21 September 2015

Spooks 2.4: Blood and Money

In Blood and Money, business and pleasure are mixed in a big way. When twenty billions dollars of aid given to the Russians by the Americans are stolen, the British Treasury and the Bank of England enlist the help of MI5 with a view to recovering it. But, of course, all is not as it may first seem.

This is another episode where Tom isn't afforded much of the limelight, with Danny and Zoe stepping up once more. After a crash course in stocks and trading from Ruth, Danny goes undercover at the bank used by the government and quickly makes a name for himself, bagging the firm just shy of two million on his first day. Zoe, meanwhile, doesn't get quite as glamorous role, becoming a cleaner at the office.

I didn't quite follow all the intricacies of this episode, such as quite how much everyone knew about everyone else's involvement from the beginning. It's simple enough if you follow it linearly but in light of all we learn across the sixty minutes, things become a bit confused if you try and work backwards and work out what was really going on to start with. It may well be that I don't have the intellectual capacity to keep up, but it was my observation nonetheless.

I liked how much prominence this gave Zoe and Danny, in their own ways, but at the same time it almost demeaned the threat if such a major international crisis can be defused so easily. Although Zoe doesn't get much to do related to the main plot, we learn that the man she's been seeing for the past few episodes isn't all he seems. It's nice that we've been introduced to him before his plot function came into play and makes this world of theirs seem more realistic. Her devastation at his deception - even though his intentions towards her may have been honourable - is palpable. Zoe often talks of just wanting a bit of normality in her life, and I do wonder how long she can survive in this job, no matter how she may leave.

Sophie Okonedo - perhaps best known to readers as Doctor Who companion Alison and future queen Liz Ten - plays Amanda Roke, from the Chancellor's office. She's acting without his knowledge, and certainly isn't a woman you'd want to mess with. Okonedo injects the terrifying woman with plenty of ire and bite, making her simultaneously completely ridiculous and entirely feasible. She knows what she wants, and doesn't appreciate being told she's wrong. Across the course of this episode, though, she's outsmarted by MI5 several times, much to her displeasure. Even though she's not a villain, she works against our heroes and at the end is forced to eat a lot of humble pie, something which she isn't particularly skilled at. Okonedo is excellent in this role, making her a truly memorable character and I hope we see her back at some point.

Howard Brenton is becoming quite the familiar figure on the series, but I suppose that's inevitable given he wrote seven episodes of the first two series. In their lead writer the producers have chosen well though. Spooks doesn't have a set format as such, but Brenton manages to nail the tone and structure every time. I don't know how much involvement he had in planning the arcs of the series or coming up with episode premises but he fulfils his own role very well. This is an engaging plot, well told. In the hands of a lesser scribe, this could have been a relatively dry affair - let's face it, to the majority of TV viewers the world of trading will seem baffling and a bit dull - but Brenton knows his audience and populates the tale with interesting characters.

This is Rob Bailey's last work on the series. His direction has grown gradually in my estimations across his four episodes, and I do think this is the pinnacle of his contributions to the series. I'll kind of miss the naff cross-zooms that have become his signature style, and a lot of his framework is impressive. I think at this stage he's certainly worthy of a regular gig on BBC One's flagship drama, so it's a shame he didn't work on Spooks again. Of course he went on to fill his time with things like CSI: NY, Grimm, The Tomorrow People and Gotham, so I think he probably did alright. But it will now be over eight series until we get one of the first series' directors back, which is a shame as they did such a good job overall. On the other hand, the next episode will yield the first new director to the series in six episodes.

Overall this is a pretty good episode. The stuff with Ruth (isn't Tom in a forgiving mood this week?) didn't really bother me since I'm not that keen on the character anyway, but I'm glad to see she's still being used unlike the new recruit I consider far superior - Sam of course. I love seeing more of Colin and Malcolm too, particularly the latter. His dry wit and entire personality as embodied by Hugh Simon is just perfect. It looks like the next episode might be the one where the Grid is 'under attack', which I remember being one of my favourites, so fingers crossed.

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