26 September 2015

Spooks 2.9: The Seventh Division

I'm not actually sure what the title of this episode is referring to. If there was some kind of organisation or group with the title I could understand, and it would make a nice pun what with the division between Tom and the rest of the universe growing greater. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be. Anyhow, I've not marked episodes down - or indeed up - for their titles before (see Blood and Money, Legitimate Targets et al) and I'm not about to start now.

After the last couple of comparatively disappointing instalments, The Seventh Division is a step back in the right direction. That's something of a relief given Ben Richards will go on to script a fifth of the entire series. It deals primarily with a Colombian drug cartel exchanging cocaine for surface to air missiles. For some reason, this arouses MI5's suspicions and soon Tom and Zoe are in the midst of the action, doing their utmost to become the best friends of the wife of the cartel's UK ringleader.

Harry Pierce is obviously a much more forgiving man than me, the armchair reviewer, and gives Danny another chance to go undercover. Why when his cover has been blown on every single previous mission of that nature is a complete mystery, but staggeringly he actually manages to complete an op without being uncovered. There's probably some kind of snide comment to be made in the fact that he was better as a cleaner than a banker or a member of the army, but I'm not that petty. Who sniggered? Oh alright, perhaps it is indicative of his place in the grand scheme of things, but like I say, I'm only an armchair reviewer, I'm no better.

It soon becomes apparent that aged, but apparently mind-bogglingly powerful, businessman Ross Vaughn is involved. I can't be the only one who was a little disappointed by the fact he wasn't called Tobias and used to be the head of International Electromatics. The dates would roughly match up with this Vaughn appearing to be somewhere in his seventies, but alas. Anyway, Vaughn is a slimy git to say the least. The way he touches up Mariela (the aforementioned wife) is really creepy and every second of screen time he gets makes my skin crawl a little. I suppose that warrants praise for Michael Cochrane, but it doesn't quite feel appropriate somehow. Anyway, thanks to Mariela's help, the weapons are secured and the heat is taken off.

Richards also gets to play in the sandpit of the series-long storylines, given this is the penultimate episode of the run. Most notable is the plot that involves Sam leaking information to Tessa. The shunned agent has moved up in the world since Tom paid her a visit and is now in a swanky glass office overlooking central London. At first when it was revealed Sam was doing the dirty I was really upset because as I've stated regularly Sam is probably my favourite character, and her betrayal would mean dismissal, surely? However, it turns out that Tessa met Sam during training, before she was fired for pocketing the service's money, and recruited her. She's kept her on ice until now, when a particularly financially lucrative opportunity with the Spanish has come up. Sam thinks she's working a covert op to test her, believing Tessa is Jane, Harry's boss. When the truth comes out I was relieved and actually quite impressed. This is far better than the more predictable 'mole all along' angle they could have gone with. Luckily Harry gives her a second chance, but it sounds like there won't be any more of those for anyone for a long time.

The end of the episode sees Tom get all shouty at Harry because Mariela was murdered. That's neither of their faults, but Tom really should have seen it coming; I did. If he had any sense he would have lifted her, for her own protection. Harry's stated in the past that he gives Tom free reign to run ops how he likes, so why didn't he just organise a safe house and a lift? But oh no, it's all Harry's fault. If you ask me, he's still pissed off at him for saving millions of lives last week which is of course completely justifiable. Tom does get a moment of jollity early in the episode as he laughs about his troublesome fictional kids Zoe and Danny - another I really liked - but Matthew Macfadyen looks deeply uncomfortable when he smiles. For the remainder of the episode he gets to be his usual grumpy self though, so all is not lost.

There are little bits of the script for this episode that mark out Ben Richards' history as a novelist. This was his first proper television script, and it's certainly a good starting point. His mastery of subplots and concurrent stories was probably learned from writing books and it's really nice to see the producers of the series reaching so far and wide for their pool of writers. This gamble paid off, and I hope to see more similar risks taken, however successful the outcomes may or may not be, in future.

This is a really enjoyable episode. It's not of the highest order we've seen, but it's certainly approaching that bracket. The direction's not astounding but it's far better than some of the more pedestrian camerawork we've had previously. Things have really been ramped up for the series finale, with Tom and Harry further apart than ever before. Tom's even gone against Mr P's wishes and retained his relationship with Christine Dale. One would hope this is heading to some kind of head for the leading foursome, and given it's to be handled by Howard Brenton, I can't wait.

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