04 October 2015

Spooks 3.7: Outsiders

After the heightened shenanigans of the last few episodes, this feels like quite a stable, normal one. That's no criticism though; it sits well with its position in the running order and is a satisfyingly entertaining story. With Zoe gone, it's Ruth who takes a step up to complete the trio of leads, although I'm guessing that's a one-off.

In twenty-one episodes, this is only the second time the plot has centred around a technological attack. But that's understandable; I suspect in real life MI5's firewalls are attacked all the time but it wouldn't make for very good telly to either repeat a plot, or to continually show fingers on keyboards (notice the enter key is never used). But I'm more than happy to have a resurgence of plots once in a while. After all, there are only a certain number of ways in reality society could come unstuck.

Here, the hacker is pleasingly ambitious. He (I'm not being sexist, it actually is a he) messes up the chemical balance of paracetamol, rendering them fatal to anyone who takes it; he messes up traffic lights and threatens to wreak further havoc unless he receives a hundred million pounds in the form of diamonds. I actually thought for a large majority of this that it was poorly written as it was only showing us the hacker in the form of keystrokes and tapping, making the episode feel rather one-sided. Then I realised how stupid I was being.

Any writer with half a brain will know to show the two sides of a conflict, and Raymond Khoury does it in a very clever way. Once you realise what he's done it does become something of a one-horse race, but that doesn't make it any less fun. As soon as Andrew takes any real prominence in the episode, such as the scene where he and Ruth decide to get a taxi home, you're more or less certain he's the culprit. And lo and behold, he is. But Ruth doesn't have the benefit of an outsider's perspective. She's not aware she's inside a series of dramatic constructions. And yet she still manages to figure it out. Clever old Ruth.

One element of the episode I didn't like was Danny's brattishness. He is of course allowed to be upset about never seeing Zoe again but I think when it affects his work to the point where he's beating up a civilian he's going too far. He needs to remain professional while at work. It's not like he's going to over-charge on chewing gum at a post office. If he screws up at work, it could have major repercussions. People could even die. So in my humble opinion he ought to grow up.

It looks increasingly likely to me that Fiona - Adam's wife - will be joining the team before too long. All the talk of being a proper family with their son, who we first hear of here, plus the increased time at home Adam's enjoyed from moving from MI6 to Five seems to be heading in one direction only. I'm indifferent about that at the moment as I don't really feel I've seen enough of her to make a full judgement. This episode doesn't really give Adam himself much to do, but that could be said of practically every instalment of this series. The only exception I can think of, where he took centre stage aside from just co-ordinating events is in Project Friendly Fire where he talks to Carmen Joyce. More of that kind of thing would be very welcome, especially now we're down a lead.

Bill Anderson's direction isn't especially notable here. Don't get me wrong, there's some nice bits, and it all looks pretty and sharp, but I think the cinematographer probably deserves a little more credit for those bits. This isn't dull, there just aren't any of the signature visuals some directors naturally use. I look forward to seeing what he does with his next one, it looks to be pretty unusual to say the least.

So, this is an exciting episode that poses a new kind of threat to national security that's plausible and realistic. I've no idea how much truth there is in the so-called G&J code, but I'm glad the government didn't manage to get their hands on it in the end. No one should have that kind of power. It's a strong episode for Ruth and Danny, putting the characters front and centre, but my feelings towards each of them are polarised. Nicola Walker is easy to warm to here, but you do have to wonder what happened to the man she was so fixated on a couple of weeks ago. Whereas David Oyelowo's Danny drives me right up the wall. The one action of Danny's that went some way to redeeming him for me was relenting and telling Will where Zoe was. This is entirely down to how it's presented. The audience are naturally on Nice Will's side, instead of Grumpy Danny's, so it's good to have a happy ending. I don't doubt, however, that it will come back to bite him before too long.

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