Life is full of little coincidences.
As an example, I started watching the BBC spy drama Spooks in late February when I signed up to Amazon Prime, and as fate would have it, I finished off the last episode of the final season yesterday, one day before the Spooks movie, Spooks: The Greater Good – which I only found out existed last week – was released in cinemas.
This has put me in a possibly unique position of seeing the movie at the tail end of one continuous run of episodes without a break.
And I’ll get to what I thought about that movie in my next article, but for now I thought I’d share my thoughts on the TV show, and whether you should watch it, or indeed whether my opinions reflect those of you who have already seen it.
TV – Spooks Review: What’s It About?
Running from May 2002 to October 2011, Spooks is a show about the MI:5 branch of the UK’s Secret Service. In each episode the cast must thwart potential attacks on British soil from enemies at home and abroad.
My Thoughts – The Highs and The Lows
Over its 86 episodes, Spooks was a show of peaks and troughs, both in terms of episode quality and characterisation.
Now you might think that’s an obvious thing to say, especially considering Spooks really had only two main plots – stop a terror event in Central London or prevent a political figure from being assassinated – but there were definitely some seasons that were better than others.
The high points for me were Seasons 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. They offered either the most diversity, the best guest cast (without question the most well-known guest actors appeared in the show’s early days) and the best season long story arcs.
The worst were Season 3 – a season so bogged down by the geopolitical landscape of the time that I almost gave up on it, with pretty much every episode being about Muslim Extremism – and the last two.
Why the last two? Well it’s not that the storylines were bad – although in Season 10’s case it certainly wasn’t great – but rather that the show had become tired and had worn itself out trying to replicate the shock value that made it famous in the first place.
Explosive Cast Changes – A Case Of Diminishing Marginal Returns
I’m sure that even if they didn’t watch it at the time – like me – most Brits who were adults back in 2002 were aware of the events of the second episode; the events that put Spooks on the map.
In that episode, Lisa Faulkner’s character Helen – who the public no doubt thought was going to become a focal point of the show due to the actress’s celebrity – was killed off in the most brutal fashion imaginable. In an undercover operation gone wrong, she had her face plunged into boiling chip fat and was quickly put out of her misery with a bullet to the head. People at the time were shocked by it, and they still talk about it to this day.
That death had the maximum shock value.
But from the third season onwards, the deaths and sudden cast departures kept coming at pace. Sometimes they’d even bring in a character’s obvious replacement before they actually killed them off. It became a bit tiresome.
By the time Season 9 made way for Season 10, it almost turned into parody, with characters being killed off for the sake of it.
The emotional impact of character deaths and departure became less and less to the point where it wasn’t just lost, but replaced with annoyance and even contempt for the laziness of it all.
By Season 10 there were only two characters left that you could care about, and they killed one of them off too, just for good measure.
Because of that lack of emotional investment by the end, I didn’t feel particularly sad to have finished it.
And that’s frustrating.
Spooks is a good show that’s held back by the repetitiveness of certain plots and the over-reliance on shock cast changes.
From the point of view of a binge viewer – which anyone who hasn’t seen it will ultimately become if they do give it a go – it did have the ‘I have to watch one more episode before I go to bed’ feel about it, but only sometimes.
And not enough times for me to feel sad to have finished watching.
So overall, I’d recommend you try it, but bear in mind that it has flaws that prevent it from being a truly great TV show.
You can read my review of the movie – Spooks: The Greater Good – here
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