10 October 2015

Spooks 4.3: Divided They Fall

I can say confidently that this is Ben Richards' finest episode yet. Spooks seems to fare much better when it steps out of its 'comfort zone' and does something out of the ordinary or potentially controversial and Divided They Fall is no exception. Here, a right wing political party known as The British Way are trying to 'cleanse' Britain - England for the English and all that.

Of course the democratic system should be allowed to take its natural course, but there is the added complication that British Way supporters are actively being encouraged to drive refugees and asylum seekers from their homes through violence. This topic has been covered before - in the second episode, in fact - but this approach is substantially different to justify the repetition in my opinion. Plus it's quite a hot topic, as we've seen with the rise of parties like UKIP over the last couple of years.

This abuse of civilians must stop and it's up to MI5 to sort things out. Adam and Fiona both infiltrate the party, but at different levels. She takes on the new poster boy MP leader of the party William Sampson and he hooks up with head of the old guard Keith Moran, who's quite possibly named after the writer James Moran who later worked on the series, amongst other things. They work to tear the party apart from the inside, turning the two figureheads against each other. It's a gripping plan and it's written really well to develop evenly across the episode, so it really works.

Ruth's even drafted in to go undercover, pretending to be Adam's cousin who works at GCHQ, and she performs admirably. Even though I knew it wouldn't happen, I did hope secretly when Harry said that he needed someone very familiar with GCHQ Sam may be coming back as that's her current posting according to Spooks Wiki, but alas. I think one of the things that makes the script of this episode work so well is that it deals with the consequences of MI5's interference, and in its main guest stars it has not only a pair of very strong actors - Rupert Graves and David Threlfall - but two robust characters. They're real enough you can believe they have lives beyond this episode, and that's a rare thing in Spooks nowadays.

One thing I'm not keen on is the retaining of Juliet Shaw. To be honest for me she adds nothing, and only serves to get up my nose. Harry never had to report (especially so regularly) to the old National Security Co-ordinator. Is this her initiative? At this point I can't really see what the point of her character is. She's not a great foil for Harry, who's the only character she deals with, and serves no plot function, so at the moment I'm a bit lost. Harry's liking of the Home Secretary is rather nice though, and I'd like to keep that. Perhaps Juliet's just been brought in for a bit of balance. The show has famously derailed right-wing threats for the most part up to now, simply because it's easier to write because there's a clear set of self-appointed leaders and in the second part of The Special, Harry mentions she's a hard right-winger herself. He seems to have a fondness for her but we've no real indication why at the moment, especially when his own outlook on the world would seem to be so drastically different to hers. Oh well, as long as we keep our Harry I'm happy.

Alrick Riley's back and boy does this episode look good! I found myself muttering 'Wow!' under my breath at several points just because some of the shots were so good. He has a great sense of motion and space and makes this all looks so immensely beautiful. It's no wonder he's to become the series' most prolific director, with twelve episodes under his belt. In the casting of his two leads he's done extremely well too, selecting two of the strongest actors of their generation for some pretty difficult parts. It's a credit to all three that the end result is so strong.

This episode isn't perfect, but it's certainly getting on that way. There's a sense of humour to it at points, which really helps, but for the most part it's a bleak, political thriller. I prefer this brand of Spooks to the exploding, all-guns-blazing action fest some writers prefer and I hope Ben Richards will continue to move in this direction in future. He's got a great plot, structure and array of dialogue here that he commands superbly. I can't get a handle on Zaf still, and I think it's because we know nothing about him outside of his work. All three of the 'old' regulars were frequently shown enjoying their time out of the office, and I love all the stuff with Wes - Adam and Fiona's son - so far too. Perhaps it would help give him a bit more personality too as so far Raza Jaffrey is basically playing a character with no discernible traits. Adam and Fiona, and the lovely actors that play them, are so good again then it's almost becoming routine to the point of me only mentioning it at the end of my review. Overall, a great episode.

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