Did we like it?
Much as we liked Adam Carter, and Rupert Penry-Jones’ work, his self-immolation was the best thing to happen to Spooks for three series. His replacement Lucas North has an alluring depth and ambiguity, while the scripts are back to being a mix of the incredibly silly and the heart-stopping. Whether this can continue for a whole series, unlike the previous two, isn’t yet clear.
What was good about it?
• Richard Armitage has been carrying Robin Hood pretty much since it started, and now he has a stage worthy of his talents. His ruse as a double agent to trick his former Russian captors was predictable, but there is a shadow in his soul than even Harry can’t see – and it will hopefully be revealed in future episodes.
• And we were gladdened by the return of Ros (Hermione Norris), especially as she spent the first couple of episodes auditioning to ultimately replace Adam, which she duly achieved. She killed a Russian spy by smashing him over the head with champagne, disabled another in a London square, had a Russian politician literally by the bollocks, and stunned Lucas with a taser. Although, we do remember that there was a very good reason why she had to be dead in Series 5 – but we can’t exactly recall why.
• The first episode was a peculiar triptych that mechanically reintroduced Ros, introduced Lucas and got rid of Adam. The second was a Spooks classic for its palpable but addictive silliness as a Russian submarine tried to infect telecommunications cables in the Atlantic with some ravaging internet virus. It had the usual improbable conclusion, Malcolm waxing psychobabble and Harry uttering apocalyptic portents for Britain. All it needed was Tom, Danny and Zoe walking aimlessly about corridors and it was 2002 all over again.
• The tailing of suspects through busy streets. We always find this element of Spooks rather hypnotic, like watching safety play in a snooker match – the most thrilling part of any green baize showdown, as the potting bit is a dull procession like a military parade through Red Square.
What was bad about it?
• So many of the leading Spooks characters have been mindlessly dispatched in recent series that when Harry raised his pistol with a look of righteous fury in his eyes, and gunned down Arkady Katchemov for indirectly causing Adam’s death, there was no sense of dramatic fulfilment for us. We didn’t feel the same glow of justice as when Robert Osbourne was assassinated for murdering Helen, or when Tom Quinn shot Hermann Joyce in cold blood.
• We now hardly bat an eyelid at another corpse whether it’s Adam Carter or Arkady Katchemov, so inured are we to a world which is more perilous and morbid than even Coronation Street.
• And anyhow, Adam didn’t really die in the car bomb. He perished about half-an-hour earlier during his Henry V soliloquy about the virtues of Remembrance Day, and in so doing stepped so far out of character he more resembled Captain Pugwash than a crack spy. He may as well have turned to the camera and punctured the fourth wall with his cool blue eyes, so much did this scene resemble the very last episode of Dad’s Army when Mainwaring and his troops toasted the Home Guard.
• And while the death of Arkady Katchemov didn’t move us, it certainly annoyed us. Throughout the previous couple of episodes his name had been mentioned in hallowed tones as if the Lucifer Morningstar of international espionage. Lucas trembled when he spoke of Arkady’s interrogation technique, venerating him as a “chess player”. Yet as soon as the Spooks pinioned him with a move that a three-year-old child could manoeuvre out of, he crumbled and complied with Lucas’s demand to become a double agent.
• Arkady Katchemov’s death was a double shame as he was an adversary as doughty as Professor Moriarty compared to the stock Al Qaeda terrorists we had to endure in the first episode. Sure, they were accurately portrayed as the moronic fools who try to give meaning to their piteous snivelling existences through murder and harm, but they are so basic they could be produced in a Victorian sweatshop and sold on the streets of Blackpool to dumb tourists. They spouted all the usual risible hyperbolic bilge that just made them grotesque hate figures with all the distinctive traits of a blanket of fog.
• Why did Lucas have his tattoos inscribed in the Latin alphabet rather than the Cyrillic alphabet?
• Are we the only people who thought that the fatal car bomb wasn’t really that big, and Adam could have quite easily cleared the street, with the device causing little more damage than a few shattered windows?