Monday, November 19, 2007

today : not quite so Spooky

That is the last time you punch me in the face

I want to be a spy. Obviously I possess almost none of the qualities required.For instance I am habitually indiscreet, not especially brave or devious and terminally bad at office politics. I also didn't go to the correct university.

But the reason I want to be a spy is because it's cool. Or was.

Because watching the recent season of Spooks, there seems to be something missing.

Of course Spooks has been on a downhill slope ever since the high point of Lisa Faulkner having her head fried in boiling chip fat. And that was in Season One episode 2.

But over time, enough characters have been killed off that somehow the show has lost its balance. In the first two seasons Zoe and Danny gave the show some heart. When they went the heart was provided by insecure mother hen Ruth and by Adam and Fiona's juggling of marriage and the amorality of an espionage career. But now that has gone.

As far as I understand, David Wolstencraft envisioned it as a behind the scenes drama, exploring the difficulty of being a spy and also a real person. And for much of the first four seasons it managed this. Whether it was Tom putting that woman out of the BT ads into peril or the dangers of his pillow talk with a CIA woman, Danny having to assassinate someone for the first time whilst pining over Zoe, Zoe herself juggling photographer boyfriend, infatuated flatmate and Mata Hari work duties, or Harry and Ruth doing a kind of remains of the day thing, it kind of worked. The missions were always counterbalanced by the personal.

But gradually the spy stuff has taken over and the plots pared down and made more brutal. The heart has gradually drained away. The final drops evaporated with Ruth's bizarre banishing to Venzuela. The female spooks are now the underused cipher Jo (who only seems to exist these days to get punched in the face) and the ice cold Ros, who brings a positive lack of heart to the team. And now Zaf has been 'kidnapped' there is yet another hole in the team, which means pretty much everything focuses on Adam, who has mysteriously got over the death of his wife and his dalliance with the nanny and moved on to more dangerous territory.

Other quite radical changes have happened in the latest season. The entire thing has a continuing storyline, which features much more LeCarre style intrigue and high level politicking than before. I can see what the producers are trying to do. There are only so many race against time scenarios that can be played out until it gets overly repetitious. But it hasn't really worked. Spooks only grips when the pace is quick and the new long-form construction is too slow. Also, they changed the music. There used to be two or three different pieces that signified preparation action and emotion. But they've gone too, contributing to the loss of Spooksness in the new season.

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