15 October 2015

Spooks 4.8: The Russian


Grief is a strange thing. The only certainty with it is that everyone will handle it differently. It's hardly a rarity to hear this after someone has passed away, particularly on television, and sure enough Spooks follows suit. Fiona's death right at the end of the last episode was surely as much a shock to the contemporary viewer as it was to the characters themselves. It's only appropriate then that time should be dedicated to dealing with the fallout of her demise.

But life does of course chug on. The NHS is in considerable trouble, and really hospitals across the country should have shut their doors a long time ago. I could be talking about the backstory to this episode or reality. It would of course be disastrous for such a thing to happen, but the government in this episode has decided the best course of action is to sell assets - namely the hospitals - off to private firms. What they will essentially be doing is selling them to Russian katrillionaire Oleg Korsakov, who has a track record in his home country for stripping assets bare and selling them off cheap, which would have disastrous implications for the infrastructure of Britain if he were to repeat himself here.

To this end, Harry and Juliet are concerned. They are initially supported by a minister, but in keeping with the themes of the series he soon defects his allegiances from his moral compass to his wallet. They are directly ordered to stop surveillance on Korsakov, but Harry isn't one to just give in. They continue, and he plays Adam into monitoring a Cold War double agent, Hugo Ross, who's just been released after thirty years behind bars. It turns out that Korsakov is the son of the man who recruited Ross for the Russians, and wants him to write his father's biography.

But Ross considers Korsakov an insult to his father's memory and all he stood for, and so agrees to help Harry bring him down. After seven hours of spiel by Korsakov without concrete proof that he intends to ruin the NHS, Adam, having finally been allowed in on the operation, decides things need to be stepped up a bit. What we get is a text book defection from Ross, pretending he wants to work for Korsakov as a mole in MI5. This power encourages the Russian to gloat, and luckily he covers his plans for Britain's health service. This is all the evidence needed to remove the deal from the table.

Concerned Adam is not coping with Fiona's death, Harry sends him off to the service's psychiatric centre in Tring where naturally he spends all his time telling everyone he's fine when the opposite is quite clearly true. He may only be going through 'ordinary' grief but in his line of work an unstable state of mind could have disastrous consequences, and not just for himself. After the operation is over, it seems to really hit him. He returns to Tring with a glowing report, and in the last moments of the episode finally tells Fiona's parents and Wes of her passing. It's such a huge moment and responsibility, I'm not surprised it messed with his head. It's an enormous piece of news to deliver that there's no going back from.

Seeing the true, brutal nature of her chosen career Jo seems to be reconsidering. But, as Adam notes, giving up isn't the point. They're not in it for themselves, they want to make the world a better place. They've a duty to fulfil. I personally am glad she's sticking around, for the moment at least. She's bubbling over in personality and charm, even when scared, that characters like Zaf just aren't. Speaking of Mr Younis, I enjoyed his larger role in this episode and appreciate Howard Brenton trying to mix things up. For a third time he offers Jo his spare room here, and he's beginning to look a bit desperate to be honest. It could well be art imitating life though, given that Miranda Raison and Raza Jaffrey dated for two years before marrying for another two. In any case, I enjoyed both characters in this episode, which is something I've not been able to say for Zaf in quite a while.

In his second contribution to the series, Omar Madha has thankfully lost his obsession with odd scene transitions. This is a much more accomplished piece of direction from him, with a more professional feel to it. There's lots of varying between distances where appropriate, which is always nice to see given the mid-noughties preference for lots of mid-shots. It's quite shocking to think this was coming out just after Doctor Who returned. The look of the two series is so different, it's amazing to think they were both 2005 BBC productions.

The music in this episode is really nice too. Jennie Muskett doesn't get praised enough by me but she always delivers a quality score. It will be interesting to see what another compose does next year but her work is definitely appreciated here. The Russian is another great script from Howard Brenton. Thinking about it completely analytically, this almost seems like the 'cheap' episode of the run. It only has one major set/location, which is Korsakov's flat. Actually on the subject of locations, the clubs the GCHQ mole goes to look a lot classier than the places I've been. I'd barely call them clubs, they're that posh. Anyway, a lovely script, nice direction and great acting and production values all synthesise beautifully to create another sterling episode. Series Four just goes from strength to strength.

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