This week, Spooks leaps from the small screen to the big. With all 10 seasons on Netflix UK, we look back at the BBC’s spy series, from favourite characters to the best episodes.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since Spooks first arrived on our TV screens. iPhones hadn’t been invented yet. Netflix wasn’t around. But for all its love of numerical keypad phones and laptops as cutting-edge gizmos, the BBC’s spy thriller never relied on technology to make its programme relevant: the series’ real secret weapon was its focus on character, which was driven by increasingly far-fetched plots.
After almost 10 years, 10 seasons and 86 episodes of espionage, Spooks impresses because it remains relevant to the modern day. Firstly, it’s topical. Issues tackled range from racism in politics and our grey relationship with the CIA to both domestic and foreign terrorism (the IRA and environmental groups were as omnipresent as Al-Qaeda and the Russians). Throughout, the question of “the greater good” was raised – it’s no coincidence that the 2015 film uses that phrase as its title, because no matter what year it is, the moral quandaries surrounding our secret service will always be pertinent. Secondly, it’s engaging, thanks to its superbly acted array of likeable, despicable and dependable characters. And, most of all, partly thanks to the bonkers twists (especially in the final few, desperate seasons), it’s hugely entertaining.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since Spooks first arrived on our TV screens – because it’s just as brilliant today as it always was.
How, though, do you do justice to over 70 hours of television in a single article? With the role of Section Chief constantly changing, look back at some of the MI5’s brightest and best team leaders and pick out their top moments.
Lucas (Richard Armitage – S7/8/9)
Season 7, Episode 1
Richard Armitage. The only MI5 agent hotter than Rupert Penry Jones. But Lucas didn’t just have sex appeal – he had a whole history involving the KGB. A back-story tying a lead character to Harry? It was the start not just of a promising new run of episodes, but also of the growing importance of Harry Pearce. Together, it was almost enough to help us deal with the loss of Adam.
Season 7, Episode 7
An elaborate mole plot hit violent extremes in this episode. If it started to become silly rather than sinister, any concerns were more than outweighed by Connie’s amazing facial expressions.
Season 7, Episode 8
The importance of Harry we were talking about? That became key by the end of Season 7. While Lucas, Ros and Connie ran through London Underground tunnels – a set piece to excite enough on its own – Harry offered himself up to the KGB as protection. There’s nothing like seeing the head of MI5 in the boot of a car to leave you hanging until the next season.
Season 8, Episode 1
Lucas raced to rescue Harry at the start of Season 8, but Nicola Walker’s Ruth was the real star, as her life away from MI5 was interrupted by Indian terrorists taking her and her adopted son hostage. As their relationship was seemingly ruined by Harry’s determination to call their bluff, Malcolm, trying to save the child, brought even more anguish to the table – and retired honourably.
Season 9, Episode 7/8
Richard Armitage’s twisty back-story became even more twisty in this almost laughable two-parter, which revealed that Lucas wasn’t Lucas at all: instead, he was an imposter who killed Lucas and stole his identity. It’s to Armitage’s credit that he sold the stupidity, right up to a final rooftop showdown with Harry. The appearance of Game of Thrones’ Jorah Mormont was a bonus.