14 September 2015

Spooks 1.3: One Last Dance

The third episode of Spooks sees both the scripting and directorial reigns reassigned and with them a change in emphasis. The tone of this episode is very much consistent with that of the first two, but there are the inevitable changes you get when the key crew change.

This is a more layered story than either of those preceding it. Zoe is caught up in a seige on a government reception, but it transpires that it's all a front for a rogue MI5 agent to obtain access to their bank, stealing not only £15 million but the details of all active agents around the world, information that is priceless.

It appears at first that finally Zoe is going to get a chance to take centre stage here, but it's not to be. Although she's right at the heart of events, her character quickly becomes redundant in the story Simon Mirren wants to tell. Just as in the story, the Turkish/Kurdish terrorist plot soon takes a back seat as Harry and Tessa figure out what's going on - Jonnie Marks is back from the dead.

This is certainly an interesting script and kept me captivated for the full hour. However, something I wasn't all that keen on was the massive bias towards Tom again. I know he's the main character, but Zoe and Danny deserve much more of a look-in than they're currently getting. Keeley Hawes continues to impress me, even in her relatively minor role here. You really get a sense of her playing a character, playing a character, such is the strength of her acting. Matthew Macfadyen is also great, and very well cast as Tom, but yet again I was underwhelmed by David Oyelowo's performance, I'm sorry to say.

However, this did afford us more of an insight into Tessa. Her relationship with Marks is what led to this whole episode coming about so it's only right that we get a scene towards the end of the pair catching up. I can't remember at this stage if the disc he left her is really the one with all the agent information on, but I suppose time will tell. It's a strange ending in all really - Harry just lets him go. I wonder if Marks will show up again, or if that really is that.

The direction of this episode suffers a little from the loss of Bharat Nalluri. Some of the handheld footage, most notably that filming vehicles going along roads and in the tunnels, looks quite amateur to be frank. The night vision bits really reminded me of those crap ghost hunting programmes, and they just didn't fit with the look of the rest of the episode. All the images (including those in the show itself) are so gloriously SD it hurts. Still Rob Bailey gets good performances from his cast, and shoots the hostage storyline particularly well.

I was glad too to see Helen's death wasn't brushed over as I feared it might have been. And Ellie and Tom's relationship is a confusing one to say the least. She seems furious whenever he has to go to work but entirely forgiving when he eventually gets home. The little family he has going on is really enjoyable, but how long can it last? Esther Hall is once again amazing, and I look forward to seeing her get the chance to really show off what she can do.

All in all then, a pretty good episode. It's not a standout but certainly an interesting one. It's nice to see the writers thinking intelligently. It was inevitable we'd get a 'rogue agent returns' story eventually (see also: Skyfall) and of course the series will focus more and more on the dirty dealings of its leads across the next nine series so I guess this kind of thing will become the norm. Which is fine by me.

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