16 October 2015

Spooks 4.9: The Sting

'Principal' would seem to be the watchword of the week for The Sting. After forcing the CIA to release a British citizen who soon murders two MI5 officers, Harry is suspended pending trial with immediate effect, his post filled in the interim by Juliet Shaw. It creates an interesting dynamic between the team and shows just how integral to Section D's many successes he is.

Even whilst officially on gardening leave, Harry can't resist investigating. By taking him out of the office, rather literally, you can see just how resourceful he really is. The murderer, who is just another disillusioned Muslim, turns out to be part of a far bigger operation. Tensions in the Middle East are still fraught and it looks like Iran is on the verge of being invaded by the Americans and Brits. This wouldn't be a terrible move from everyone's perspective, as there's a lot of money to be made from the infrastructure contracts that will be issued after war is over to help rebuild the country. It is such people that want to tip Britain over the edge. This requires some major action.

The action comes in the form of a series of surface-to-air missiles, with the aforementioned man (who didn't actually murder the MI5 agents) a scapegoat to help incite hatred towards Iran. This is a solid premise to hang an episode on but what I like about Spooks' fourth series is that they're pushing for stronger stories. In real life, it doesn't happen that just one thing occurs at a time. This is reflected in the weekly 'hitting the fan' style Spooks takes, but here things are ramped up a gear.

The Sting offers a really good chance to examine Harry's character. There's a truly hilarious where he's with his adorable dog in the front room of a safe house, watching television. His commentary on a quiz show is simply joyous, and Peter Firth once again proves he is just as capable of comedy as he is roaring righteousness. His investigative skills once again prove faultless as he manages to give his tails the slip and meet up with a man even the CIA don't know exists. The scene at the end brings to mind the remark of Roy Woodring a few episodes ago (The Book) where he says MI5 officers can't help showing off at how good they are at breaking into places.

Rupert Walters can contribute surprisingly good material at times after his first snoozer of an episode, and this story is peppered with it. The way the whole thing unfolds is impressively written and staged, with the team slowly adapting to working with Juliet. Jo is still a bit naive at this stage - not to mention fickle - but I'm still growing to like her more and more with each episode. There is the slight sense of giving everyone something to do as Adam is paired off with one person at a time to complete various tasks, and Colin and Malcolm are used alternately rather than both at once, but on the whole the structure is sound. Walters won't be at the top of my 'favourite writers' list any time soon but his work certainly has a lot of its own merits.

Julian Simpson joins the series to direct his first of four episodes and to be honest I wasn't that much of a fan. On the whole, it was all just standard bits and bobs but there were a couple of instances where I actively disliked the direction. It will be interesting to see how his style develops as he goes on, because it's hardly fair to judge someone's approach to such a stylised series on their first outing. That doesn't stop me though; this is, after all, a review.

Every scene with Wes across the last ten episodes has been great, in my eyes. James Dicker is a great little actor and completely loveable. His scene towards the end with 'Uncle Harry' is just brilliant and I sincerely hope we see more of this pair together. In fact, Harry is brilliant all round in this episode. Peter Firth really steps up to the plate, which is no real surprise. He's hardly a slouch normally, after all. Wes has had quite a nice life so far, with private schools and wealthy grandparents, but I don't doubt he'd trade it all in to live happily ever after with his mum and dad. Unfortunately that ain't gonna happen, but it's lovely to see father and son moving on together rather than the usual TV melodrama of families falling apart.

In summary then, this is another good episode in what's shaping up to be my favourite series yet. The stakes are being heightened just before the finale, with Rupert Walters demonstrating no-one's safe. This is possibly Peter Firth's best episode yet, which is certainly saying something. I can't wait to see where we go next.

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