Debrief:Spooks Series 6

Starring: Rupert Penry-Jones, Hermione Norris, Peter Firth, Razar Jaffrey, Miranda Raison, Hugh Simon, Gemma Jones, Tim McInnerny and Anna Chancellor

A new series and a radical new direction for MI5’s prettiest field operatives. Spooks has been criticised in the past for veering wildly from Le Carre-esque tradecraft into 24-style action without managing to connect the two elements but now, as series six opens, it seems like they’ve found a very different, very effective way of marrying the two.


The series starts off simply enough with Zaf (Jaffrey) undercover in Iran monitoring terrorist activity, Adam (Jones) conducting a work-ordered affair with the wife of the Iranian ambassador (And, it seems, a non-work-ordered affair with Ros) and the team preparing to eliminate an Iranian bomb maker on his way to London.

Then, in short order, all hell breaks loose. What starts out as a simple failure in intelligence snowballs until a chemical weapon has been released over Tehran, the man they were sent to kill attempts to defect and a deadly virus is released onto the streets of London, with both Zaf and Adam amongst the infectees. For almost the first time, the situation ISN’T neatly resolved in forty five minutes and by the end of the first episode, you’re left with more questions than answers.

The result is electrifying. As the series progresses, it’s becoming clear that three threads are going to be common elements throughout. The growing difficulty with Iran, to say nothing of the weapon release, the apparent death of Zaf and a mysterious figure pulling the strings, known only as ‘Copenhagen’ are all introduced in these two episodes and all are left consciously unresolved. It’s a brave move, especially the Zaf story but it only heightens the ambiguity that the series has always thrived on. For the first time, there’s a real sense that Harry and his team are off balance, on the back foot and this culminates in an operation in the second episode that not only ensures they and England will be pariahs in the intelligence community for years to come but leads to one of the series’ best ever action sequences, as a critically ill Adam makes a run for the nearest hospital whilst behind him, Jo is staring down the barrel of a Russian secret agent’s gun.

The cast seem to be relishing the new found focus, with Penry-Jones in particular on top form as Adam and Norris and Raison doing excellent work as agents who are experts first and women quite definitively second. There are no double standards here, everyone is in just as much as trouble, just as much danger as everyone else and again, that only heightens the tension. The addition of Connie James, an old colleague of Harry’s (Played by Gemma Jones) only improves matters, as does the repositioning of Harry himself. Firth has more screen time in these two episodes than ever before and the series seems to be focussing more on him as a central character. It’s a fantastic choice as Firth is more than up to the task and Harry, the battered, somehow still idealistic Cold War veteran is amongst it’s most interesting characters.

Fast paced, surprising and epic in scope there’s a case for these being the strongest episodes of Spooks to date, If the season can continue this level of quality, then we’re in for something very special. Highly recommended.

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  • ALASDAIR STUARTAlasdair started writing when he was nine, powered by a hefty diet of '80s cartoons, Doctor Who and Icepops. He's quite tired by this stage but has written a lot of things for a lot of people, including Fortean Times, Neo and Surreal.