Did we like it?
A typically brilliant return for British TV’s premier drama series, but we’re not sure if the frenetic velocity can be maintained over a full ten episodes given that the bio-weapon has been nullified by the end of episode two.
What was good about it?
• Harry’s wily old smirk that shows he knows about Adam and Ros’s affair.
• Spooks always manages to seem as if events are happening on a national scale with Adam screaming out the Iranian agent’s name as he staggered through the bustling streets of London, and little affectation such as getting BBC newscasters to read the fictional news or interview the home secretary (Robert Glenister), but it’s always the BBC, isn’t it?
• The convoluted and complex world of politicians and the security services gnashing and clashing. The opening five minutes saw Harry having to go ahead with the bombing of an Iranian train on the home secretary’s orders after it stopped just outside Tehran next to another train leading to expected casualties of, according to Malcolm, “30 deaths, possibly 40”. But Harry could hardly act pious as he was willing to advocate the bombing that would still have killed a number of Iranians along with the intended target.
But the turmoil of the conflict of morals and duty raged within many of the characters over the opening episodes. Zaf warned the Tehran office where he was working undercover of the imminent explosion, therefore saving lives but also blowing his cover. While Adam refused to return the bio-weapon vaccine to the Russian agent who was holding Jo hostage and threatening to kill her. She survived but seems to bear a grudge against Adam.
• The British act of killing Iranian civilians made them just one of a copious cast of villains in the Spooks world, where if it wasn’t for the strong performances of Rupert Penry-Jones, Peter Firth, Hermione Norris et al you wouldn’t really care about any of the cold-blooded murdering bastards. Interrogating Iranian agent Mehan Asnik, Adam snorted: “Peace doesn’t interest men like you!” “Men like us, you mean,” replied Asnik.
• So far the list of villains reads: British, French, Iranians, Russians, Indians and Americans. Plus a band of mercenaries and whoever keeps firing darts or bullets through windows that was becoming so regular it seemed like a spoof of the Pink Panther films.
• After the boss of the mercenaries who kidnapped Zaf was assassinated, Ros severed his forefinger popped it in a plastic bag as if packing fresh fruit and brought it to the Grid to enable Malcolm to access the boss’s highly sensitive fingerprint activated laptop.
• Zaf’s heroics in the back of the mercenaries’ lorry when he pulled a pin on a grenade and threatened to blow up himself, the (fake) antidotes demanded by the mercenaries and anyone in his general vicinity unless Adam was released. Although we’re not sure how he diffused it afterwards.
• Adam and his Iranian embassy mole Anna arguing during which, unusually for a TV drama, they shouted over one another, giving the slightly ludicrous (but utterly absorbing) plot an iota of realism.
What was bad about it?
• Even after what five, six series we can’t quite fathom that the whole of MI5 is effectively run from one spartan office in central London that has some fancy doors and glowing Batphones. What really perplexes us is not that Harry is head of MI5; fine, that we can handle; but that green Jo fresh out of uni appears to be about fourth in command, even with her harsh new Ros-a-like hairshear.
• After the MI5 convoy transporting Adam, Zaf and Asnik to London was ambushed by mercenaries Harry stormed into the Grid bemoaning “Both Asnik and Zaf were taken!” Hang on, at least two brave MI5 officers were shot dead but because they were expendable Star Trek redshirts they didn’t even warrant a mention. Such was Harry’s disregard for them, we’d be surprised if MI5 even went to search for their bodies and would be happy to leave their corpses to be feasted on by the forest fauna.
• The overbearing overused ominous music that acts as auditory subtitles for the terminally dim. Look, if a viewer can’t distinguish the significance of Adam switching brief cases with Zaf then they really shouldn’t be watching or at least made to concentrate so they understand what’s going on.
• The slightly absurd Avengers-like sequence during which the top agents of the US, India, Russia and France were darted and knocked out so they could be interrogated about the existence of a vaccine. Lobotomised sheep being rounded up on One Man And His Dog would have shown more intellectual and instinctive nous that they were being set up.
• Spooks first hit the headlines when it killed off a major character in a gruesome manner after just a few episodes and continued this theme with Danny’s execution, yet grew a little tiresome when Fiona was shot. During the first two episodes of the new series four major characters endured the threat of death (Zaf could be dead, but in the trailer for episode 3 a French agent says he is dead, which means that he isn’t). And while mortally imperilling characters is a principal premise of drama such was the magnitude here that it seemed as if Spooks was trading on its reputation of a killer of characters, teasing the viewer by dangling a possible death in front of their eyes to entice them to watch.