TV Review: Spooks, BBC One, Tuesday 28 October, 9pm


Eight hours have passed since Adam’s death and each of the Spooks team is trying to come to terms with it in his or her own way. Being Spooks this means that none of them are sleeping, and a fair number of them are smashing things up. In the special case of Harry Pearce, his need to destroy is very focussed. He wants to “take the Russian operation in Britain, shoot it the through the heart and watch it bleed to death.” He wants revenge. He sets off to ask his minister Richard Dolby for permission to target Kachimov directly.

He is, of course, refused permission. And, equally naturally, he ignores his boss. At least no-one said “this time it’s personal.” Spooks’ dialogue never drops into the realms of trite, or hyperbole, or parody. Each phrase is like a diamond. Tight, bright and sparkling. And able to cut deep.

Lucas is invited onto the Grid to brief them about Kachimov, but not before he contacts Kachimov himself and lets him know what’s going on. Kachimov is not best pleased: “Your standing orders are never to make direct contact with me.” Lucas figures he can get away with it using a one-use phone, and although it looks as though our suspicions about him were correct, we all know it’s never going to be that simple.

However Malcolm is not quite convinced by Lucas, and reserves judgement, hiding his research into the signal anomaly when Lucas arrives with doughnuts. Harry is not ready to trust him either. Eight years of chats with Arkady is a long time to maintain your loyalty to Queen and country, with little emotional sustenance.

Malcolm tries to explain the anomaly on the frequencies that GCHQ have discovered. “Am I going to understand the next bit?” asks Harry. These little throw-away gems are another part of what makes Spooks so entertaining. Even in the midst of crisis the dry wit never dries up completely. It just gets drier. The anomaly is a comms burst from an unidentified submarine in British waters.

Alexander Beletsky is targeted as someone who will know what Kachimov is doing. Jo and Ben visit his house posing as police, tie up his wife, steal a hidden painting from his private collection. This is a severe embarrassment for Beletsky, since he had the painting stolen from the Russian people. Even so it takes Ros’ firm grip on his other private collection before he admits the Russians have received a coded damage report relayed to an FSB safe house from the sub. It was damaged in a collision that resulted in the sinking of a trawler. Beletsky has been ordered to shut down his company’s computer service at 3.58pm.

That’s enough for Section D to work out the Russians are planning to tap a fibre optic cable and bring the UK’s computer network down. A cyber attack of massive proportions. Harry asks the government to shut down the Internet to protect the country, but his credibility is low and they think the cure is worse than the malady. Our heroes are left with no alternative but to stop the attack.

Lucas receives a package and goes to Highgate Cemetery where he meets his handler. It’s his ex-wife, Elizabeta. He never told her he was a spook, and now she loves Mother Russia more than him. She asks him whether he knows about the sub, but he’s not yet been debriefed, is not really trusted, and therefore doesn’t have access to that info.

Malcolm could deliver a “zero day” attack on the sub and knock out their computers, but he’d need to know which of the hundreds of submarine cables they were planning to attack, and then there’s the small matter of the sub’s remote access protocols. Section D decide they must use Lucas to get the information. He’s the only one who can get close to Kachimov. Meanwhile Lucas is using his mental training to replay the doughnut scene with himself and Malcolm. He visualises the computer screen and writes down the contents.

Ros pays Lucas’s flat a visit, but he has strategically positioned everything in the flat to warn of a search. Luckily they have a local mole in the building in the shape of the nice old lady. Also luckily he’d written the results of his mindgames very heavily on a pad, which Ros uncovers with the old soft pencil trick.

Lucas meets with Elizabeta again to hand over his notes. She convinces him MI5 are not interested in him – they never came for him. As she walks away, Ros appears, tasers him and drags him back to the Grid. “I’m glad you didn’t waste those years trying to memorise convincing excuses,” Harry drawls laconically. Laconically is the only way to drawl, I find. Lucas plays the double double agent card. He only did it to get home, but didn’t mention it during their cab journey. If he had officially admitted it he knew he would have been locked up. Harry is just slightly incredulous: “You passed on deeply sensitive information to the head of the FSB in London in order to bring him down.”

But Lucas is convincing. He knows it’s a test. Kachimov needs an asset. “If you’re lying to me,” Harry murmurs, “you won’t get so much as a funeral.”

Lucas goes off to get the sub’s remote access protocols from Arkady by presenting him with photographic “evidence” that Arkady is an MI5 mole in the embassy. “What delicious irony,” he smiles, “you are trying to turn me.”

With eight minutes to go, Lucas is still following Arkady to his office as the sub approaches the chosen cable. The tension mounts and the nation slides to the edge of their seats. Well, I did anyway. And then Lucas sends Ben a text message to tell him to phone a fake bomb threat to the embassy. Hang on, a text message? That’s a bit unpredictable isn’t it? I’ve had texts that weren’t delivered until the next day.

So in the confusion, with the embassy staff evacuating, Lucas retrieves the data and burns it to a CD. Hang on, a CD? That takes ages. They have less than eight minutes. Wouldn’t he have used a pen drive?

No time to wonder much about that though. Malcolm has isolated the cable that’s being attacked – ARD392 – and begins his zero day attack, breaching firewalls on the sub as the Russians make their connection to the cable. Brilliant last second stuff, and it is literally at the last second that the sub’s computers suffer electronic apoplexy and the attack is averted.

Jo, whose role this week has been to sit in the background and ask pointed questions, asks a pointed question: What happens to Kachimov? The punishment (of being turned) doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Adam’s dead and Kachimov is responsible

Lucas goes to his wife’s place. Used to be his place. It’s changed, and she has remarried. He tells her about Kachimov. She tells him she was turned on the promise of getting Lucas home, away from the torture that they had showed her photographs of. “I’m MI5,” he tells her, before offering her a job. She is stunned by seeing a side of him she never knew existed. “Were you always this cold?” she asks him. “Under the skin?”

Kachimov meets with Harry and “Rangefinder.” “I ordered your execution,” he quips to Ros, and to Harry, he is Slavic graciousness personified: “I bow to the better player.” But his callous words about replaceable resources cut through Harry’s professionalism. He shoots. Kachimov dies (we assume).

Once again the pace didn’t let up from start to finish, the whole thing looked awesome, the acting was pitch perfect (Richard Armitage looks and sounds like he’s been here all along, already, and having only seen him briefly in Robin Hood I’ve been quite astonished by how good he is in this) and the dialogue, as I’ve already mentioned, is crisp and sweet like a good apple. With the small exception of the texting and the CD writing the plotting was as tight as a tight thing too. This series is already shaping up to be a classic. I’m only glad we will now be returning to the norm of one episode per week, otherwise it would be over all too soon!

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