02 October 2015

Spooks 3.5: Love and Death

Now this is how to write Spooks. In what's sadly his final episode, series creator David Wolstencroft proves once more that he absolutely understands what makes this series work. In short, it's the characters, but they need to be handled in the right way. It's perhaps unfair to compare some of the work done with the leads to previous episodes as a lot of it can only be done once. Indeed, that is very much the point of this.

The service is this time concerned with a completely amoral man willing to sell a deadly virus to the North Koreans. In order to prevent him supplying it, Zoe and Danny are tasked with talking him out of it on board on overnight ferry. However, the situation changes and it becomes necessary for the target to be killed after it's discovered he is on his way to delivering the goods, not just gauging interest. With Zoe out of action thanks to crippling sea sickness, Danny must step up to the plate.

Danny comments to Colin at the top of the episode, when the pair are practising their shooting skills, that he's never killed anyone. Little does he know just how soon that will change. A large proportion of this episode is dedicated to Danny plucking up the courage to give the criminal a fatal overdose of insulin, but that's no bad thing. For the first time Adam comes across as a really endearing character, and it's a tragedy this is Wolstencroft's only occasion writing for him. He's handled better here than in any previous episode, including those written by Howard Brenton.

This is probably David Oyelowo's best performance so far as well. Here he gets some real character development to get a firm grip of and he runs with it. Gone is the flash git thinking he can chat up any girl, loving the idea that he's an awesome spook, saving the planet one damsel at a time. In comes the more vulnerable, more human Danny and he is instantly so much more likeable. I hope this interpretation stays, although I highly doubt it will. As Adam tells him will happen though, Danny is visibly a different man after his first cold-blooded kill. At the instant when he murdered him, the target didn't pose a direct threat to him and this has obviously wreaked havoc with his moral compass.

He's completely cold to Zoe afterwards, finally telling her about her fiancée's brother leaking confidential photos to the newspapers. He also adds the embellishment that this probably means Will - the fiancée - told his brother what she did for a living. These two things seem to marry up as well as Zoe and Will now look to. It's a really snide move on Danny's part. He's obviously in a damaged emotional state when he breaks the news, thinking that her silly little relationship can't even compete with the emotional trauma he's just gone through. I don't see how Zoe takes a hunch from Danny over the honest word of her husband-to-be. I highly doubt the brother has any idea what she does, and it's clear from Will's pleading that he certainly hasn't blabbed. But nothing he can say seems likely to make any difference. After a whirlwind three-episode relationship in which they've gone from upfront flirting to engaged to nothing, I don't think we've seen the end of this yet. I'm almost certain Will will be back. How or when I'm less sure of.

Ruth, Malcolm and Sam also get a decent slice of the action. This is a very good episode for the whole MI5 team, but then it always is when Wolstencroft's at the typewriter. After snooping on a man being bugged for his own protection for what seems like a long time, Ruth finally decides to meet him, with the help of Sam and Malcolm. Nicola Walker is completely charming here, and Ruth absolutely falls to bits in front of who she thinks is her perfect man. My personal highlight was her asking him if it was hot in Spain. It's bizarre how one writer can make Sam a real character and the next a glorified tea maker, and I hope we get a bit of consistency for her before too long. The same could be said of Malcolm, except swap tea for assorted gadgetry. He is utterly delightful playing the part of Ruth's older brother and it's gorgeous to get to see all the team outside of work.

Justin Chadwick returns to direct this episode and he seems to be able to get the cameras on the right setting. Even though a ferry is hardly the most exotic of locations it makes a real change from endless London streets and high rises. Thanks to Chadwick's picturesque direction, you can almost smell the sea air, but he also manages to capture the enclosed labyrinth of the ship's interior well. The post-production effects added most notably to shots of Danny are all very well chosen and it seems Chadwick is fast becoming my favourite director on the series. I was unsure before if it was a coincidence that my two favourite episodes of the last series were both directed by him, but now I'm thinking it wasn't a fluke. His range needs to be immense to take in the breadth of this episode - ornate churches, night time exteriors, a mental slackening on reality and offices are all on the remit here - and he delivers impressively. Let's see how he gets on with a script that isn't from the mind of Wolstencroft or Brenton though.

This is a great episode in short. It gives all of the main cast something substantial to do, such as Sam and Harry's subplot, and deals with an original threat to British security. It scores massive points with me for character development too, and there's really satisfying links back to the series' first episode. Even though I only watched that two weeks ago, it feels like a lot longer. David Wolstencroft has helped shape this series and he bows out on a typically excellent episode. He will be sorely missed, I've no doubt.

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