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Old 21st Sep 2010, 15:42   #1
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Default Spooks - SPOILERS

Quite some start to Series 9! We're treated to a reprise of Ros in the hotel trying to drag out the injured Home Secretary, and I found myself hoping that in the replay, she'll get out in time. But alas... when we are brought up to date we are at a memorial service for Ros, and I find myself welling up at some perfect poetry about being invisible and slipping away unnoticed, before the episode is five minutes old. I'm reminded of Ros's dig at Malcolm when she asked him if he had a poem picked out for Harry's funeral.
 
Outside the church, there is an elegant exchange between Harry and Ruth. "I need to talk to you." "And I, you... Shall we take a turn about the grounds?" In a head-spinning sequence of events, Harry asks Ruth to marry him, Ruth refuses ("Timing is everything.") and we learn that the former Home Secretary (not the one who Ros was trying to drag out of the hotel, the one before) was behind the sinister Nightingale organisation that had Ros blown up. So Harry poisons him ("Will it hurt?" "Not for long.") All before the opening credits.
 
And Harry wants to resign. The new Home Secretary, who is brilliantly smarmy at first, then revealed to have a cagey side (which I suppose is forgivable, given the fate of the last two Home Secretaries), doesn't immediately accept. Sensible chap.
 
Lucas is on a cargo boat with a (Russian?) captain who seems to be allowing a young woman to be trafficked into the sex trade. But Lucas can't rescue her, because that would blow his cover. The captain makes an aside to the effect that Lucas's card is marked for protesting. The captain seems a bit of a villain. Shame, because he is quite pretty.
 
Lucas's mission is to assassinate Hussein Abib, Al Qaeda's African Head of Operations, who is on the boat. Harry tells him, on a secret cellphone, that it has to be carried out in international waters. Lucas hides the cellphone under his bunk. No, Lucas, the captain is packing and he's looking for you! You need a much better hiding pl... Oh, the captain turns out to be an English public schoolboy called Dimitri, who's undercover like Lucas. Cool.
 
Next, some Somali pirates board the ship. Meantime, Lucas has found the trafficked prostitute in a bulkhead (or whatever the correct terminology is for a cubby-hole on a boat) and it turns out she's undercover too! But she's a private contractor, which somehow she makes sound like a dirtier trade than being a prostitute. I reckon Lucas can take the pirates but he gets his new friend to ring up Harry and seek instructions. The instruction is to abort. Lucas isn't going to like that.
 
The pirates are working for Abib, who randomly shoots a couple of people to show he means business. Dammit, how many times have I watched Spooks, and I still wince when they casually blow people's heads off. Back at the Grid, they think he must intend to blow up a destroyer being launched at Plymouth the following day. However, it turns out he has a) a couple of high-tech undetectable-by-radar exploding mini-submarines and b) an accomplice in London who is directing said mini-subs up the Thames towards Westminster.
 
Tariq (who really needs much more screen time than he's getting) does some kind of reverse chemical peel tracker patch IP reveal (sorry I can't remember what he called it but those words seem random enough to suffice) to find the accomplice, who turns out to be a teenage girl in a suburban semi. She douses herself in fuel and is about to set herself alight when Lucas appears, knocks the lighter out of her hand and with questionable logic, threatens to shoot her if she doesn't reinstate the warning system which will disable the subs. The blonde 'private contractor' (who will be part of the Grid before too long) in an 'I'm-stating-the-bleedin'-obvious' voice says 'She wants to be a martyr.' So, Lucas has to get her parents, hold a gun to her mum's head, yadda yadda yadda... But by this time Harry is having to decide whether to set off an EMP device which will disable all electronic devices, including pacemakers, life support machines etc, in a 3-mile radius. Ruth tells him he has to sacrifice a few lives to potentially save thousands. "Does it all just come down to maths, Ruth?" he says despairingly. She looks at him, clear-eyed. "You know, sometimes I think it does." Harry does his duty.
 
By now I'm a limp rag, with barely the energy to cheer as Harry withdraws his resignation and sigh wistfully as Ruth explains some of her reasons for refusing his proposal - they can't possibly retire to a cottage with roses round the door where they'd have to make polite conversation with the neighbours. This sends me off to a fantasy realm where Ruth and Harry live next door to me. How great would that be?
 
 
Favourite lines from the episode: The poisoned Home Secretary calling Ruth a 'dogged, brilliant, bitch'. Harry, when Tariq explains that his need to hijack a lot of the surrounding computing power will scupper a lot of people's IT equipment: 'So the nation will have to do without porn and Minesweeper for a couple of hours. Do it.'
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 16:20   #2
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

Just skimmed...I completely forgot about this! Will catch up on iPlayer and be right with you. Is this going to be a much-hoped-for ono weekly review, as in The Apprentice? Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on...
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 16:34   #3
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

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Originally Posted by amner View Post
Is this going to be a weekly review?
I'd like to, I must admit... I thought there were some lovely bits of writing and brilliant performances in the first ep, and it's fun to dwell on them whilst writing up.

