Spooks series 9 episode 6 review

It's cyber warfare this week as the techies of the Spooks team have time to shine. And there's bonus Colin Salmon, too...

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

Hurray for Colin Salmon, as not getting to be James Bond has meant he can play loads of special ops bad-asses and bring his own brand of cool sophistication and wry humour to loads of different films and telly shows. And thankfully for us he, is here in this weeks Spooks as a US special envoy, Mr Beecher, stating that here in the UK we have caused numerous problems with the war in Afghanistan due to our old fashioned and out of date computer security systems.

With one line (I won’t spoil it) he sums up the previous government’s standing with the US and, while the comment is off the cuff, the situation is deadly serious, as classified footage (probably taken from Wikileaks) shows a US aircraft bombing its own base due to software errors.

A smack on the wrist is what is needed, with our IT being 15 years out of date, which is not only insulting (Lotus Notes works just fine) but it gets Tariq’s back up no end. It even goes as far as having him throw a hissy fit when the Grid is inundated with US-based IT specialists, all trying to update the system with a new system called Cybershell.

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It’s up to Ruth to calm our usual IT worker down, but the typically laid back techie is onto something, as there seems to be a lot more going on than just a software upgrade.

Not only is there trouble in-house at the Grid HQ, but Lucas is also in a spot of bother as Vaughn ups the ante of their little game. Vaughn is playing the system, and that little errand that Lucas performed for him last week comes back to haunt him as we find Vaughn is working for the same employers as the bespectacled bad guys who are trying to tap into cyber security of the Grid.

For the first time this series everything seems to be tying together. We start getting answers, and the reasoning behind the more episodic nature of the series is revealed a bit as the overall plan of the ‘big bad’ begins to take shape

While Lucas is being played by Vaughn, his mission this week is to protect Danielle Ortiz, a US IT specialist cryptographer who has created the encryption for Cybershell. But before he does that, he has to have a little meeting with Vaughn, who, as we found out last week, has a bigger involvement in Lucas/John’s life than we thought.

Blackmail and leverage, then. How do you get somebody to do something if they have no past, no family and no ties? Well, that’s how Vaughn operates. He’s a right crafty bugger who now has the Albany file bit, which is only the first part of a sequence of clues that his employer wants from the Grid system

Knowing that the Grid is compromised in its IT, Harry instigates a ‘Blue 1 Emergency’ on an unknown cyber attacker. All British and American systems will be compromised and Cybershell will be in place, with the hacker having full access to every secret both the US and UK have.

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It seems, however, that Ms Ortiz is not the cleancut operative that the US were making out she was, as en route she shares prison stories with Lucas and states the reason why she is in the position she is in is that she hacked the Pentagon.

With all Grid operations monitored, the team set up a sting operation to catch the hackers. But even with the team’s best secret squirrel tactics, there is still room for human error. Does Harry make mistakes? Well, when Lucas turns to an old friend for help, shall we say that somebody who we haven’t seen for a few series is once again dragged into the Grid, as the rest of the team are in lockdown?

Having somebody on the outside is both a help and hindrance, as the person they turn to could help the lockdown Grid team. But is Lucas playing on the side of the angels, as not only is Albany at stake but also the US and UK intelligence, and after his meeting with (okay, it’s Malcolm), Danielle cracks it that Lucas might not be telling everyone the whole truth..

Second chances are the order of the day as Danielle sees the position Lucas is in. With the Grid under attack and mixed messages coming out from the hackers and the Grid itself, it’s an explosive finale that allows the Grid team to escape, thanks to Dimitri, and for Lucas to finally show off why he could be the next James Bond. And while the actual escape from the Grid is a bit rushed and underwritten, Harry’s retribution on the hacker is swift and brutal.

Finally, for those of you (like myself) who were worried that this season was a bit disjointed with no real ‘big bad’ or overall arc, well, prepare to be proven wrong. Not only is Vaughn playing games with Lucas and the Grid, but his bosses are also a major threat, and have ties to all the episodes so far, as we see that Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern operatives makeup the hacking contingent and are being played by an even bigger threat (Nightingale?).

For those (unlike me) who didn’t join the dots throughout the series so far, the payoff is ‘Ah, so that’s who that is’. But for those of you who actually paid attention, the care and subtle hints have been there from the start.

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So, kudos for the guys involved in the writing. It had me off the real trail for nearly six episodes and all the little cliffhangers about real targets and the real story make sense. Its also nice to see Malcolm is back in the game and back doing what he does best and the best finale for a while. Can Lucas be trusted and does Harry know and who will pay the price? Bring on next week!

Read our review of episode 5 here.