Last year’s first series of Spooks was credited with doubling the rate of applications for jobs in MI5, and it’s not hard to see why. Draw a pixel-thin line between jokey-glam espionage romp and hard-edged action thriller, and you’ll find Spooks balancing bang in the middle, ramping up the excitement while pulling no punches on the nastier side of the business. If we weren’t a bit scared of having our faces shoved into deep fat fryers, we’d have signed up ourselves.
This year’s season carried straight on from the previous run’s finale, as L’Oreal-lashed hero Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen) and family survived the terrorist bomb that had seemed to kill them (lucky, that), allowing Quinn to move straight on to dealing with a Bosnian war criminal who was over here nicking all the Army’s guns. As before, he was helped by colleagues Zoe (Keeley Hawkes – young, posh, dedicated) and Danny (David Oyelowo – young, black, dedicated), and slightly hindered by boss Harry (Peter Firth – old, school-tie, complicated). Tragically there was no sign of sacked agent Tessa (Jenny Agutter – timeless, exotic, implicated), although she did turn up briefly in episode two over on BBC3.
We won, of course, as some data-transmitting cufflinks facilitated a last-minute switch of venue for an all-important security committee meeting and an ambush for the Beastly Bosnian, who was then handed over to the Egyptians as a suspected paedophile (no, we didn’t get that bit either). As before, the show seemed in constant danger of teetering off the line into the space marked “The Professionals” (or, more precisely, “Bugs”, the mid-90s all-gadgets spy series much admired by children), but never quite lost its balance.
What really got those job applications flooding in last year was probably Spooks’ depiction of power. The show creates the whiff of it very effectively; these are guys who can close airports, order the police around and open their own video shops whenever they feel like it, all in the interests of national security and often on orders from the Very Top. This year’s series looks set to work its way through the roll-call of Threats To Our Way Of Life one-by-one, with Islamic Terrorists next week (or last week, if you watch BBC3), and Hacking Of Vital Government Computers the week after that. Sit back, switch your satellite-phone ballpoint pen off, and enjoy.