12 October 2015

Spooks 4.5: The Book

This is another really interesting episode. The fourth series of Spooks is shaping up to be a really strong one, and if it can keep the standard of the first half up in the second I think it could well be a strong contender for my favourite series yet. The Book does admittedly cover ground already trodden in the Series One episode The Rose Bed Memoirs, with the memoirs of activity in the secret service detailed explicitly in a tome that threatens, but I think there's enough of a different slant on proceedings to excuse this. Plus it's really enjoyable.

In the 2002 Howard Brenton episode, the plot concerned itself with a terrorist group trying to obtain information about the government but in Raymond Khoury's spin on events, we see British Military Intelligence itself fighting for the memoirs. Indeed, it's big boss Roy Woodring who is trying to make the writings of Clive McTaggart disappear. He believes firmly that it is a danger to national security for the book to be published, quite reasonably, but he takes it upon himself to ensure that doesn't happen. He has McTaggart killed at his home just weeks before cancer would have taken him, but unfortunately there was a witness.

Journalist Gary Hicks had been called by McTaggart, possibly to promote his memoirs, and arrives at precisely the wrong time. This leaves him a target for the black ops, and so spends the rest of the episode in the care of MI5 after he rocks up on Ruth's doorstep. Eventually Harry manages to have the entire covert operation closed down after a heated chat with Juliet Shaw, and returns home to find that McTaggart had posted the book to his old friend to do with as he sees fit. It's a nice touch to end the episode on but it makes the whole thing even more of a tragedy; McTaggart knew the potential consequences of the publication, and so needn't have been murdered in the first place - not that there was ever the justification.

This episode also sees the introduction of Miranda Raison as Jo Portman. She's recently graduated from university and is an aspiring journalist. Through a marginally convoluted set of circumstances, Adam ends up going to investigate to see if she's a threat at all. He soon concludes not, but I think now he may be rethinking that - she's not a threat to MI5, but their enemies. I of course remember the stunning Ms Raison as being an integral part of the team for at least a few series but had no idea she was introduced this early on, or in this episode. What a delight then, because Jo's one of my favourite characters. I look forward to seeing her grow.

When Human Resources get involved in MI5's affairs it usually leads to some sly satire on their interference and procedure. The Book, you'll be happy to hear, is no exception. Ruth is receiving four new desk operatives (bring back Sam! etc.) and Adam one field agent. The necessary paperwork and information has been supplied, but he's a little busy taking care of Hicks and McTaggart's book - plus I get the impression he's not the biggest fan of paperwork. After Jo proves herself invaluable to this particular operation with her startling initiative and dedication, Adam offers her the job, probably much to the chagrin of current HR bod Debra Langham. But oh well.

This is a particularly good episode and I'm beginning to really fall in love with the series again after a bit of a rocky, uneven couple of series. For the first time in a while we've had a solid run of good episodes. The leads and guests are treated with great respect and integrity, all intelligent, independent characters. The plots, structuring, dialogue and direction (which is particularly nicely served by Jeremy Lovering here) all make this a strong series. Zaf is in a way the new Danny; whenever he's tasked with something - for example, in The Book he has to take Hicks to a safe house - he seems to mess it up or have his cover blown. We still haven't seen any of his personal life, quite the contrast to Jo's introduction. More on his background would help liven the character up a bit but the rest of the series is so good you probably won't notice he's devoid of a proper character. Oh, and more Fiona please.

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