It was probably inevitable that Spooks wasn’t quite going to live up to my expectations this week.
I was massively excited about it coming back, and that’s a lot of anticipation for a single hour of anything to live up to. So maybe it wasn’t the show’s fault, maybe it was mine, but, despite a funeral, a proposal, a refusal and an assassination all taking place even before the opening credits, a lot of this season opener seemed strangely sluggish and un-Spooks-like to me.
Harry and Ruth’s chaste “turn around the grounds” could have come straight out of a period drama, with their conversation being the stuff of fan fiction rather than anything he would actually say, and generally, throughout the episode, his self-pity just didn’t sound like Harry at all. Even spies have bad days, I’m sure, and Harry’s had more bad days than most, but his reactions just seemed a little off. Still, I guess losing Ros will do that to you. And, in fairness, his scenes with the Home Secretaries, old and new, were brilliant.
I wasn’t completely enamoured of the plot either. It was fine, really – Al Qaeda operatives, grave danger to national security, a floating ship of bombs etc – but it didn’t set my senses alight in the way Spooks can do when it’s at its best. The last ten minutes were the best, when the action and suspense suddenly jumped up several gears and I suddenly thought, “this is it, this is what I was waiting for. ” And it was, even if it was a little while coming.
But if this episode was a little downbeat, so perhaps is this review, and it shouldn’t be. Because despite Harry having an off day, and the plot taking its time to get going, the best thing about this episode was the rest of the characters.
The new ones especially worked tremendously well. Replacing Ros would be an impossible feat, but I really like Sophia Myles’ Beth Bailey; she’s sparky, clever, and fun, and she has bucketloads of chemistry with Lucas – something sorely missing from his relationship with last year’s appalling Sarah. And I’m not going to forget Adam, but Max Brown’s Dimitri seems capable, brave and, oh yeah, incredibly good-looking. Result!
Of course, the great new characters are welcome and exciting, but it’s the old ones I tuned in for. Harry and Ruth seemed back to their normal levels of stoic awesomeness by the end of the episode, thankfully, but Lucas rocked it all the way through. I did do a little “Should this not be Strike Back?” double-take when I saw lovely Richard Armitage running about on a ship off the coast of Morocco in very John-Porter-like khaki and a very John-Porter-like storyline, but I’ll happily watch lovely Richard Armitage running about anywhere in anything so no complaints there. He was fast, handsome and heroic as ever, and I’m hugely looking forward to him sparking off Myles and Brown, and duelling with Iain Glen’s mysterious Vaughan. So yes, this wasn’t my favourite first episode, but the rest of season 9 is still looking pretty darn good.