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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(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.
(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.
Posted by PLA (more Spooks here)
(Series 9, Ep.5) Dastardly plot of the week was a plan to kill the “leader of the free world” (that would be the President of the USA) by blowing him up with a person bomb (that would be an Israeli delegate to a top secret Middle East peace conference who’d been injected full of explosives). Even more cunningly, there was a decoy sniper shooting people at the front of the hotel where the talks were taking place (he was top quality, as well – he could shoot right through buildings), in order to get the Prez re-routed round the back to meet up with bomb woman.
It was a nicely convoluted plot, although first glance at the female Israeli delegate who wasn’t speaking to the other Israeli delegate, her father (because he’d once let her languish as a prisoner of the Palestinians for 14 months because he wouldn’t give in to their ransom demands), should have been enough to alert everyone involved that she needed Watching Very Closely.
This was all foiled in the nick of time (phew) by Dmitri and Beth, who were on the spot as undercover Home Office staff, by Lucas who was running about in full action man mode, doing bits of breaking and entering, almost getting strangled and being generally being pretty heroic, and by Harry, Tariq and Ruth doing all the mental agility stuff.
The episode benefited hugely from not having too much of the Lucas/John stuff in it – this was saved for the very end, when Lucas popped over to visit Maya, and found her apparently living with the sinister Vaughn (who was supposed to be off Lucas’s case last week when he delivered the Albany file to him). What’s going on? Whatever it is, the preview of next week’s episode looked like Lucas wouldn’t be handling it too well.
Lucas continues to be front and centre as star action hero, but Beth and Dmitri are starting to shape up nicely. Beth isn’t and never will be as majestic as the wonderful Ros, but I’m definitely warming to her. And Dmitri in a suit is quite a lovely thing – should anything (heaven forfend) happen to Lucas, Dmitri could fill his shoes quite well.
And just a pedantic footnote to whoever did the captions. It’s Stansted Airport, not Stanstead. Unless Airforce One arrived at some airport so top secret (yet still in Essex) that we haven’t heard of it yet.
Posted by PLA (more Spooks here)
(Series 9, Ep.4) This was just the kind of Spooks episode I like. Lots of split-screen, edge-of-the-seat type stuff. Lucas and Dmitri abseiling down the side of the Chinese Embassy; Lucas’s tattoos (I know, I’m shallow, I admit it); clandestine meetings on park benches; Dmitri defusing a very big bomb in the back of a truck. “It’s my first time,” he admitted cheerfully to Tariq, but luckily he’d brought his lighter with him because it was just what he needed to melt an essential component.
The plot turned on Beth’s attempts to turn an asset from the Chinese Embassy, which happily coincided with a plan to do away with a Chinese scientist who’d invented an end to water shortages worldwide. Honestly, it puts you off trying to invent globally important stuff when, no sooner have you cracked it, someone somewhere will want to kill you. That’s why I’ve made no recent progress with my musical wardrobe for the blind (shhhh!).
Like Dmitri and his bomb defusing, Beth was a virgin at asset turning. Her colleagues advised her to go with her instincts, which looked to be fairly dodgy as it seemed her asset was working for the other side. He turned out to be a triple agent, who was working for the Chinese unwittingly by being bugged, so that’s a big hurrah for Beth’s instincts. And Tariq’s lie detector.
Ruth got to leave the office for a while, as her linguistic skills (Mandarin is fine, but her Cantonese is just cringeworthy, apparently) made her ideal to go undercover in the Chinese Embassy. She was still there when news of a bomb threat came through. Harry told her to leave the Embassy immediately – he looked all worried and upset, bless him. Ruth, as well as being fluent in just about every language and being like human Google (you’d want her on your pub quiz team) also has balls of steel and wasn’t about to leave till she’d found her scientist.
Meanwhile, Lucas was attempting to sort out his messy former life (which has something to do with China) by supplying Vaughn with a very top secret file from MI5’s computer. To get this he had to steal the identity of a junior (disposable) colleague. To cover his tracks he also transferred a lot of money, so it looked like the colleague was only trying to commit fraud. The fact that Lucas was able to shrug off destroying this person’s life should tell us that the stakes are very high. Is Lucas this season’s Connie?
Posted by PLA (more Spooks reviews here)
(Series 9, Ep.3) Did Harry cock up by allowing rogue terrorist Aibek to escape from a scene where the FSB were dealing somewhat harshly (ie spot executions) with his colleagues? Or was he simply being decent and British?
Either way, Aibek ended up running around London looking for a secret cache of paroxocybin, a substance that could be used for great good but would probably be used for great evil if anyone with pernicious intent got hold of it.
For a while it looked like he already had it (he was carrying a cool-bag – you have to keep paroxocybin frozen, otherwise, like a carton of Ben and Jerry’s, it will go off quite spectacularly). Cue one of those tense chases through the London underground that I enjoy watching so much, with Lucas, Beth and Dmitri and a FSB agent who’d been attached to MI5 all hurtling around muttering tensely at Tariq through tiny microphones.
