19 October 2015

Spooks 5.2: Gas and Oil (Part Two)

Although this is better than the first part, I still wasn't bowled over by the concluding episode of Gas and Oil. It amounts in the end to a lot of noise and bluster without much substance as I see it. The most notable aspect of the storylining for me though was how closely the structure of Gas and Oil resembled that of last year's opening double-episode The Special.

The action very much continues in the vein of the first part, but without the subtleties, which are the bits I usually enjoy. Strangely though I actually liked this episode more than series five's first. Zaf gets to have three fights with a man called Steve at various points throughout the episode, and thankfully he does manage to prevent the collision of two passenger-laden aircraft, thus scuppering the plans of those attempting to overthrow the government.

There is plenty going on in this episode - from the aircraft to the London protest to the detention centre to Sir Jocelyn Myers' boardroom - but sadly it's all rather forgettable. Indeed, the scenes which stick most in the mind are those of Juliet in hospital, learning she won't walk again. It's probably not a coincidence that this is also the only aspect of the story that deals with the consequences of any of its own doing. In real life you can't just move on between episodes of your life, everything melds together and affects each other. Even though I'm hardly expert, it strikes me that the most interesting aspects of drama to an audience are those which show real characters dealing with the hand life's thrown at them. After all, if the characters don't care, why should we?

Adam spends the majority of the episode with new recruit Ros. It's not entirely clear what her background is; originally I thought she was with MI6 but now I'm not sure if I misinterpreted that. There's absolutely zero mention of her professional past in this episode so it's anyone guess. I'm not that fond of Ros at this stage but I may grow to like her. It would help if she was actually written with some personality otherwise she will quickly fall into the same category as Zaf. Props to Hermione Norris for trying to inject a few characteristics and tics but it's not enough to redeem her for me at the moment.

The scenes at the detention centre are some of the most entertaining whilst watching. Collingwood locks up Harry and civil liberties activist Ruby MacKenzie, and later pours petrol on them when his plans go awry. Ruby seems put in just to provide a bit more jeopardy, fulfilling the same kind of role as Tash in The Special, only to a much less significant extent. The aspect that the terrorists are prepared to kill a nice, sweet civilian right at the climax is common and Shaheen Khan even looks a bit like Martine McClutcheon. Harry really doesn't get an awful lot to do in this episode but Peter Firth is still excellent.

Jo is paired off with Rowan, the Prime Minister's son for the whole of the episode. It's at this point that Spooks fully diverges from reality. Up to now, the implication despite all the fictional politicians was that Spooks was set in the world of a Tony Blair-led Labour government. It occurs to me that Rowan is based on Blair's son Euan, who would have been around the same age when this went out. Anyway, recent graduate Jo is the obvious candidate to accompany him and together they get caught up in the police lockdown on the peaceful protest, at the conspirators' instruction. It's a shame to see her sidelined somewhat but next week looks promising for her.

All in all, I wasn't a huge fan of Gas and Oil and so far Spooks' two-parters aren't working that well for me. Omar Madha's direction is a bit nicer and the weird post-production effects have mostly disappeared. The new score from Paul Leonard-Morgan is agreeable and has a new energy about it. Ben Richards once again opts for style over substance with a very loud story that lacks much of the depth I'd like to see in the show. Rupert Penry-Jones is still an excellent leading man, but it strikes me some of the other members of the regular cast appear to be getting itchy feet. With the team swelling further still - and Colin's murder apparently forgotten - it looks set to be an interesting series, but this isn’t the most fantastic opener the show is capable of.

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