: In one particularly dark moment I actually considered gardening.
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Farewell then Harry. All that remains is to keep our fingers crossed that he and Ruth get a good ending. For the rest of us, well, there’s always the boxed sets to fall back on…
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Spooks: Not again

(Series 10, Ep.2) More twists and turns than a twisty turny thing. More suspense than the fingernails can bear. Excitement. Betrayal. Doomed romance. Fake suicide. Sudden death.

In other words, a top notch Spooks episode (and please don’t read any further if you haven’t seen it yet). It started with Calum (I still don’t trust him) having a laptop stolen. Despite Tariq’s genius with encryption, it didn’t take the thieves long to start opening the files, and popping the contents on to the internet. The contents being names of some of MI5′s top assets, this was bad news indeed. Asset number one was killed before Dmitri could get to him, and Dmitri was given the task of making the murder scene look like a suicide. He went at this with scary efficiency, though he did have the grace to look troubled by the task.  Continue reading

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Spooks: In one particularly dark moment, I actually considered gardening

(Series 10, Ep.1) In the post Lucas North era, it’s clear that this final series of Spooks is going to focus on Harry Pearce. This is only right and proper – having made it through nine whole seasons, watching his colleagues dropping like flies in varied and nasty ways, he deserves to take centre stage.

He’s currently on probation. Having sailed rather close to the wind with the whole Albany/Lucas North business, he’s not entirely trusted by the Powers That Be. They might not trust him, but they do need him, so he’s sent back to the Grid on the strict understanding that an eye is being kept on him, he is not to put a foot wrong, and other body-part metaphors.

While he’s been away, his seat has been kept warm by one Erin Watts (Lara Pulver). I say “warm,” but Lara is one of the ice cold type of females that Section D routinely employs, all cheekbones and stiff upper lip. Dmitri thinks he knows the type. She’ll be going home to a solo dinner of steamed fish and an evening of ab crunches, he predicts. He’s wrong, though – when she goes home we find she’s the single parent of an adorable little daughter. Clearly Lara isn’t as ice cold as we thought, and presumably her mummyhood will be upsettingly exploited later in the series.
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The Spies Who Went Into The Cold – No More Spooks

As reported by various news sources today, the tenth series of Spooks to be shown this Autumn will be the last.

Because Jo The Hat would kill me if I didn't use a picture of Richard Armitage

The decision was rather unusually taken by the programme makers Kudos rather than by the BBC, on the grounds that they wanted to stop the show whilst it was still “in its prime”. Anybody who watched the most recent season may choose to strongly disagree with this statement, but still.

Despite its dip in form of late, Spooks can easily claim to be one of the most consistently brilliant dramas of the past ten years. This was due to a number of factors. Firstly, its excellent writing. Secondly, its often shocking plots. It speaks volumes that Spooks became something of a victim of its own success in this sense – you ended up expecting the unexpected, which when it happened became, er, totally expected. But the impact of killing one of its major characters in only  the first series without any warning is more than most serial dramas ever manage. Although I doubt deep-fat fryer manufacturers were quite so welcoming of this turn of events.  Continue reading

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Spooks: Then I remembered to breathe, and Lucas North was dead

(Series 9, Ep.8) I’ve been on holiday, hence my very belated watching of the series finale (and finale is the proper word here) of Spooks. And now I’ve watched it, I really, really feel like I could do with another holiday. Drained, I am. Wrung out.

If you let the little implausibilities and “why didn’t he just – ? ” questions flutter away on the breeze like a losing lottery ticket, it was the most gripping and tense hour of television I’ve seen for ages. It wasn’t so much the action (though Lucas kidnapping Ruth and attaching her to a drip of anaesthetic that would kill her in 3 hours if Harry didn’t find her first, or Harry gassing Beth and Dmitri so he could steal the real Albany was action of the highest order). What was really gripping was the psychological drama played out between Harry and Lucas, the man he’d placed so much trust in and who’d become the living embodiment of what Harry’s entire career had stood for.

Lucas’s role was brilliantly written and brilliantly played by Richard Armitage – the prison flashbacks, the glimpses of the hell he’d been through made me think, even to the very end, that maybe Lucas had been “programmed” by the Russians,  Manchurian Candidate-style, to acquire Albany, and there’d be a way back for him once Harry had got everything sorted out and a spell in MI5′s version of The Priory restored his basic moral decency. Richard Armitage’s performance was complex and subtle. Lucas was no Bond villain set on world domination – all he wanted was some peace, to be with Maya and perhaps deal with some of his demons. The tragedy was that it was never going to be possible, he was too aware of what he’d done and what he was.

Harry Pearce is a man similarly haunted by his life’s experiences, similarly seeking a calm existence with the woman he loves, similarly realising this will never happen. Peter Firth’s lugubrious face and pained eyes were heartbreaking at times, as he felt the full force and loneliness of being where the buck stops.

It maybe wasn’t the best series of Spooks ever, but it was masterful the way the last three episodes built to this shattering conclusion, with Lucas now reduced to a paste after jumping from a high building (I assume, though we never saw a body – maybe that spell in the MI5 Priory is on the cards after all) and Harry’s career possibly at an end after his actions made him almost as rogue an officer as Lucas himself.

Right at the end a little caption came up informing us that Spooks would return in 2011. Two words: Can’t. Wait.

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Spooks: “My name isn’t Lucas North. My name’s John”

(Series 9, Ep.7) The Lucas/John plot has been simmering along for this entire series – slightly irritatingly, it must be said, until last week, when it started to come to the boil rather spectacularly.

That the stakes were higher than a very high thing could be gleaned by the expression on Lucas’s face as he held a dying woman in his arms, watching her bleed to death and letting it happen rather than risk her revealing any more about him.

This week, everything unravelled for him. Ruth was already suspicious (don’t you feel the country is in safe hands as long as Ruth is on duty at Thames House 24 hours a day? Without her, I fear we’re lost as everyone else in Section D is just a tiny bit less competent). It was time for Harry to give “Lucas” a bit of a face-to-face staff appraisal. Being MI5, this took place in a deserted warehouse-looking-thing. Harry employed his contemptuous stare to maximum effect, and Lucas ‘fessed all. He’d been, back when he was John,  an unwitting part of a bombing of the British Embassy in Dakar in which many people had been killed. The real brains behind the operation was Vaughn, who had killed John’s mate (and MI5 wannabe) Lucas North so that John could assume his identity.

Bad enough, but was this the entire truth? It wasn’t Vaughn’s version. Vaughn had Maya handcuffed in a cellar somewhere, but was slowly bleeding to death himself because Lucas had stabbed him in the leg during a friendly chat in a park (Ros would have been proud). Vaughn’s version of events was that Lucas/John had built and planted the bomb, fully aware of what he was doing, and had killed Lucas North himself with his own bare hands.

Who to believe? And what motivated John then, and Lucas now? And what has Albany got to do with it all? As usual with Spooks, I’m left with more questions than answers, which is why I love it so much.

Meanwhile, in a side plot Ruth was embroiled in a plot to assassinate a mafia boss, and showed that when push comes to shove she’s as handy with a gun as the next spook. But where Ruth differs from Lucas (at least from the Lucas we’ve been seeing recently) is her humanity. She told Harry that she’s numb to the effects her actions have, and is even beyond grieving for her dead partner. This is how she carries on. But Ruth recognises the unnaturalness of this, she feels the pain of normal people caught up in abnormal situations.

Next week: the hunter becomes the hunted, as the search is on for Lucas North. A name which, by the way, suits him far more than plain ol’ “John.”

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