Spooks series 9 episode 1 review

Spooks blasted back onto our screens this week. And here's our take on the series 9 opener...

This review contains spoilers.

After the explosive finale of the last season of Spooks. the team are once again down an agent and, while death isn’t a unknown thing with at least one member of the team being killed off per season, it was sad to see the hard as nails Ros finally bow out.

So, with Lucas, Harry, Ruth and the rest of the team trying to pick up the pieces, the new season kicks off with Ros’ funeral, a subdued and quiet ceremony led by Ruth, who states that Ros was “an enigma to the last”, which is true. As, apart from the ‘family’ (six people) at work, there is nobody else there.

However, things are not all doom and gloom. After the touching ceremony, Harry finally pops the question. Its been hinted at before in previous seasons that he and Ruth are in a relationship, and here, in the quiet countryside and calm setting, he finally (and, frankly, it’s taken nearly nine series for him to show any emotion) he asks for Ruth’s hand in marriage. (Here is my guess for the series: its probably Harry’s turn to pop his clogs at the end of this season.).

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Surprisingly, Ruth turns him down. And with a stiff upper lip thing, the emotions are gone and it’s straight back to business. As Ruth states, “Can’t go on…must go on.”

For those who remember last season, the main antagonists were a group called ‘Nightingale’, an organisation whose dealings with the spooks on UK soil as well as the Americans, Indians and Pakistanis, caused major headaches for the team.

This new world order, who seem to have connections at the very top, were very much elusive, operating from out of Basel in Austria, and working very deep undercover. Ruth’s continual digging and paper trail of who and what they are led to a very interesting find, as the former home secretary, and one of Harry’s closest allies (who was smeared and forced to resign last season) is found to be in the ‘inner circle’ of Nightingale.

With a quick visit to his friend, who really was the one who passed on the order to set up and explode the bomb that took Ros, Harry plays his usual calm, collected self, probing for information (nobody does interrogation or quiet bad-assery better. Take note, Jack Bauer) and getting a little bit of revenge. Let’s just say that, by the end of the scene, I would never share a drink with Harry.

There are, of course, bigger questions within questions and the tense meeting really leads us into the crux for this season: who Nightingale are and the fact they will change things.

While the more action-orientated members of the team are tracking down the bad guys, the events move to Morocco, as the team’s new objective is to track and take out a terrorist called Habib. We are also introduced to a new home secretary. And with a few digs at the old government, the expenses scandal, and the coalition government, the little bit of satire doesn’t go unnoticed. Still, while the mood is light, the reason for the meeting with the new regime is clear. Harry wants to resign.

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So, with Ros (and Hermione Norris) out of the picture, the team are in the need of a replacement, which comes in the shape of former Doctor Who: The Girl In The Fireplace star, Sophia Myles.

Leaving Morocco, Lucas continues his tracking of the suspect on a cargo ship with an order for a takeout (ie an assassination) which has to happen in international waters, while Sophia’s character, Beth, is taken on board the cargo ship under the pretence of prostitution.

Aided by a potential ‘Star Trek redshirt’, agent Dimitri, posing as the ship’s captain, Lucas’ job seems pretty easy. However, on board things don’t go to plan when the ship is taken over by pirates, who, it turns out, are terrorists working for Habib.

Although a bit silly (Morocco isn’t really Somalia and a little too close to holiday destinations for things like this to actually happen), the situation does allow Lucas to play the action hero and for our new ‘Security Contractor’, Beth Bailey, to show her true colours and become the new hard as nails femme fatale to replace Ros.

Admittedly, the whole affair is a bit contrived and shoehorned in to get Beth on board with the team, but the whole Die Hard on a boat makes for good action telly.

While the action is fun and the introduction of the new leading lady is required, things still seem a little flat, though. We don’t get to know a lot about Beth, but she seems fun, and competent at the whole cool and collective ice maiden routine.

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While the pirate terrorists intend to explode the ship, which is being turned into a floating bomb, the countdown begins, with Lucas and Beth moving around the ship to take down as many terrorists before the Navy arrives. (Again, a bit pointless when Harry knows what’s going on and has told the Navy to get a warship to the location of the ship. But, as I mentioned, the set-up is really just a showcase for Beth.)

With everything tied up nicely, the terrorists (who really didn’t prove much of a threat) once again beaten, and our new Grid operative active, this episode get through a lot and is a solid mix of subtle moments that move the larger story arcs forward, mixed with fun-packed action. Each Grid agent gets their moment and, once again, Harry proves that he is the meanest, most heartless player in the game.

Overall, a fine first episode filled with cracking stuff and, while it’s sad to see the team without Ros (as it was with Jo and Adam last season), the show continues to up the action, brings in some fun characters and keeps the whole conspiracy elements from last season bubbling under. Great stuff.