30 September 2015

Spooks 3.3: Who Guards the Guards?

Who Guards the Guards? is a decent episode but coming off the back of two scripts from powerhouse Howard Brenton, Rupert Walters' first effort doesn't come off especially well. As predicted, this was something of a showcase for Adam Carter, the series' shiny new recruit, but thinking back over the episode as a whole I can only really think of two major plot points, and the second is a repeat of the first.

It all starts with a shooting in a bookshop, which apparently is an attempt on the life of a famous author visiting his friend, who owns the shop. Naturally, it turns out to be the shop keeper who was the target. If you've watched this episode, I'd be very surprised if you didn't spot this 'twist', given it's signposted more frequently than the M25. But MI5 don't realise this until the end of the episode and instead assume the novelist was the target of the attacks. We're not even told at any point what's so special about this particular writer, which undermines a lot of the plot.

Anyway, Danny's charged with the care of the shop owner, just in case. He's an MI6 double agent but for some reason neglects to mention this at any point to their sister service. The climax comes when he's shot by an invisible assassin whilst in Danny's care. This is supposed to be a big emotional moment but this storyline with Harakat is given such prominence when usually it would just be written off to subordinates or not shown that you know it's going to be important. The writer, Zuli, isn't even shown after an initial show of indignance at a supposed attempt on his life.

And that's basically the plot of the episode. 'So how does Adam fit into that?' you might ask. Well, he doesn't. But despite not really contributing to that plot, Rupert Penry-Jones' character probably has the most screen time of all. There's a sequence where he parades round London with a variety of disguises trying to shake off MI6 officers trailing him lasting about six hours which feels like it's being told in real time. I suspect in reality it was probably around ten minutes long, but it genuinely felt at least double that. There's just nothing happening whatsoever. I imagine the sequence was devised to show us what a good spy Adam is, ooh look he changed his clothes, etcetera, but he comes off as a bit of an amateur for most of it thanks to some weird directorial choices. And it's not just this that makes the whole thing feel like a massive waste of time. In any other episode, Adam would have just got to the meet by shaking off a single tail, and we would've got to the important bit - the meet itself. But here the conversation affects the plot so little the focus is squarely on the preamble.

When he's not fighting off the Whitehall Armada, Adam is generally quite likeable but there's still not all that much to separate him from Tom so far. Ruth even confuses him with Matthew Macfadyen's character at one point. Continuing the 'cheeky' attitude he seems to be building up, we see him shopping for lingerie for an anniversary present for his wife too. Most men would be cripplingly embarrassed but he just brazenly chats to a shop assistant whilst on the phone to Zoe.

Ah, yes. Zoe. This episode plays around with time more than most of Doctor Who, switching back and forth between a wedding she and boyfriend Will North (played by that bloke who played a bank robber on Hustle) are attending. There's no dramatic pay off for this head-juggling gesture and come the end of the episode, you wonder why they didn't just show it all at the end. You have to assume it was because in that state, the episode was so crushingly dull even a stroll near a church would liven things up. Will seems alright, but like Adam, he's a bit too laidback for my liking. Zoe seems very keen though, and took an immediate fancy to him after they met in the last episode, shagging in the kitchen before the episode was out. Vetting seems to be getting faster and faster all the time now too. Whereas Tom had to wait weeks to get the lovable Ellie checked out, North clears in just a few ours.

To come back to Danny, as I think we probably should, he doesn't have a great time of it. It is partly his fault though, for being so naive. I'm not blaming him for the death of Harakat but his attitude throughout is a bit off this week. The way he expresses his love for Zoe at the top of the episode is so ham-fisted and cringe-worthy I wanted to punch myself for him. He needs a break. I hope he isn't going the way of Tom, and this is just a temporary blip as a result of a weak script. I don't mind him leaving, as I've stated a few times before, but I don't want him to become disillusioned or whatever again. That said, there were a few elements of this episode that reminded me of The Sleeper. The main difference though is that that was a far superior story in nearly every way.

The direction is a huge step down from last week too. I don't know if Jonny Campbell hired better cameras or cameramen but this looks so low-grade compared to his stuff. Cilla Ware doesn't have a patch of the skill Campbell exhibited, to be quite blunt. Everything looks so flat and... well, dull to be honest. That's probably the best way to sum up this episode actually. Tim McInnery's Oliver Mace rears his ugly head once more but he may as well not have for all the impact he has on the plot. Whereas he was an electric presence to be feared in Project Friendly Fire, all he does here is sit around in smoky gentlemen's clubs fobbing Harry off. There's a few nice little bits but to be honest they don't add up to anything special. The weakest, and dullest, episode of the series yet.

Oh, and the title's crap.

And next week doesn't inspire me with confidence as we meet Harry's daughter. They can only do this once. Please don't mess it up, please don't mess it up, please don't mess it up, please don't mess it up…

1 comment:

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