Aibek evaded Britain’s (and Russia’s) finest, and pitched up in the office of a scientist who’d been hanging on to a little supply of the coveted chemical because of it’s potential for positive use. A bit of a beating later he still refused to ‘fess up where it was being kept. Aibek turned his attention to the scientist’s daughter, also a scientist, almost drowning her until Lucas etc turned up in the nick of time. Aibek was apprehended, but the nasty FSB officer killed the scientist’s daughter – because the Russians wanted the nasty stuff.
It all got complicated after that, with Aibek being used as a decoy to sort the nasty Russian out. All was well that ended well, and the deadly substance was taken away to live in a big fridge at Porton Down.
As a little postscript, the mysterious Vaughn pitched up to mutter mysterious things at Lucas. It’s time Lucas changed his route home, as Vaughn seems to be able to pop up with alarming regularity. Maya came to see Lucas at his home. He told her that the reason he hadn’t been in touch for eight years was that he’d been in prison. When we left them, he looked about to reveal his prison tattoos to her – lucky, lucky Maya.
Posted by PLA (who loves Spooks but is frequently confused by it)
(Series 9, Ep.2) I have to confess I got totally lost watching last night’s Spooks. Who was meant to be assassinating who in that elevator? Were the gunmen Columbians or Nigerians? Were they after the man who was after the oil tycoon, or were they after Beth? And how could Beth get a job working for MI5 without them delving into her background enough to know she got up to some dodgy stuff in South America in her gap year?
All this bamboozlement was quite aside from the central question that we’re supposed to be worrying about – why do people keep calling Lucas “John”? And who is Maya? Didn’t he have a Russian wife previously?
There is such a thing as a plot that’s too convoluted, and this was it. The best thing about it was the sexual tension between Ruth and Harry. She rings him. “I don’t think we should be sharing late night tete-a-tetes. Let’s just stick to work,” he tells her. “This is work,” she replies. Harry pauses for a nanosecond before replying, “Good.”
Posted by a confused PLA who should maybe stick to In the Night Garden from now on.
(Series 9, Ep.1) Just in case we were holding out a slim hope that Ros Myers might not be dead after all, the series opened at her funeral. Even so, I half expected Ros to pop up from behind a pew, brush a stray hair off her black leather jacket and tell everyone that rumours of her death had been greatly exaggerated.
Sadly, it didn’t happen, and the small congregation of Harry, Ruth, Lucas, Tariq and a couple of non-speaking extras were left to shuffle outside gloomily. Life goes on, though, and there’s no time to wallow in grief when there are baddies to fight. This week’s baddies were Al Qaeda, or, as we must now call them, “AQ.” I think this abbreviation should be adopted right across the media because it would stop that problem about whether reporters should pronounce it “Al Kyder” or “Al Ky-eeder.”
Anyway, AQ had a nasty man on board a ship containing a lot of explosives heading for Britain (as in heading for blowing up the part of Britain known as Portsmouth). But never fear, on board the ship was also Lucas North (my lord, that man moves quickly), an agent called Dmitri who sounds Russian but is in fact “one of ours,” and a maverick private security expert called Beth Bailey. Lucas isn’t terribly fond of maverick private security types on his patch, but it was lucky that Beth was around because it was she who sorted out the fact that the nasty AQ man was only pretending to be driving a ship full of explosives towards Portsmouth at high speed. What he was actually doing was setting off a couple of radar-proof mini-submarines which could sneak past the Thames Barrier (huh – calls itself a barrier) and detonate in the murky waters beneath the Houses of Parliament.
Luckily there’s apparently a room in the basement of the aforementioned seat of government which contains an electro-magnetic pulse bomb for just such an eventuality. It’s a weapon of last resort, though, as it plays havoc with mobile phones, pacemakers, iPods and just about anything else electrical. Still, Harry is employed to take these tough decisions, and take it he did. Luckily the back-up generators at St Thomas’s Hospital (which is directly opposite the H of P) kicked in just in time and only nine people died.
Even so, death hangs heavy in Harry’s heart, what with it being so soon after losing Ros and whatnot. He’d also had to kill the former Home Secretary (the Robert Glenister one) early in the episode when it turned out that he’d been One Of Theirs all along. All this death was getting to him. He was even planning to retire, and asked Ruth to marry him so they could live in a rose-covered cottage in the country. Sensibly, Ruth turned him down. Retirement couldn’t compare to the thrills they get in their current job, and besides, Britain needs him. Britain also needs Beth Bailey, and Harry offered her a job.
Right at the end of the episode, Lucas was on his way out for a kebab or something, and met a Sinister Figure who seemed to know about Lucas’s secret past (the past that’s so secret even we don’t know about it yet). “What’s it been like, being Lucas North?” he said. Well, I imagine for one thing it’s utter joy every time you look in the mirror, but that’s just me.
Posted by PLA (more Spooks here)