22 October 2015

Spooks 5.5: The Message


Crikey, I didn't see this one coming! In her debut episode for the series, Zinnie Harris delivers Ruth a solid exit story, but it's a shame that it had to come to this. This is another example of things escalating out of Harry's control thanks to internal politics and it's not a pretty sight. After three series, Nicola Walker has decided to call it a day (for now) and all the stops have been pulled out.

Ruth starts what turns out to be her last investigation at a tube station when a stranger asks her for change for a ten pound note. She can't find enough change and chases him to the platform to try and give him the rest. Right in front of her, he jumps into the path of an oncoming train.
Straight away, Ruth is sure there's something else going on, and she's right.

It turns out the man was Mik Maudsley, the head of South East Prisons. A few weeks ago there was a fire at one such establishment called Cotterdam, and seven terrorists were thought to have been killed in the blaze. In fact, they were taken to Egypt to be tortured, thanks to the information that an attack on British soil was imminent. The official report on Cotterdam from Special Branch rules that it was an accident and the men died. Maudsley knew there was corruption within the system and wanted to get a message to Harry indirectly. In choosing Ruth, he sealed her fate.

Convinced that the tenner was some kind of clue, Ruth visits Maudsley's house and finds the clue she thinks she's been looking for. After picking up a blank DVD from a street florist, Ruth is arrested for the murder of the man thought to have been paying Maudsley to keep quiet. The theory goes that she and Maudsley were working together, supported by the fact Ros finds the gun used to kill the third party at Maudsley's house after Ruth's visit.

Oliver Mace reappears, as the chief executioner, so to speak, of Ms Evershed. Adam and Ros manage to smuggle Ruth out of her house arrest and together they find what it was Maudsley hid for them - a microfilm document. It's another No Eyes file, which details the truth of the Cottersdam incident. But on that file is an MI5 agent, codenamed Fox, who is supposedly guilty. First Harry covers for Ruth, saying he was responsible for the murder, then Ruth covers for him by claiming she is Fox. Ruth needs an exit strategy and the last we see, she's getting a boat down the Thames whilst officially she lies drowned in the morgue.

It's quite a high-concept episode and is filled with twists and turns. It's a confident introduction for Zinnie Harris, who I believe better known as a writer for the stage than the screen. It's also staggering that we've got to this point and Harris is actually the first female writer Spooks has ever had. I hadn't really noticed it until now, but it is nice to see them mixing things up. This starts off quite simple and sedate but over the course of the episode becomes increasingly detached from reality. It's quite an interesting one and it's appropriate Ruth should go out on such a thoughtful episode, but the descent into less credible storytelling marrs this somewhat.

In his last contribution to the series, Kenny Glenaan shows the same kind of professionalism we saw in World Trade. He really does like his steadicam and the moving shots look gorgeous and smooth as a result. He seems to have paid for some new B roll of Thames House too, which is always appreciated. There's lots of nice little bits here, so it's a shame he's not destined to work on the series again.

All in all, this is a good send-off for both Ruth and Nicola Walker. The character has risen in my estimation over the last three series to the point where now I'm sorry for her to go. I'm guessing she'll be back some time around series eight or nine, which seems a very long way away at the moment. Walker is obviously a great actress and Ruth has been an integral part of the team. How they'll cope without her remains to be seen. MI5's desk staff are dropping like flies; if I were Malcolm I'd be getting a bit twitchy. It'll be interesting to see how soon Ruth's vacancy is filled as the overlap has been pretty good recently. Anyway, a thoughtful episode with many layers that is a joy to sit back and let wash over you.

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