Monday, February 24, 2014

For The Greater Good, Spooks was rather bloody brilliant

As I said on Saturday, after three years I finally finished watching Spooks. Which I feel took me far too long for silly OCD collecting reasons (it involves the sizes of DVD cases). Ignoring that, Spooks might just be one of the best espionage programmes that has ever existed. At the very least, it was topped off by an absolute genius final season.

I'll admit I was kind of worried it wasn't going to be. While the first only had six episodes, proceeding series quickly jumped to ten. After five of them, it slipped back to eight because of ratings, and the final series was back down to six. I remember thinking at the time series 10 was announced as the final – I was probably into second or third season at that point – that less episodes and the lead female spy being swapped between seasons sounded like it was being given a slow death, despite all the claims it “was going out on top.” It would be a sad death for a show that had been amazing.

Spooks may well have been at its best early on, when it was very much home-grown problems such as Right wing extremists starting race riots to argue against asylum seekers, or very Brummie Muslims. Most of the work was done undercover, and ninety percent of the episode has the main characters with different names. Names like Tom Quinn aren't quite as recognisable as Adam Carter or Lucas North because Tom spent most of the time changing his. This was while showing the officers trying to hold down normal lives and coping with multiple personalities, including the woman Tom loves not even knowing his real name.

Of course, Spooks was also famous for not pulling any punches with its cast, and not being afraid to get through a fairly decent amount of characters. The most famous is also the first, when Jenny Faulkner's disposed of in episode two. The only recognisable actor in the show at the time, she rather unceremoniously gets her face burned off by chip shop oil before a bullet in the head to put her down for good. But this kept going. One goaded a enemy to kill him instead of his female colleague, another shot by her long-thought dead ex-husband, and quite a few were blown up. Most notably Adam and that amazing car bomb scene.

But as the cast changed so did the style of the show. The constant shifting identities and undercover work disappeared while more run and gun, explosive action pieces came to the fore-front. You'd never believe in the third season you had a character morally struggle with an assassination after the amount of bullets that were sent flying later on.

However, because of the shifting identities of my favourite season, it was Adam Carter, Jo Portman and co that were my favourite team. These guys got to be a bit more James Bond in their approach, and the lack of secret identities let their own personalities shine during a mission, rather than only in the opening and closing moments. Spooks really was the TV show that got to play out all of the big spy tropes. So how could one season of six episodes manage to match all that?

Well that final season manages to jam everything in that's come before. One episode felt like it was straight out of Series 1, being undercover with fake names and a genuinely British threat. While another felt it was straight from the Adam Carter era. And throughout the series the new girl struggled with being a spy while balancing being a single mum. It was the perfect send off for such a varied show.

And, just like 24, Spooks still isn't finished. While Jack Bauer struggled to get a movie made – and is instead debuting a new 12 part series, something that works far more to its premise – Harry Pearce succeeded. Production is currently underway on Spooks: The Greater Good with Kit Harrington in a lead role. Which is great, but I hope they fit in a few favourites who are still alive. Dmitri became quite a favourite, and I'll never say no to more Keeley Hawes.


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