27 September 2015

Spooks 2.10: Smoke and Mirrors

And so another series of Spooks draws to a close, arguably in a more dramatic way than the last. All the tensions and storylines that have been spun across the last ten episodes - or possibly even longer - come to a head here, to great dramatic effect.

This episode is centred squarely around Tom. His actions over the last few episodes have rightly left Harry concerned and this is where, to his team, he must really seem to lose it. It looks to the viewer like he's being set up by an ex-CIA officer called Herman Joyce, but I'm not sure even we are getting the full picture. It's a very clever and ingenious plan by Joyce (and therefore writer Howard Brenton) to totally incriminate Tom without him actually having done anything - that we know of.

It starts with false intel about a clandestine CIA operation being fed to Tom via Christine Dale. She thinks it's real - something I wasn't certain of for a while, but now am - and so tells him about a plot to kill a very dangerous hitman on British soil, which MI5 are to know nothing about. Tom informs Zoe and Danny but keeps Harry out the loop after he went against orders to end his relationship with Christine. This soon leads to a lot of shady activities leading his colleagues to think he's lost it.

The series concludes with a dramatic sequence where Tom shoots Harry, and then swims out to sea. As cliffhanger endings go, they don't get much bigger - although I'll admit last year's did have further off the edge of my seat - and it's a clever move by Brenton as you're genuinely not sure where Tom's allegiances lie any more. You can understand him wanting to clear his name, but how would shooting Harry help that? In any case, I'm certain Harry's not dead as he's got another eight series (that's seventy episodes) and a feature film to star in yet. Presumably he was wearing some kind of bulletproof vest, and presumably Tom knew that.

Receiving this script must have been a gift for Maathew Macfadyen. Tom is in every single scene that furthers the main narrative, and on top of that, most of what is asked of him is downbeat and/or angry. This, as I've noted before, seems to be his natural demeanour, and the moments when he does get to do some more light-hearted bits always seem at odds with Macfadyen's inbuilt skill set. But Tom seems to be dragging everyone else down with him. There's scarcely an expression in the house that isn't sour this week. Zoe, Danny, Harry and Ruth all get to share in the doom mongering but Peter Firth still manages to act all of his co-stars off the screen. He's consistently been amazing and is probably the strongest asset the series has.

I can't predict at all what will happen regarding the lead characters next series, Harry aside. It seems Zoe and Danny aren't going anywhere yet and if Tom does return, I doubt it will be for long. I'd expect much of the Grid's infrastructure (Sam, Malcolm, Ruth, Colin) to remain stable but you never know. On that subject, apparently Enzo Cilenti (who played Childermass so brilliantly in Peter Harness' recent television adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell) has been an extra in this series, as a member of staff on the Grid. However, I've been looking out for him - even pausing to study stills - with no luck. Hopefully his character will return next year in  a more significant role.

So, it seems Joyce has outfoxed Tom. What next for the team? Time will tell. This is a great finale; intelligent writing, successful performances, cautious and exciting direction and well-chosen music make this into an unforgettable character piece. Tom's world has fallen apart. Where do we go from here?

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