by Maria on November 23, 2006

After nine lovely Mondays spent anticipating the evening’s installment of Spooks, series 5, it’s all over. Monday is back to being plain old boring old Monday and Brussels seems even greyer than usual. Which isn’t to say this series was stellar. It was bigger and sexier, with more explosions and grander conspiracies. But the noisier Spooks gets, the less it seems to say. Spooks always had an eerie talent for anticipating world events – it started filming in the months before 9/11 – but fact is now so much stranger than fiction.

Two more of the few remaining characters from the first series have been dismissed. The only discernible character arc in the whole of series 5 was that of our hero, Adam, who spiralled further and further downward, with a quick stop off to bang his nanny. Actually, his story was a good one, and put the lie to most action-led tv series where characters bounce back from the deaths of loved ones within an episode or three. But the entry of a new female lead (Ros, played by Hermione Norris) flattened the entire series and crowded out two far more interesting and sympathetic characters, Zaf and Jo. Which is a pity, because Hermione Norris has the animation of a wooden cadaver. She’s no more credible doing hand to hand combat with Mossad agents than she is laying a glamorous honeytrap for a Saudi playboy.

The original strength of Spooks was the ordinariness of the spies and their struggles to reconcile their normal lives with the weird reality of their working world. Tom might have been an SAS-trained killer, but he had terrible taste in girlfriends and was never far from a nice cup of tea. The younger spies put their lives on the line every working day, but as junior civil servants they couldn’t really afford to live in London.

I know it’s dramatically useful for tv show characters to have no life outside of work, except for the occasional relative who can be placed in jeopardy. But it’s dull, dull, dull (not to mention deeply unquestioning of live-to-work capitalism). Life in the bubble suffocates the characters and makes them less believable. And that kills precisely what was so great about Spooks. Series five squeezed its characters into a smaller and less lifelike world, just as it inflated the scale of the threats a mere seven people face off. It’s now recycling stories – like the embassy hostages – from earlier series, but that only shows how much the Spooks has lost its own plot.

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The Devil’s Robot | Spooks
11.23.06 at 9:51 am



Harry 11.23.06 at 8:26 am

I agree with pretty much all of this; the worst thing about the latest series was the (mis)casting of Hermione Norris, who always looks like she’s smelt something unpleasant


Rob G 11.23.06 at 10:30 am

…Hermione Norris has the animation of a wooden cadaver

Oy, you’re messing with my crush on Carol Jordan (Wire In The Blood). Wotchit.


Alison 11.23.06 at 11:19 am

Spooks has been a blast. I liked the Hermione Norris character, though – ice cold and empty as she may be. Remember when she was looking after the Serbian war criminal:

‘These safe houses are so bleak and impersonal aren’t they?’
‘This is my home’
‘Nice place’

And then she ended up giving him … but no, that would be spoilers.


Maria 11.23.06 at 11:42 am

That was a stand out scene, in fairness. But surely the fun of having an icey character is to subject them to narrative forces that’ll melt them a bit.

The only thing that gets even a twitch out of her is nearly drowning. Seriously, Alison – would you have to be on the point of death to find Adam attractive…?


Alison 11.23.06 at 12:21 pm

No I don’t think that kind of slow reaction would be my problem.

I like her being so horrible – she’s a stone killer – like Daniel Craig’s Bond. But don’t get me started.


Maria 11.23.06 at 12:28 pm



Harry 11.23.06 at 4:31 pm

OK, so who’d win a fight between Ros and Adam? And who’s the prettier?


Maria 11.24.06 at 5:12 am

Yes, Adam is far prettier, and yes, he would win. As long as he wasn’t having a flashback.


BruceR 11.24.06 at 4:54 pm

“Two more of the few remaining characters from the first series have been dismissed…”

Colin and…?


maria 11.25.06 at 5:34 am

No spoilers here, brucer.

But if you visit the Spooks website I linked in the post, you’ll see a list of current and ‘retired’ characters.

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