08 October 2015

Spooks 4.1: The Special (Part One)


As I've noted before, Spooks becomes more and more interlinked as it goes on, and this episode marks the arrival of the next stage of that element's development: the two-parter. Towards the end of Spooks' run, entire series will be dedicated to one arc but this is the first time a single, self-contained story has run for more than one episode in such an explicit way.

I can see the thinking behind this. The episode opens with Danny's funeral, which is interrupted by a bomb going off nearby. It's supposed to start things off with a (literal) bang, throwing the audience immediately back into the action and show that things can (and often do) go wrong at exactly the wrong time. However, it smacks of being a bit of a cheap shock, occurring barely two minutes into the story. It would have been much better in my opinion to leave a little more time for grieving, with the bomb possibly detonating once he was buried.

The culprits turn out to be a group called Shining Dawn, not to be confused with the far right Greek political party Golden Dawn. Their leader has been detained for entering the UK under a false passport, but now they know who he is, he is being kept locked up for numerous crimes in America. The rest of Shining Dawn want him released. The group's ideology basically states that humans are ruining the planet and need to be culled, and so they have no qualms about detonating bombs in places designed to kill the most people every ten hours until the leader is released.

This is quite a high-stakes plot but you wouldn't really know it. Most of the episode is spent in offices or on the Grid, with a relatively sedate pace. There doesn't seem to be a great urgency to find where the next bomb is until with about half an hour to go, all the intel suddenly comes flooding in as if by magic. Zaf's stayed with the team and he's getting a bit big for his boots. His spiel about the car - and the car itself - are cringe-inducingly unnecessary. It did tickle me that as soon as he tells Adam he can handle himself he gets tied up and a gun in his face.

Ruth meanwhile is packed off to Oxford to stay with a known sympathiser, who seems to be a weak Richard Dawkins pastiche. As the pair try to mentally outfox one another while they make their way on foot to a London safehouse, I can't help thinking the plot has perhaps been stretched a bit too thin. Ruth would have been much more use on the Grid, seeking out the next spot, analysing to her heart's content. Instead, she's stuck with a crochety, patronising old man who she doesn't believe in defending.

This episode then is a little soulless. Adam's paired off with a half-arsed cipher of a working class girl who's only likeable thanks to Martine McCutcheon's superb performance. Harry's busy holding the Amercians (who, incidentally, do nothing at all here), the Home Secretary and an old flame named Juliet Shaw at arm's length. There's a little intrigue into who a potential mole could be, but as is often the case it currently seems to be a mystery with one suspect. And if you hadn't already guessed, the first scene on the 'Next Time' trailer spoils it for you anyway. Misdirection or not? At the moment it's hard to tell.

With all due respect, Antonia Bird's direction is nothing especially remarkable, and - probably due to how it was edited more than anything else - often comes off really oddly. When Adam and Zaf are discussing the car, for example, it isn't shown once despite the fact they're stood right next to it. We only see it, in fact, when Adam drives off a good few minutes later. It's just boggling and the whole thing lacks the energy necessary to make it really work. So far I can't see why this warranted a second episode, but ho hum. Let's hope things pick up next time, eh?

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