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TV Review: Spooks, BBC One, Monday 8 December, 9pm

By mofgimmers on December 9th, 2008 2 comments

spooks_s07e08.jpgNeil Cross knows a thing or two about ratcheting up the tension, and in the finale of the seventh series of Spooks he used both of them. And then, from somewhere, he found a third thing. And a fourth. After 20 years building Sugarhorse and infiltrating the FSB to the highest levels, Harry and the team discover that the Russians have been at it too. Only their project – codenamed Tiresias – has been going for 25 years. “Trust no-one” has never been truer.


The Tiresias sleepers are designed for one purpose. Wait until they’re activated and then cripple the UK. But Section D don’t know who they are, where they are, or what they will do to achieve that aim. They know of only one person who does: Connie. Traitorous, turncoat Connie who is presently awaiting “processing” (i.e. extended interrogation to find out everything she knows).

If you could find any pity for her, you’d think it sad that, now her identity is revealed, the FSB are no more keen on keeping her alive than MI5 are. They dispatch a team to take her out, but fortunately for her Section D get there first. But get where? Connie has revealed the location of every single MI5 safe house, so while they sit chatting in house “Ottawa Bravo” the Russians are closing in.

She suggests they check the “number stations” – an archaic network of broadcasting stations that are constantly monitored but have not been used for years. But they’re being used now – to broadcast a code number, a code phrase, and the order: Rain From Heaven. Which means take a portable tactical nuclear device, hidden in a briefcase, to a location somewhere in the capital and explode it at 3pm. But to decode the agent and the location of the bomb, Connie needs access to her portfolio – the details of Tiresias that she’s built up over the years in case she needed a bargaining chip. It’s hidden in a locker at London Bridge station – on the opposite side of the City from Ottawa Bravo.

What follows is one of the most thrilling traditional chase sequences ever seen on British TV, with the team splitting up and heading across London on foot. Lucas is shot, Harry has to strangle his shadow to make it back to HQ, and the capital seems almost entirely populated with newspaper-readers, postmen and gas works all talking into their sleeves. Nowhere is safe.

They take to the tunnels, leading the chase through disused sections of the Underground and bringing all their training to bear to get to the locker in time to discover the location of the bomb. Meanwhile Harry has worked out that the Russian sleepers have just as much to lose as the British population – family, friends, children who will all go up with the bomb. Surely they can’t know what Rain From Heaven means? He gambles that if he goes to see the cell head – Viktor Sarkisiian – he can convince the Russians to help find and disarm the bomb.

The Tiresias agents catch up with Lucas, who has decoyed them to allow Ros and Connie to reach the locker, and with a gun at his head (and Lucas’ jammed gun at the Russian’s head) Viktor manages to get a call through to tell his men to stand down.

Connie discovers the name of the agent, and that the location is Grosvenor Square. MI5 can’t get there in time. Harry asks Viktor if he has anyone nearby. “Grosvenor Square?” he says languidly, “it’s the American Embassy – we practically live there.” Genius. That line will live with me for a long time.

The Russians pick up the bomb, having already “defused” the agent with a bullet through the head. But it’s a Cold War device. No-one knows how it works. Only Connie. In the bowels of London Bridge, she reaches into the case and snips the wire. Phew, it’s all over.

Umm…no it isn’t. Cutting that wire has just tripped an anti-tamper device. Connie has only seconds to remove the uranium and prevent a nuclear explosion. But there’s no way to stop the chemical explosion. The bomb kills whoever disarms it. A friendless Connie sacrifices herself to save London, and as a parting gift to Lucas she confesses it was her who gave his identity away to the Russians and caused him to spend eight years in a cell, not Harry.

Lucas wants to apologise to Harry for doubting him, but he’s reckoned without the traditional Spooks cliff-hanger. Now that the danger to the Tiresias agents is past, Viktor has kidnapped Harry and is busy shipping him to… where? We’ll have to wait for Series 8 to find out!

Pressure piled on pressure relentlessly throughout this brilliant finale as each new success only led to the next, even bigger problem. The complex interplay between the characters, especially Lucas and Ros who had to baby-sit the hated Connie, and Harry and Viktor who had to put aside their differences temporarily for the greater good of each, was handled expertly. And back at the heart of Section D stood Malcolm. Dear, trusted, competent, brilliant Malcolm, who found the code, and broke the passwords to get Harry his meeting with Tiresias. Harry expressed ultimate trust in Malcolm, but if you were a Russian agent in the very highest echelons, you’d keep your powder dry even in the face of Connie’s capture. Malcolm’s poker face can be read two ways. And the ultimate and continuing wonder of Spooks is that nothing is unthinkable, nothing is sacred, and nothing is what it seems.

It’s only just finished, but already I can’t wait for the next series!

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  • http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/loved Dean

    After 7 episodes of what were very much a return to form of the complex plotting and intricacies of the Spooks of old, I thought this final episode was utter drek.

    For a start, it wasn’t Spooks, it was 24-but-rubbish. It all made little sense:

    Why didn’t any of them just steal a car to get across London?

    Why was Connie suddenly in need of redeeming herself after showing absolutely no regret in the previous episode?

    The Harry ‘twist’ was totally bleeding obvious too…

    The speed at which Tiresias was introduced was crazy, after there being no hint of it at all in the prior 7 episodes…

    It felt like the Spooks team had written a compelling 7-episode arc for the series and the BBC had said “actually we want 8 this year” and the work-experience boy had done a 24 marathon the night before and went “We could have a nuclear bomb about to go off in London…”

  • Rosemary Hill

    Well I didn’t find it either crazy, senseless or bleeding obvious. And if I could write anything as compelling and imaginative as the writers of Spooks have managed over the last 7 years I would be one happy bunny.

    The acting was superb throughout and I thought it was an excellent finale to one of the best series yet. Long may it contiue!


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