EDIT: Mind you, they pack so much into the hour, the write-ups could easily get overlong!
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 17:14   #4
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

Do you know, I can read your review before watching Spooks, call it up on playback and still not understand what's going on! But that's no reflection on you ono, so please keep reviewing. Perhaps a read before and after an episode might help me.....
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 17:36   #5
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

You know, if I try and read that review from the point of view of someone who hasn't seen the episode, it makes really very little sense. I think the actual episode was pretty coherehent, but I remember having to concentrate quite hard at times...
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 17:46   #6
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

I didn't mean it as a criticism, just that I find Spooks so complicated that my pea-sized brain needs all the help it can get! I watched the last series and although I really enjoyed it I just found it so fast-paced my head would be spinning by the end. Perhaps I should just stick to Countryfile.....
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Old 21st Sep 2010, 17:57   #7
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

I agree. Great review, ono, and please carry on for those of us who need a bit of a hand getting the complicated bits.

I found the opening sequences extraordinarily good. Obviously I'm a Harry fan but his scene with Ash-from-Hustle was just frighteningly chilling.

Once the drama got going, I was less keen on the 'new girl' - she was just the kind of woman Roz Myers wasn't, all smug-lipped and aren't-I-clever. But my son tells me that she snuffs it in the next episode, which I think we got a good glimpse of in the trailer, so that would be okay by me!

All in all, it was a pretty good set-up for the series. The first episode is usually a bit hit-and-miss so some of the dialogue was a bit cheesy, and some elements predictable (after nine series) but it's a real treat to look forward to on a Monday again, and I hope we see Dimitri again too.
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Old 23rd Sep 2010, 14:43   #8
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

I had to postpone the last frantic 8 minutes (oh, and that Lucas teaser) for and entire day, but have just caught up. Breathless and, as always, very high standard fayre. I can't quite accept we won't see Ros again...

Still, without her we wouldn't have got Harry facing down the ex-Sec at his country seat. Wasn't that good? I liked how H could/couldn't watch what he was obliged to do. all part of the it's-the-little-details-that-matter way Spooks builds its characters.
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 15:41   #9
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

Series 9, Episode 2. DEFINITE SPOILERS IF YOU'RE GOING TO WATCH THIS ON IPLAYER.
 
Lucas and Beth are in a posh hotel, speaking into their lapels. Lucas mentions the word "assassin", but evidently this week that's not him but someone else, who needs to be identified and taken out. Beth gets into the lift with some burly grey-suited men, amongst whom she looks not at all conspicuous. Lucas leaps up the stairwell to keep up with the lift. Say what you like about Richard Armitage, he's very convincing at leaping up stairs.
 
The lift stops. The lights go off. Back at the Grid, Tariq's CCTV images turn to snow.
 
One of the suity men phones his wife. I can't make up my mind if he's very lucky to get a signal from inside a lift or if it's perfectly plausible that the metal lift workings are acting like a radio aerial. While he's talking, there's a clunk and a whirr and the lift sets off again. Then, the disembodied lift-lady says "doors opening".
 
Doors open. Gunfire. Blood. Everyone, including Beth, is part of a crumpled mass of bodies on the lift floor.
 
Cue titles.
 
Turns out Beth wasn't really dead, just showing off her acting skills. The fact that she can convincingly play dead while surrounded by the still-warm corpses of recently slaughtered businessmen is no doubt one of the reasons why Harry has offered her a job and not me. (Oops, I keep forgetting that it's fictional.) She also manages to nick the phone of the guy who was talking, presumably because it must be a brilliant phone if it works in a lift.
 
Here's where I test my plot recollection skills: the group of businessmen were on their way to see an Oil Magnate called Robert Westhouse, on whom much UK energy security hangs. The assassin, according to MI5's intelligence, was targeting Westhouse because of his exploitation of oil resources in Nigeria and was amongst the group. Therefore the assumption is that the ambush mob who slaughtered the businessmen is working for Westhouse.
 
The Home Secretary wants Harry to tread lightly around Westhouse. So Harry decides to tread lightly directly to Westhouse's country pile along with Lucas. Westhouse is enigmatic; surprisingly unforthcoming about whether he has just had a number of innocent businessmen murdered.
 
