06 October 2015

Spooks 3.9: Frequently Asked Questions

Wow, what an intense episode. This is a real character piece, especially for Adam. You'd hardly know this had the same writer as the staggeringly dreary Who Guards the Guards? but lo and behold it is indeed Rupert Walters. The majority of this episode takes place inside a cell as MI5 try to extract information about an upcoming attack in central London, and it's a really interesting look at the way Adam's mind in particular works.

It all begins when a laser designator falls into the hands of Robert Moore. He claims he's only the courier, delivering the weapon to whoever's going to use it. But by the end of the episode, with his daughter directly under threat, he gives in. In doing so he prevents a missile dropping on the capital, killing thousands of people. It turns out all to be a plot by an oil company to out their competitors in a particularly lucrative new pipeline deal, staged to look like a terror attack.

Some of the interrogation methods used by Adam are severe to say the least, but if it's what he deems fit for the situation, the others aren't in a position to argue. Talking to Moore comes down to him and Danny, with Danny being the one offering lifeline after lifeline. The siren that's left blaring for about twelve hours on end must have been the worst for Moore, slowly destroying his mind. There's very little physical damage done to him though. Adam tries to operate within his mind and I think that's where I think Danny was wrong.

Throughout this episode, Danny's part is painted as the voice of reason, saying that Adam is being too harsh because of his own treatment when he was captured and tortured. No matter how many people will die or how much terrorism will be triggered by this potential threat (it is a chain reaction after all) Danny can't bear to watch this man undergo any kind of hardship. That's an admirable trait in some senses, but not particularly useful when you're talking about an arms dealer.

Frequently Asked Questions, which is a brilliant title, by the way, certainly gives you food for thought. The short time scale MI5 have to work with means they need answers quickly, and Moore isn't the most cooperative of captives. The other story threaded through the episode concerns Harry's future. He has been invited to apply for the position of Director General of the Security Services, and makes it down to the final two. A lot of questions are posed which I don't doubt deliberately reflect the content of the other half of the episode. How far is too far? Do the ends always justify the means? Of course they don't, otherwise there would be no point standing for anything. But it gives you a lot to mull over, which is always welcome.

Rupert Penry-Jones gets to play quite a different side to Adam to normal. Usually, he's driven, a bit flamboyant, very self-assured. From the interviews on the DVDs, I can tell how much of a performance that is for him. Here, he underplays the material just as well as he embodies Adam's other persona. He hates what was done to him and you can tell it troubles him all the time. I doubt it's the kind of thing you'd forget, especially when you're still in this line of work. This ties into his desperation last time for Fiona to leave the service. He wants her safe, and knows that one of these days she'll be killed on an operation. She looks to be a permanent fixture of the MI5 team for now, but things don't look too good for her next time...

This week on 'Spot the Hustle connection' it's director Alrick Riley, who in my eyes is a supreme talent. All through this episode I was thinking that it looked really good and captured the intensity of the situation very neatly, and it was only when I checked Wikipedia afterwards that I realised of course it was him. He's in the same class as Jonny Campbell for me. They were over a decade ahead of their time, turning in directorial work that wouldn't look out of place on a flagship drama in 2015. Every shot could be taken as a beautiful individual frame, and it's rare to find a director in 2004 for who that's true.

In summary then this is a really strong episode and not at all what I expected from Rupert Walters. If he can deliver like this consistently, the team are onto a winner, no doubt. This story can only be told once, and oh how well it's told here. The third season of Spooks has had the most variable episode quality yet, but as it draws to a close things are looking up. I only wish I could say the same for Fiona and Danny.

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