Spooks series 9 episode 5 review

It’s a trip to the Middle East this week, as peace talks go rather badly and someone tries for a gold medal in sharpshooting...

This review contains spoilers if you haven’t yet seen the episode.

Remember the New World Order plot, Nightingale and such? Well, guess what? It’s not mentioned again this week. (Please, Spookie writers, resolve this, thanks.) Instead, when the Home Secretary stops fiddling with his app, this week’s episode moves to the Middle East as ‘Lighthouse’, the codename for a covert operator, attempts to bring peace to the region.

Setting up a secret meeting, ‘Operation Horizon’ is a potential top secret, highly delicate set of piece talks between the warring sides of the Arab/Israel conflict with Lighthouse being the negotiator between the two sides. 

Kicking things off, we are introduced to Dana Morrison, an investigative reporter who seems to have inside knowledge of what’s going on with the secret talks. How she gets the information is only hinted at (as it would give away who the real baddie is). However, Ruth’s intervention handles the question of what goes public and what should remain secret, and her slow but sure, reassuring way of handing things shows that its not all guns, running and kicking ass that gets a job done.

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The ramifications of the journalist not going to the press has major links to the deeper plot of who is actually playing who, and which side will take control of the situation.

Harry has an old attachment with the Israel side of the talks and is old friends with Levi Cohen and his daughter, another member of the peace talks with some very large daddy issues. Which verges on hatred as you see her animosity toward her father is due to the fact that ten years ago, when she was kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned by the opposition, her father did not rescue her, as this would have caused a massive international incident.

While Levi and his daughter’s relationship is, to say the least, a bit frosty, and the talks between the two sides make for a tense situation, things get a lot worse when interference and potential trouble comes out of Lebanon. A terrorist is on the loose in London looking to stop the talks and a ‘Priority One’ alert is called to hunt down and find this would-be assassin.

While Dimitri’s working to protect the Israel side and Beth’s protecting the Palestinian ambassador, Lucas has his ass handed to him by this would-be assassin (or is he?). But the real questions are who sent the assassin and why, and who is really working for whom?

It would be easy to give the game away, but the entire plot hangs on who has betrayed who and who is actually working for which side and, actually, when it comes down to it, who the actual bad guy is.

By half way, I thought there would be a problem and, personally, I was tempted to switch off. It’s been mentioned that recently there have been a few major plot holes in Spooks and I thought this was a biggie. Lucas’ intervention with the would-be assassin gains the team a booby trapped laptop. But, hold on a minute. The assassin won the fight, letting Lucas live but not bothering to collect the thing he stole from him. If, like me, you think that’s just lazy writing, please give things a chance (both myself and my wife were bemoaning the events on the telly by this point), as, surprisingly, things get a lot better and a lot darker (especially for Beth).

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It’s twisty, it’s turning and, well, surprisingly, all out tense as the assassination attempt is a bigger problem than first thought. The ‘hit’ is actually a much bigger target (the true target is really obvious) and the talks themselves might not actually be the main objective.

With the tension rising, the Israelis put out a Black Flag situation, meaning that all potential suspects the secret service have under surveillance will be rounded up and, while this would be bad enough, having it happen in London makes Harry very worried, indeed.

The laptop, the booby trap, the assassin, Lucas getting a clip around the ear and the mistaken identity elements are all interwoven perfectly. The game of who is playing who unravels as the real assassin is found, and we find that there is a Syrian sniper on the loose with an eye on the world record for shooting.

Taking inspiration from the Commonwealth Games, the sniper’s out for gold. Just a shame it’s in assassination attempts on the biggest target on the planet (no, not Simon Cowell) and, while the leader of the free world is never really in trouble, and while the attempt is like something from Wanted, it makes for good telly and there is a little payback from Lucas for getting his bum handed to him in a usual rooftop finale.

But who really is playing who? Is the bullet-bending assassin’s jobs a diversion? Well, he did smile as he shuffles off his mortal coil,  but to tell you about the explosive (and actually very clever) finale would spoil the well set up revenge plot and spoil the first time that Dimitri has saved the day. (Well done, him.)

For all its tense situation, race against time and fast-paced action, this episode was essentially a filler. Admittedly, a good one but, as with a lot of the episodes this season, there is very little that moves the overall arc of the series forward. That is, of course, apart from a very nice cliffhanger at the end, which has absolutely nothing to do with the plot this week.

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It seems this is the feeling for the entire series so far. To me, the series has lost its spark. The over-arcing plot with Vaughn is fine, but maybe it’s the new additions to the cast, a new writing team or lack of focus, but even with episodes like this, with a week-by-week threat, there are only three more episodes left in the series and things really do need to chivvy along as things seem to be hitting more bum notes than good so far, and the tune of the series is falling flat.

Read our review of episode 4 here.