Meantime, the John Doe/Lucas North story is unfolding further. His new (or old?) friend Vaughn is hinting at the possibility of blackmail. Lucas hints none too subtly that he has the wherewithal to disappear any inconvenient past acquaintances. He also finally peeks into the mysterious suitcase and finds what are presumably the effects of a past life, including some photos where he has a very dodgy fringe. He then goes off to visit a very attractive doctor, who slaps him across the face, perhaps not surprisingly when he's effectively saying "Hey, you know you haven't seen me for fifteen years and thought I was dead? Well I'm back and why don't we pick up where we left off?"
 
The Grid has hold of Beth's only fellow survivor from The Lift Incident, purportedly a consultant called Jake Chapman, who doesn't seem to be able to give a clear picture of what he was actually doing there (so pretty convincing as a consultant, really). Lucas and Beth give him what seems to be a fairly soft interrogation, though Beth is doing her shifty eyes thing again. Beth says she'll take Chapman off to a safe house and 'work her feminine wiles' on him. Blimey.
 
Harry is busy illustrating why he's the boss by extrapolating Westhouse's travel record for the last six months into a plot to sponsor a military coup in Nigeria, involving wiping out the entire population of Lagos. This is a late-night, alone-in-the-office kind of task, and while he's doing it he takes a call from Ruth. This leads to my favourite exchange of the episode:
 
Quote:
Harry: Re: what you said re: what I said... Well, I don't think we should be going in for late night tete-a-tetes, do you? Let's just stick to work.
Ruth: This is work.
Harry: [pause] Good.
 
Meantime, Lucas finds out whilst attempting to interrogate someone in a Persistent Vegetative State that there was a live phone in the lift at the time of the shooting. What happened to that phone? Never mind, they can apparently get a recording of the phone call from the phone company. Is Vodafone recording all my calls? If so, they'll have a riveting record of me booking my cat into the cattery and renewing my national trust membership. Eek.
 
On the recording, unexpectedly in Spanish, are the words 'Is she dead?', but Ruth has no record of any hispanics in the hotel. It appears that: *deep breath*
 
Chapman was the assassin out to kill Westhouse. He knows that Beth isn't being honest with her employers and is holding this over her. Beth has a murky past involving arms dealing in Colombia, and the guys at the lift were actually after her. They followed her to the safe house where Chapman shoots them both, giving him further leverage over Beth. He invites her to travel with him to Dubai, because "you're not a civil servant". In a further twist, it turns out that Chapman is actually an old acquaintance of Westhouse and was double-dealing with the Nigerians. (I think: Things are getting a bit hazy plot-wise for me now).
 
Westhouse is on his way to a golf club to exchange vast amounts of money for the nerve agent which will enable his Nigerian coup. Harry and Lucas discover this in the nick of time and are in hot pursuit (in the case of Lucas and Dmitri, very hot pursuit. Ahem.) When they arrive at the golf club, Harry, still presumably wishing to keep the Home Sec on side, sends Lucas and Dmitri round to the tradesman's entrance (while Beth sits in the car in disgrace), so that he may deal with Westhouse personally. There follows a little exchange worthy of John LeCarre, where Harry gently explains to Westhouse that the climate is no longer conducive to an "African holiday". Westhouse realises the game is up and hands Harry the bag containing the nerve agent.
 
Brilliant stuff. Disaster averted, we assume. But one of the Nigerians is directing one of his colleagues. "Westhouse is white, in his fifties, wearing a long dark coat and carrying a sports bag." A sniper rifle appears through a car window. Nooo! Harry is about to emerge matching that exact description! Plucky Beth realises what's going on, and throws herself on Harry, saving him from the sniper. Phew, to say the very least.
 
If I hadn't been so very gripped during that scene, I might have uncharitably thought that the Nigerian's description could have led to any number of misidentifications at a posh golf club (white men, in their fifties, carrying sports bags...) The beauty of Spooks is that it keeps you too much on tenterhooks to carp about such minor niggles.
 
Conclusions:
 
Saving Harry's life seems to have bought Beth a reprieve, for now.
 
Tariq is not getting enough screen time.
 
Watching Peter Firth and Simon Russell Beale do a scene together is like watching a masterclass in subtlety.
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 16:38   #10
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Default Re: Spooks - SPOILERS

Quote:
Originally Posted by ono no komachi View Post
Watching Peter Firth and Simon Russell Beale do a scene together is like watching a masterclass in subtlety.
This makes me very happier than I can say.
And then there's R Armitage brooding and being sneaky and lovely all at the same time, and one of my daughters is looking forward to an episode with a bit more Dimitri in it too. I;m worried that we don't have anyone with the rough edges that Roz had - they're all a bit nice.

I thought last night's episode was a bit awkward with the black titles of different people's POV - I could see that the way the plot was set-up it was going to be difficult to explain everyone's actions otherwise, but it was a bit artificial and repetitive.
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