20 September 2015

Spooks 2.3: Spiders - Micro-Review

What a lovely, well plotted episode! A real classic – not something I thought from the trailer at all. Turns out Matthew Graham wrote it.

The Grid is under attack from an unknown computer hacker – yep, a cheap episode somewhat! They think it’s a teacher at a school, ex activist. Zoe goes undercover. Okay, the school setting means it’s a bit MI High in places. But in some very clever narrative twists that Spooks (and shows like it) are so good at, the truth turns out to be far different...

Yes, the actually fairly loveable teacher is innocent, and the actual mastermind is a (dashingly photogenic) boy genius! It shows what a great episode it was, that a smug, psychotic teenage criminal could be so believable. And that the various strands of back-story could be told so wonderfully and clearly. It turns out that he was influenced by his dead father, a rogue MI5 agent (inspired by Jango Fett from Star Wars, no less) – that we see as a ‘ghost’, as the boy is insane. It’s very cleverly done.

Lots of humour in this (e.g. Malcolm), and realism as Zoe poses as a teacher (“wear a tight sweater
tomorrow... the blue one!”) However, the computer hacking is obviously so boring they can’t show it. It’s relatively cheap, yes (well, probably not with all the school filming though) but in the end it’s flashing lights and monitor screens. Even the writer says he had to tell it in simple terms like “diversion” and have a countdown (which, by the way, is pretty silly). Add to that the nuclear ‘threat’, though that was quite well done, it was quite a leap of faith and slightly unnecessary. Still, a cracking episode and great ending.

One point I do vividly recall now, is the photo of the teacher attacking people on a riot – but it was
photoshopped! Yes, that was cool – if minor in the episode. Dating wise, the technology is still old. Cassette tapes! CD Walkmans! Mentions of floppy disks! Ha. Meanwhile, also, the various strands of the team’s relationships are bubbling under – and Ruth shows off her Greek knowledge, hooray! (even if they don’t think they can trust her)

Standout Moment: Hmm, tough one. The ending is really nice, I’ll give you that – the boy playing chess in a posh house (mental asylum probably!), with Harry watching. And his imaginary Dad telling him that he can try and do the whole plan again, better than before... (setting up a sequel? Cool spidery metaphor though, and nice eye zoom)
Guest Star Watch: Main teacher guy is Christopher Fairbank – did quite a few voices, including Merlin funnily, and a small role in ‘Hidden’ recently. John Hopkins played Anton, also in Merlin – not sure, maybe he was an MI5 guy? Or one of the shady socialists. Augustus Prew played the boy, but he hasn’t been in anything. Looks nice though.
Hellos and Goodbyes: Nobody.
Death Count: Don’t think anyone died? ‘Anthony’ in the Antony and Cleopatra subplot, off-screen, yes. Oh, maybe you can count the boy’s father, as we sort of saw that bit in a flashback, blurry. Even though the actor was still in it. So... half.

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