28 September 2015

Spooks 3.1: Project Friendly Fire

Once again, this is the kind of Spooks episode I remember from my last watch through of the series. Project Friendly Fire is possibly the first instance of an episode being based entirely on storylines established in a previous story, but it's a trend that will become increasingly popular to the point where entire series will hinge on one unravelling incident.

That said, this works perfectly well as a standalone episode and a season opener. It seems the Joint Intelligence Committee have been looking for an excuse to reform MI5 - and indeed all the other security services - for quite some time, and the apparent defection of Tom Quinn has provided the perfect excuse to swoop in and take control. Oliver Mace, the head of the JIC, is soon at loggerheads with Harry, who is out of hospital in record time after actually being shot by Tom, something I didn't expect. However, the indomitable Mr Pearce won't allow the department to be overturned without the due procedures being adhered to, and in doing this buys them all a little time.

It turns out Tom isn't dead after all, and he tracks down Herman Joyce, the man who framed him in the last episode and brought about all this chaos. After a fraught conversation, Tom shoots him dead and dumps him outside Thames House. The team decide to lure his wife to the UK using his phone and force a confession out of her in order to clear Tom's name and free themselves of Mace's heavies.

Joining the team is Adam Carter, drafted in by Harry from MI6, played by Rupert Penry-Jones. I don't recall much of Adam's time on the show, but I seem to remember he took over Tom's job at some point. His personality is wildly different to Tom's - he's easy going, bouncy and enthusiastic - but otherwise his plot function seems to be pretty identical. There's even a line at the episode where Tom introduces him to Christine: "We're doing pretty much the same job at the moment." This is a nice in-joke but I wonder how long the show can sustain four big lead personalities.

Speaking of our leads, this affords us a good opportunity to familiarise ourselves with them once more. Harry is emerging as a candidate for my favourite, such is the strength of the writing and Peter Firth's performance. He's so stoic and resilient and knows exactly what he's doing still, whilst maintaining a nice stock of one-liners. Ruth is much more likeable straight away here than in series two, being much more vulnerable and humble, rather than parading around as the self-appointed 'clever one', no matter how true that was. Zoe's treatment is peculiar. One minute she's defending Tom and saying he's innocent, the next she's bawling her eyes out at him - "How could you do this to us?". It's a strange and somewhat unsavoury impression she gives off, similar to that of Danny. How could he so suddenly lose all his faith? It is of course his job to be adaptable and so on, but his loss of confidence is so sudden it'd give you whiplash, much like his driving at the top of the episode.

Just as much as this is an episode wrapping up the consequences of the entire second series, with the writing out of Christine Dale, it's focused on Adam's introduction. Initially he seems like a blokey, happy-go-lucky type and this impression is undoubtedly deliberate by writer Howard Brenton to ramp up the stakes at the finale where Harry chooses him over Tom to go in and talk to Joyce's wife Carmen. Much of the drama hinges on Adam going in to talk to the crazy woman with the gun, but it seems that when it comes down to it, he can actually do his job. Not only does he get a confession out of her but talks her into shooting herself. That's quite grim, and I'm not entirely sure what to think even though the rest of Section D, watching in a van not far away, seem to surmise it was the correct course of action.

In any case, Mace's dogs are called off and it seems MI5 will be allowed to continue their work uninterrupted, for the moment at least. This is Jonny Campbell's first work on the series, and it's a shame to see he only ever got to helm two episodes. I think he's a really good, and underrated director. His two episodes of Doctor Who are still some of my favourites of recent years (and one is in my all-time favourites). He has quite an arty hand with the camera, which lends a new elegance to this series and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do with the next instalment, which looks to be completely standalone. After the shenanigans arcing back a whole series, I'm really looking forward to a fresh start. This is another solid episode that brings Spooks back with a real bang.

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