SPOOKS (BBC) Series 9 Episode 1 Review

Spooks

Series 9 of SPOOKS leads in smoothly from series 8, with the team attending the funeral of fellow agent Ros, who died in an attack in the last series finale. In the spirit of full disclosure I should tell you that I’ve only seen a handful of Spooks episodes over the last eight years. It’s not a series I’ve ever sat down and watched avidly – and I really wish I had.

Murder, terror plots and romance – what more could a series want? This episode focuses on a terrorist plan by a Somalian member of Al Qaeda. He’s trying to transport explosives into Britain and it’s up to undercover agents Lucas and Dimitri to stop him. However, things go a bit pear shaped and while both agents – and private contractor Beth Bailey – come out of things unscathed, the same can’t be said for London.

The twist of having the ship’s engineer, the very same man we had just been sympathising with, supply the means for the terrorist attack was brilliantly jarring. Suddenly he was the enemy and it was no longer Dimitri in imminent danger but the UK itself.

The suspense built rapidly when everyone clamored to find a way to stop the mini-subs full of explosives from hitting the Houses of Parliament, the plot twisting and turning without becoming confusing. Having us think it was a white British Muslim behind the persona of Talwar was an interesting move, having his 17-year old daughter be the real terrorist was a genuine surprise. It’s rare that terrorists in drama series are that young, never mind female. Her defiance, even when her mother’s life was at risk, was brilliant. I honestly thought she would crack and reactive the Sentry program, allowing MI-5 to destroy the mini-subs.

Which made the conclusion all that more shocking. I never once thought that they would use the electromagnetic bomb hidden under the Houses of Parliament. As someone who doesn’t know Spooks at all, it seemed like a very risky move. But if I’ve learned one thing today, it’s that the series isn’t afraid to take a risk. Detonating the bomb didn’t just disable the mini-subs, wipe out all electronics in a kilometer radius and kill nine people with pacemakers. It’s set up series 9 to push the boundaries even further. How do you top something like that? We’ll have to wait and see.

I really enjoyed the character interactions in this episode. Not knowing these characters going in, I had no emotional investment in them. So it was surprising to me that I had a fondness for them immediately. Seeing them mourn a friend and colleague, then having Harry propose to Ruth (who later gives a brilliant and – dare I say it – romantic reason for declining), really made me feel for these characters and gave me an immediate reason to care for them.

I’m intrigued by the very end of the episode, where Lucas is confronted by ‘Vaughn’. Who is this man and what was in the suitcase he gave to Lucas? Or maybe the question should be who is Lucas North?

One criticism I have is the dialogue. Occasionally it started sounding less modern day Londoner and more Victorian period piece. I don’t know if this was a reflection on the episodes writer or a general stylistic choice, but I found it distracting in parts. The main culprit seems to be the character of Harry Pearce; I’ll wait and see if I get used to it over future episodes.

A second more minor criticism is that the series doesn’t really help newcomers in the audience. Yes, I found it accessible but it would be nice if they gave a little more information about the characters in the episode. A clear mention of each character’s name once or twice would be helpful for associating each name with a face. What is their chain of command? What exactly is Harry Pearce’s role? All information easily available online, but not every viewer will want to check for this information.

Overall a very strong and enjoyable episode. I’m excited for next week’s installment – and I may even be tempted to check out past seasons too.

What did you think of the series 9 premiere of Spooks? What do you think Lucas is hiding? What will the political fallout of the electromagnetic bomb be?