07 October 2015

Spooks 3.10: The Suffering of Strangers

And so we reach the end of another series already. Spooks is an odd beast. Although there's an inherent consistency from episode to episode, the differences each writer brings to the table are considerable. Ben Richards' style seems by now to be something relatively exciting on the surface but which doesn't stand up to a great deal of scrutiny, which is fine if you're after a bit of mindless entertainment (meant in the nicest sense) but it seems a shame when the show has been brought to life with such intelligence by various other writers.

The headline news in this episode is Danny's death - spoilers. It's a significant moment in the series' history as the last original cast member bows out but it's odd, within the show itself it doesn't feel like an especially grand event. This is all to do with an Iraqi terror cell wanting British troops withdrawn from their country. Having put out a fake story about there being a gas attack on the Underground to draw them in, the terrorists kidnap Danny and Fiona, who we're repeatedly told have become close friends.

But even this falls down a little when you think about it. Isn't that plan way too complicated when they even have Fiona and Adam's new house bugged and under surveillance. They could lift either one of them at any time. Danny being involved was just down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time; they wanted to tear a husband and wife team apart to make it more likely they would agree to their demands. They even threatened the couple's son, Wes. This overly-convoluted plan just doesn't hold much water. But anyway.

I suppose my main gripe with The Suffering of Strangers is that the episode clearly thinks it builds up to Danny's death but the truth is it really doesn't. He barely has two lines before his final, defiant speech, which is a much more understated departure than either Tom or Zoe got. Perhaps that was the point, just bang and he's dead, no fanfare, but it's not that simple either. He always was headstrong and impulsive, and his speech to the terrorists isn't too far out of character. It is, however, entirely pointless. What did he achieve? Nothing. Surely he wasn't so naive as to think they'd somehow now be softer on Fiona? I don't have a clue why he did it, it makes sense in no terms at all to me.

But taking his desk before the chair's even cold is newcomer Zaf. He's young, cool and fun in the most ignorant of ways, it would seem so far. He thinks he's the bee's knees with his chummy reunion with Adam and his confident flirting with Sam. So far he's getting right on my tits. Hopefully either he'll grow up or someone else will write him better in future. I seem to remember either him or Tariq getting stabbed, getting in a taxi and dying outside his house in a future episode. So that'll be a big surprise. But at the moment it's no tragedy. The new line-up is totally different at the end of the series to its start - in the place of Tom, Zoe and Danny we now have Adam, Fiona and Zaf. Thinking about it, Zaf sounds like something you'd use to clean your home. If only the character were as practical and useful.

All in all then, this is a good enough episode superficially but to be honest I thought this grand exit could have been done better. Considering Howard Brenton had a go at writing out Tom and Richards already packed Zoe off, maybe it would have been nice for series creator David Wolstencroft to come back and tie things up as we surge towards a new era. Finally an MI5 agent dies in one of the most predictable ways - getting shot. It had to happen at some point.

Alrick Riley keeps everything looking excellent. His sense of space and character matches the tone of the show very well, and he gets some really interesting camerawork in. I'm glad he'll be back for more later on, he's a talent not to be missed. As an episode of Spooks, this is more or less average. The title's a bit pretentious, there's a group of terrorists in a big house in the country and Danny dies. None of it really sets the world on fire, despite Riley's best efforts, and that's a crying shame. I've never been Danny's biggest fan but I was coming to like him over the last few episodes. It's a shame to see the old guard leave in such a fruitless fashion but there's nothing to be done. I sincerely hope Sam's in the next series. I would say the same of Ruth and Harry, but I know they are. Sam I can't remember, but in any episode where she does more than serve the tea, Shauna Macdonald is a delight and if this were to be her last episode, that would be a real tragedy. So, all in all, nothing exceptional.

If only there was some purpose to it all.

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