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Spooks can still spook

I’ve had a little sabbatical from the hushed cloisters of TV Today over the last week or two (and have been enjoying Anna’s fantastic postings - Julia Davis as Doctor Who, brilliant!). I’ve got a stack of TV goodies piled up on the old Sky Plus, including the latest episode of Survivors. But top of my viewing list to catch up on were the last couple of episodes of Spooks, neatly dovetailing into last night’s incredible season closer.

Sometimes on these very pages we despair of the state of British television and the levels it seems capable of sinking to these days. But this latest run of the perennial Spooks would restore the faith of even the most weary audience member or jaded television hack. Personally I thought it was stunning, all eight episodes, with the last three hitting new heights of tension and storytelling for the series.

Really? Yes, really. For a show to be in its seventh season, to maintain healthy ratings and audience share, and to be able to pull out a run of eight episodes that are as good as, if not the better, than the first couple of seasons, is quite a startling achievement.

It probably helps that the season length has been reduced to eight episodes, allowing for tighter, more focussed storytelling across a season. That being said, Spooks was doing ten episode seasons long before the advent of Doctor Who and the magic thirteen.

There has also been a cast of fluid characters in and out of the Grid doors over the years, with Peter Firth’s Harry Pearce the bedrock around which the series has been built. But the changes in cast as Spooks has unfolded have always felt naturally organic, with departures coming at just the right time - the dramatic exit of Rupert Penry-Jones’s Adam Carter timed to perfection. And what an exit! And if you haven’t seen last night’s episode, another much-loved character goes out in fine, climactic style, but I’m not saying who. It’s gob smacking, really.

In Richard Armitage we have Spooks’ third leading man, heading into the recently commissioned eighth season. Although, it would be more correct to say that Hermione Norris is the rightful heir to the Penry-Jones throne. A fantastic, strong female role model, performed by an actress who is just as comfortable in the frothy lightness of ITV1’s Kingdom as she is kicking the crap out of bad guys and running around the Underground with a gun.

But lets spare a thought for poor old Jo and Malcolm, who spent last night sitting around the Grid talking about Countdown while Ros and Lucas bombed up and down tunnels and dodging FSB sniper bullets. Somebody has to stay behind and answer the phone I suppose, but it’s hardly what the life of a spy is about.

But of all the great TV at the moment - and there is a lot - Spooks has been my favourite show of the last few months and indeed of 2008. Bring on season eight, it can only get better and better!

3 Comments

Somebody said something on the Doctor Who Forum about Spooks and I think they've got a point. They said that the leading man for Spooks has been the same since the show started, the legendary Harry Pearce.

Technically correct, although I don't really think of Harry as the leading man per se. He is indeed legendary though!

I agree with all of the above. Richard Armitage seems to have taken over the leading man role almost seamlessly replacing RPJ! He's perfect for Spooks! Although I must admit when he has recovered from his experiences of 8 years in a Russian prison I would like to see a little more "Sir Guy" enter Lucas North's character. A little more ruthless perhaps? Oh yes and a bit of love interest too (8 years in a Russian prison is an awful long time and he deserves a bit more than a brief encounter with a lap dancer!)

Hey and what about Malcolm? He never seems to get a mention and he is the glue that holds all the teams communications together and deciphers all the codes! Without him MI5 would be in a real mess! How come he's never considered to be a spy? He would be in a perfect position to spy for the Russians! (It's always the quiet ones in my experience to watch out for!)

He did get a small storyline in one series I remember, where he risked radiation poisoning in the field on a brief excursion out of the grid!

My only criticism is that any build up and detail leading up to the main plot had to be condensed because everything had to fit into the one hour slot. Can we have some of the storylines spilling into the following episode please scriptwriters?

Oh yes and as the BBC are trying to sell it to the American channels (apparently there has been a sustained barrage of requests to get the series shown, especially by Richard Armitage fans!)that a brief collaboration with the CIA might be in order. But please use a real American and not a British actor trying to be a loud, over the top, yank like last year! A real American would see through that accent in a minute!

Otherwise well done! Can't wait for Series 8 of Spooks!

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