24 October 2015

Spooks 5.7: Hostage Takers (Part Two)

This really has been a game - or rather, a story - of two halves. Whereas the first part of Hostage Takers dealt with setup and moved all of the players into position, the second concerns itself for the most part with the fallout of the events of the first.

It turns out the terrorists behind these attacks aren't linked to Al Qaeda at all, they are just Israeli patriots. Holding lots of prominent Saudi Arabian officials as hostages, they demand that 387 specially-chosen prisoners are released. For every hour that they are not, they will shoot one of their prisoners. The reason they want these people released is so that a terror network can be established and Saudi Arabia will blow itself to bits. In this way, any interested parties will be forced to pull out of any deals concerning the country and nuclear technology. It is likely Israel would secure it instead.

It's a refreshingly straightforward aim but like all the best writers, Raymond Khoury has given his villains considerable intelligence. This is a very clever scheme to bring down their opponents, with the blame able to be lodged firmly at the door of Al Qaeda, and he also shows that they can think on their feet. The bomb plot of the first episode wasn't part of the original plan at all. Indeed, the suicide bombers weren't armed with explosives at all, just putty. The entire thing was designed as a way of distracting attention away from what they were really up to at the trade reception after they were caught at the port. Khoury's firm grip on character and motivation makes this not only an entertaining story but a quality one, and certainly one which played on my mind long after it was over.

Ros is of course caught in the midst of the seige. She doesn't play a considerable part in proceedings after being returned to the main room where the hostages are being held, her earring lost, but in story terms it is necessary to have somebody on the inside, at least to try and reason with the terrorists after being exposed. I know it sounds silly, but it's really nice to see Khoury continuing the character traits through from the first part. All too often, circumstances will arise for plot reasons only, and are soon forgotten about. The prince's allegiances are explored further in this, but then when he gives Ros away when she's trying to communicate with Jo, we learn the truth of the terrorists' identity, as they shoot him.

Khoury has also planted the seed of a mole within MI5 though, which he allows to flower here. It's good because although nothing is really happening in either half of the story - the Israelis are waiting for news of the prisoners' release, MI5 are waiting for them to give in - it keeps the momentum up. Neil is apparently an old friend of Adam's, and has long held pro-Israeli allegiances. His wife was from the country, and killed by a bomb on a bus whilst pregnant with their first child. Unless I missed it, it's not made clear who blew up the bus, but the implication is it was due to a British or American military attack. Adam says when they used to debate the Middle East he would never give an answer as to who he would fight for if the UK and Israel went to war. He gives his answer loud and clear here. Not only does he betray the security services and their trust in him, he murders Ruth's replacement Sally and then kills himself without offering any useful information to help save lives. The f-word isn't used all that much in Spooks (from memory the first occasion was in series two episode Strike Force) but I think Adam's use of it here was entirely justified.

As I say, this story doesn't give our regulars all that much to actually do. There's a really good set piece towards the end where Adam tracks down the Israelis' ring leader, but that is really about it. Despite this, it feels like everyone gets a lot to do. Even Jo, who's barely in the show these days - a tragedy in my humble opinion - is well served here. I completely understand the logic behind using Ros instead of her, because why wouldn't you in reality if you had both assets at your disposal, but I think my problem is in the fact that Ros was introduced at all. I know she's supposed to be the cold, straight-talking bitchy one, but her arrival just when Jo was gaining prominence is a shame. Hopefully Jo will outlast Ros and get to go on some high-profile missions. Miranda Raison is completely capable and it seems a waste of her talent to have her stuck behind a desk most of the time.

So in summary this is easily the strongest double-episode yet. It's great to see Juliet Shaw back, and nice to see that her disabling wasn't an excuse to write her out of the show. Andy Hay once again directs with panache. All the scenes in the basement simply drip with atmosphere and during the scenes when Ros was being hunted I actually felt really tense, and I think I held my breath unwittingly. It's a rare occasion that does that to me, especially on Spooks. This story has been an impressive synthesis of talent and I look forward to seeing where the series goes from here.

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