Series 9, Episodes 1 and 2

The ninth series of Spooks kicks off with a fun couple of episodes that remind us how much the show has changed in some ways, yet in others stayed very much the same. Right at the start we get Harry killing his friend and ex Home Secretary after discovering he was a traitor all along, but if that establishes the tone then the rest of the episode tries it's best to veer as far away from it as possible.

The main plot is initially familiar. Lucas is tasked with executing someone on a boat. Way back in series three there was a similar set-up, with Danny being forced to kill a scientist, also on a boat. But while Danny struggled with the choice Lucas is all set and ready to pull the trigger when the plot gets turned on its head. Terrorist hijack the boat and kill almost everyone except Lucas and our two new regular cast members, and just as it looks like we're in for a bit of Die Hard-style action on a boat, the terrorists leave, Lucas returns to the grid, and we're very much back to the Spooks we know.

The plot we're left with, explosives carried by miniature robotic submarines on their way up the Thames to blow up the Houses of Parliament is Spooks' own brand of batshit crazy. That is, utterly ridiculous, but part of you wonders if we maybe shouldn't be throwing out ideas like this as it just might be possible.

As Lucas tracks down the one person that can stop it happening, who turns out to be a teenage girl, we're given a wonderfully tense scene as he tries to persuade her to stop them. A gun to her head doesn't work, so he tries a gun to her mother's head instead. Still nothing. What is Lucas going to do? Well turns out he doesn't have to make that call, as Harry has another solution. They'll detonate an EMP designed for just this sort of thing. There will be some collateral damage but it's mostly sorted and we're robbed of a meaningful conclusion. I can't help but think that Tom would have told the girl that she had two parents and he could kill one just to show he's serious. Roz would have just done it. Even Adam would have shot one of them in the leg just to make it more interesting. But Lucas just shouts a bit while Harry takes care of it and we're robbed of any meaningful conclusion. To make matters worse, even though a bunch of people with pacemakers died, an off-hand line mentions that the local hospital got the back-up generator online before anyone there died. It's not only an unnecessary attempt to make the ending less bleak and meaningful, but also makes no sense: why wouldn't an EMP also disable the back-up generator?

Speaking of the science, while I'm fine with technobabble, it has to be delivered with a certain degree of confidence. Tariq's announcement that he had to "trawl the non-indexed deep web" was embarrassing not because it made no sense, but because the actor clearly knew it made no sense. Still, the bot-net idea was quite fun: secretly using the nation's computing power to crack a code. It initially annoyed me as it'd take time to set up something like that, but then I realised Tariq clearly had one set-up ready and just waiting for permission to turn it on. Of course he did. Seen that way, it's a fun character moment.

Heading in to the second episode, and inevitably with the ninth season it's time for Spooks to have it's own Rashomon episode. Events are played out from three different characters in turn as we piece together what's going on. It's a nice change that harkens back to the much less linear and more puzzle-based narratives of the early series, even if it's quite obvious that it's far too early in the series to kill off or reveal one of our new regulars as evil. Other than that it's a fairly straightforward episode, told in a more interesting way.

Both episodes move forward a couple of other plots. The Harry/Ruth romance was quite sweet when it was just subtle and subtextual, but once they actually start talking about it, it starts to become a bit more ridiculous and faintly creepy. I imagine it'll resolve itself one way or another this season, though if they intend to do a tenth I fear Ruth is about ready to meet a grisly death just for the sake of putting Harry through the wringer some more.

It also turns out that Lucas may not be who he seems. It's a little ridiculous as that means he actually chose the name 'Lucas' but still. There haven't been enough clues yet to make any sense of it, but we can be pretty sure that either his old friend, his ex, or both, are going to end up involved in some sort of terrorist threat.

So a mixed bag, but seems to be slowly moving the pieces around to make things interesting for the rest of the season. It's far too early to judge the new regulars, but on first glance they seem to fit in well. Maybe they'll even give Dimitri more than three lines in the next episode.

Last updated: 15/07/2018 10:00:59

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Tags bbc, spooks
Category Episode Review

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