17 September 2015

Spooks 1.6: Lesser of Two Evils

Crikey, they certainly know how to ramp things up for the series finale. In this episode, not only do Tom's Section B go against Harry's wishes, but there are three major threats. It's the most exciting episode to date, and that's a credit to all involved.

It all begins when IRA commander Patrick McCann walks into a London safe house demanding to talk to someone of authority. Meeting with Tom, he tells him of a plot to blow up the UK's largest nuclear reactor, but asks for a blind eye to be turned for a day in order that they must conduct a little business of their own. Tom is up for agreeing with this, in return for information about the second attack, by Bin Laden's inner circle of terrorists. Harry, however, isn't.

It turns out that he has history with McCann, having encountered him in Ireland in the late seventies. His friend didn't survive the meeting. And so Harry decides not to believe him about the attack on the power station, and instead focuses efforts on finding out what they're up to. This pays dividends as they discover McCann and co are planning to blow up a tube station. Harry instructs Section B to neutralise the bomb, but Tom once more has his own ideas. He tells everyone to make it look to Harry as if they really are trying to get rid of it, but in reality they seem to be planting their own weapon and detonating it to lesser effect after the station has been evacuated in order that the IRA will co-operate.

It's a risky strategy, but luckily for the team it works. I suppose that's why he hired Tom - for this kind of thinking. He meets with McCann again and recieves intel on the second attack on a laptop. The SAS then manage to 'disincentivise' the terrorists, and the day, it appears, is saved. However, all is not as rosy as it seems.

Earlier in the episode, Tom had state of the art security systems fitted at his house to convince Ellie and Maisie to come back to live with him. It worked, but there's a catch. McCann's mates rigged the laptop with explosives, and Tom's just taken it back to the house, which Maisie's locked him out of. And of course, as with all technology, it's gone wrong just when they need it to work the most. So Danny must guide Ellie through the disarmament over the phone. Only they run out of time.

The series ends on a gripping cliffhanger - a negative still of Ellie and Maisie looking out the window to a solemn Tom. How this will be resolved I do not know, but it doesn't look too good for them to me. One thing that struck me was why they didn't put the bomb at the top of the house and hide in the cupboard under the stairs. Surely that would have lessened any damage?

Anyway, this is a really great episode all the way through. It's bursting with plot but never feels rushed or over-complicated. Sadly, some nice character scenes, such as Ellie and Maisie meeting Danny and Zoe, and Jed getting an earful had to be cut, but there is still plenty for each storyline. The tension is really ramped up for the series finale and the stakes really have never been higher.

In that department, encouraged by Danny, Zoe finally tells Harry of Tessa's phantom agents. And the situation is what would initially appear - there is no secret operation, this isn't a test of trust, it's just Tessa pocketing payloads. She warns Harry off having her sacked because of what she knows about him and he seems to oblige her. But as soon as she's out of the office, he has her arrested. This whole episode is an interesting character study for Harry, as his judgement is brought into question by his most trusted officers. At the end of the day, though, his opinion must count for something as he has put officers in position who are skilled enough to prevent two major terrorist attacks within a matter of hours. It's great to see some of the things that have shaped Harry coming to the fore, and I wonder if Tessa knew about Elena Gavrik.

What a bold episode this is. Bolstered by a great performance from Peter Firth, but sadly lacking Jools Siviter and Malcolm Wynn-Jones, this is a phenomenal closer. The last five minutes are incredibly tense television and of course they end it at just the point where you don't want them to. Andy Wilson's direction is excellent through the last two episodes of the series. It's of a different style to Bharat Nalluri's, but undoubtedly of the same quality to me. I really hope his involvement with the series endures. All credit to David Wolstencroft and Howard Brenton too, the series' two best writers at this stage. If Harry had traces on McCann and co, surely he can track them now they're off? But anyway, a climactic episode, and I can't wait to see where the second series takes, and no less who will be leading it.

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