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.

Posted by PLA           (more Spooks here)


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

  1. bccmee

    The acting was fabulous all around. Nicola Waker, Peter Firth and Richard Armitage all put in outstanding performances.

    The writing didn’t work however. I was completely dissatisfied with the direction of the Lucas character. The only way to make the storyline remotely tolerable was to completely forget the previous two series when Lucas was tried and tested again and again. Even though the character was a laughably poor agent — almost everyone under his watch was killed and he couldn’t shoot straight and he was duped by the crazy CIA agent he bedded — the one consistent trait was that he was LOYAL. The possibilities for writing him out were endless so how did the writers come up with such a ludicrous plotline? The only good part was when Lucas jumped which put me out of my misery as well.

    • pauseliveaction

      That’s what was leading me to the idea that he’d been “programmed” to behave that way and maybe Vaughn was the trigger that would start off that pattern of behaviour in him. The flashbacks in the last episode were all of the Russian prison rather than the Dakar embassy bombing, which made me think the prison had had the most profound effect on him.

      Basically a lot of it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny plotwise, but if you go along with the ride as a piece of drama it was excellent.

      • Those who watch Spooks casually and don’t discuss it probably took everything in stride. While I admit I watched Spooks initially for Richard Armitage, I frankly never warmed to his character. Even so, the writers took too many liberties with what little consistency Lucas North had and it simply did not work for me. Ruth is Ruth and Harry is Harry and even when they may do something out of the ordinary, you can at least figure out their motives. With Lucas in series 9 they just invented a new character from his distant past and while they get points for creativity, it should still make sense. This is a BBC flagship program, not a 9-year-old’s writing assignment.

      • pauseliveaction

        It really doesn’t bear any close scrutiny at all. I still think the only plausible explanation is that he was brainwashed to get Albany, and didn’t really do the Dakar bombing but only thought he did. Or something.

  2. juliee

    I concur, felt absolutely drained as well, and the feeling lasted for a few days !! On reflection, this particular storyline the writers took us on was the unexpected – a stab in the back if you like for the audience when you least expected it, and not the particular journey we all thought Lucas should go on. The disintegration of Lucas and metamorphosis of John and then the struggle between the two was brilliantly acted by Richard Armstrong. So I liked this new script writing approach – a bit different from taking the safer option.

  3. kaprekar

    It was certainly a risky storyline, and clearly didn’t work for some people. But for me, it was totally gripping, edge of my seat stuff in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long while. Absolutely brilliant in my humble opinion.

  4. Karen7

    I loved this series once. I really did. And, with extreme sadness, I now must admit that that is all in the past. I’m angry, so I apologize in advance for the length of this comment.

    Lucas: Sorry, but Horribly written and Brilliantly played is my assessment. (Pity the poor actors. Richard Armiage and Nicola Walker should win BAFTAS…for their work AND for adversity. Their final IV scene together? Brilliant. And Armitage allowing bits of John to subtly “bleed” out through this series? Simply amazing.)

    The writers, however, clearly wanted to push it as far as they could, solely so that they could have an “Ohhhh, Spooks!”-moment. I would have been fine with Lucas/John having been used, naive, an utter fool, etc., but then in the final Vaughn reveal, they went too far. And blew it completely. John/Lucas, a stone cold killer? No. It violated not only 2+ series of character developement, but also neglected basic precepts of human psychology. No. I even thought it had to be Vaughn’s dying mind-zing/”programming/activation” of John. But to find it was actually real? No.

    Simply no. Not buying it. Character-assassination- by-writer. Clunky, ackward dialogue. Poor motiviation (Come on, Maya was no woman. She was an undeveloped, walking plot point! Lucas giving everything up…for THAT?) And then coping out at the end, so that they have the option of possibly bringing Armitage back, post-Hobbit? No.

    The producers have allowed the writers to introduce new characters which went under-used, and managed to denigrate other characters that we loved (even causing me to become annoyed with Ruth. RUTH!) What about the much-anticipated, 3-years-in-the-making Harry/Lucas showdown over leaving Lucas in prison for 8 years and HARRY’s betrayal? Never happened. (And remember when people (Zoe) could yell in Harry’s face and call him on his own B.S. without being considered traitorous? When the show was still well-written?)

    So to me, the producers have allowed the writers to get away with (character) murder and have killed the show. I really don’t care what happens next series. If the same writers are in place, they’ll just keep on destroying it for the sake of shock-value and potential ratings. And paychecks. This is not SPOOKS.

  5. Lizzy

    I agree completely with Karen7. I’m still feeling angry and sick when I think about this series. Though brilliantly acted, Lucas’s character assassination was intensely uncomfortable, dislikeable television.

    And looking about on Facebook and Twitter, I see I’m far from the only one feeling this way. There are many, many people who’d invested in the character of Lucas over series 7 & 8 and, despite his troubled nature and his weaknesses, had come to admire and love him. I feel betrayed by the writers and resentful, and I won’t be watching Spooks again.

    • Karen7

      Thanks, Lizzy. I haven’t looked on Facebook and Twitter, so was unaware of the discussions/comments being made there, but I suspected that I was not alone in feeling this way. I have no issue with killing Lucas off, or even turning him in “John,” but it was so poorly done and they took it past the point of sense. If anything, this has increased my admiration for Richard Armitage. The mental hoops he must have had to jump through, to get his head ’round bringing his character to “that place,” as convincingly as possible… The man really is a consumate professional. Now if he can only find some decent writing…