17 October 2015

Spooks 4.10: Diana - Micro-Review


Blimey, this is a good episode! Different style, different tone, and as ever, great direction. And it’s a series finale – bliss.

It’s essentially like the lock-down episode from Series 2, in that, well, there’s a lock-down. The Grid is cut off from the outside world (not without power, mind you). But it’s not a drill – yes, there’s a villain!

And it’s a good proper baddy. Angela Wells is an ex-spy and knows all the tricks. But after her boyfriend (also Ruth’s stepbrother) committed suicide, she’s gone off the rails fast, and holds the whole team hostage. She is convinced – from a scrap of, admittedly very conclusive, proof – that the security services murdered Princess Diana, and that Harry was involved in planning it. And bearing in mind, this would be, what, eight years since? (That’s almost as long as say the London Bombings – and also as long since I first saw this episode actually, seven years ago!) But still, perspective on what has become a certain tabloid staple and slightly laughable conspiracy theory (well, Jo giggles).
Angela – played with real skill and relish by Lindsay Duncan, a fine, fine actress, one of the best – has a powerful bomb in a handbag, a radio controlled trigger in her hand, and nothing to lose, and takes Jo hostage whilst the rest of the team get to work. Adam’s plan is to fob her off with an ideal report of what she’d want to hear – ie, how they could have killed her. And Zaf’s runthrough of all the evidence is spookily realistic. But the real question is – what exactly was the role of this special committee Harry was on?

It turns out that they were only forecasting worst case scenarios – at the time, there was a worry that she could be murdered, and they spookily predicted it. Naturally, after the event – which was an accident – they hushed it up. But as Ruth tells this to Angela, she also lets her know another secret, that her boyfriend never loved her and loved Ruth instead. And this destroys her utterly – the trigger is pushed, but it was a fake, despite the explosive. (Though later, we reveal this was just a clever lie from Ruth...)

It’s a bit like that Mitchell and Webb sketch on Diana (done early of course), crossed with the lock-down episode from last year. Whilst less ‘intense’, you get a different feel – a psychological thriller, with mind-games, trying to outsmart the villain. You rarely get villains in Spooks, and she plays it very well. Second to that, is Harry’s very subtle change in tone and coldness when he’s cutting them off. Again, like the previous episode that this reminded me of, it’s a masterclass of acting – and also lighting, as it turns out they literally took all the lights out and replaced them with different colours and tones. It makes the place look very cool indeed – reds and blues and greens and stuff. And that slightly too full-on ‘TARDIS cyan’ you used to get in the early days of Doctor Who new series.

But you’ve got to remember – it’s a finale! So what appears to be the end of the episode... isn’t! There’s a fake ending – which is ever so slightly rushed and quite ludicrous as ever - when it’s revealed that Angela’s taken a secret document about Buckingham Palace security... she was going to take revenge on the royal family all along! So they move them to the secret bunker... but she wanted them to do that, as she’s been working there as an electrician for months and she’s planted a bomb in there! Malcolm tries to defuse it, but hesitates – and Adam cuts all of them. It’s a very powerful moment, particularly as he rarely gets them, of him letting them down, and then people congratulating him as they think he defused the bomb.

But that’s a fake ending too! Turns out, as Harry and Adam go to arrange for Angela to be properly dealt with (killed, in fact! For her own good naturally), there’s a sniper on the roof – and we think it’s her! People are shot at – Adam gets hit, with a nasty-but-cool shot of him with blood from his mouth. And then Harry looks up as the barrel takes aim...

Standout Moment: The team are unsure whether or not the security services did or did not kill Diana. After Zaf’s run through of the conspiracies, Adam and Ruth confront Harry for the truth. He admits that the Committee he was on planned and carried out the deed... until Ruth, last of all, realises that’s a lie and there never was such a thing. It’s Peter Firth’s downright skill, delivery and underacting of the scene, topped with some stunningly perfect lighting, that makes this probably the pinnacle of the episode – despite a very good Ruth scene later on as she lies, and a great cliffhanger.
Guest Star Watch: It’s Lindsay Duncan! Who later played Adelaide Brooke in a similarly toned intense episode of a base under siege and of someone suicidal. Here she’s a villain, and enjoys it a lot. She’s also been in more stuff than I remember, deep breath... Marple’s “They Do it with Mirrors”, White Heat, Merlin (coming back in Series 5 too), Black Mirror, Christopher and his Kind. And that’s just stuff I’ve seen (and excluding a small voice part in Star Wars!). The posh guy at the end in the bunker hasn’t done much, but was one of the voices of the Toclafane in Doctor Who, haha!
Hellos and Goodbyes: Adam is shot, and Harry next – could they be going out?! (hint: both survive! Bah!) It’s Ruth’s episode though, really.
Also Zaf mentions in his conspiracy theories that top spies Scimitar and Mace were down there at the time... aka Hugh Laurie and Tim McInnery, haha! That’s a good image!
Death Count: None, really. Adam’s shot but lives, so we can’t exactly count any other shootings there. And the bomb didn’t go off. Oh wait, there was the Peter bloke committing suicide in a wooooonderful single take style shot in the pre credits. So – one.

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