TV series episode review: Spooks (2010), series 9, episode 8, directed by Edward Hall
Why must all good things come to an end?
Before I could write this post I felt as if I had to watch the final episode again. It was a while ago since it was broadcast, I really should brush up a bit. Working from home because of the adverse weather conditions has allowed me to do so. (Oh shush, I can multi-task. 😛 )
So, geared up with the laptop and while researching some marketing opportunities, I put on the final episode of series nine of Spooks. In which the John Bateman/Lucas North (Richard Armitage) story comes to a head. Lucas North is declared a rogue agent and has to be found and brought in. Meanwhile, said rogue agent is busy trying to avoid getting caught while get his hands on the Albany file. He even sets up a diversion and kidnaps Ruth (Nicola Walker), leading Harry (Peter Firth) to hand him the Albany file. And it all ends with Maya (Laila Rouass) getting shot while she and Lucas are trying to get away, and Lucas deciding he has nothing left to live for.
Where to begin?
A few things bugged me, especially on a re-watch. The only one I can think about right now, which is an odd place to start, is that the Albany file was locked away in an Xbox looking case which in fact was a laptop. How long had the laptop been hidden in that church? Even if electrical equipment isn’t switched on, it still leaks power. Put a laptop away for a good few years and you’re not going to be able to boot it up just like that and hey presto, there’s the state secret. THE BATTERY WOULD HAVE BEEN DEAD! Like every time I don’t use my PSP for a while, I always have to charge it up before I can use it, sometimes before I can even switch it on. Laptops are the same. Yet this one booted up in seconds (as always on TV) and not so much as a “low battery” warning.
Less geeky an observation is how quick Harry went from “we cannot possibly give him the real Albany file, even if Ruth’s life is in danger” to “here ya go, you’re welcome”. This is a high-ranking MI5 officer we’re talking about, who has done a very good job at keeping the nation safe for more than a decade, and then, on what feels like a whim, he betrays his own country because of some misguided trust in an agent that has proven he cannot be trusted, all because of a fellow agent. An agent he happened to have proposed to in the first episode of the series, but an agent nonetheless. What’s more important, the life of one person or the lives of billions of people all over the world? Did he know Albany was a dud all along?
While the whole genetic/ethnic weapon is a plot hole in itself, I’m not going to list it as such, simply because such a weapon would be impossible (as viewers have already pointed out) and that’s the whole point. Albany doesn’t work. The reasons might be different in real life, as opposed to what they say in the episode, but the crux of the matter is that it wouldn’t work as a weapon and the show says as much.
The guy Lucas hired to run – okay, first of all, if they wanted to stop him running, they could’ve just shot him in a leg and tackled him to the ground. They didn’t have to bloody shoot him. Especially since anyone who has ever seen Lucas North run can clearly see that the hooded man running there was in no way played by the same actor. The running styles are totally different. Lucas is efficient, fast, looks like he knows how to run. Mr Hoodie looked like he could’ve had a light backpack bouncing up and down and as if he was running to catch the school bus. What-a mistake-a to make-a, eh?
Ruth, Ruth, Ruth … while you don’t have the icy chill of Ros, by gods, you’re awesome in so many other ways. Ros was the epitome of cool – she didn’t even need sunglasses. Ruth is more the sort of bow-down-to coolness. What can this woman not do? She can speak Mandarine, for starters. She can also really act, although that’s not Ruth, that’s Nicola Walker. The scene where Lucas anaesth… puts her to sleep, and the fear she portrays is marvellous and leaves me speechless. Hats off to you, Ms Walker! I hope we’ll see more of Ruth in series to come!
Harry got to strip down, although without any gratuitous nudity shots or boiler suits. Also, Harry when he was on the phone to Lucas, just after handing over Albany … my word, he was almost … a heartthrob! Even for me!
I wonder if they’re going to keep New Guy on as an agent next series. He doesn’t seem like the average crumpet spook (Richard Armitage, Rupert Penry-Jones, Matthew Macfadyen), but I guess that’s what Dimitri’s (Max Brown) for. And also, he has that rugged sort of look and there’s something there still, all right. New Guy, that is, not Dimitri.
Maya, as a character, doesn’t grab me. She hardly gets to say or do anything, and in this episode, she seemed flatter than normal. So New Guy Alec (Vincent Regan) gets to her and tells her about John/Lucas and she finally thought he “made sense”. No luv, he makes less sense as a character now than he did dating that horrid Sarah Caulfield in series 8! Personality? None. She’s a doctor and just somehow, I thought she’d be really clever, but she just seems to hog the background and be boring. Don’t care much for the character, and I think they should’ve given Laila Rouass more than that to work with.
And Dr Maya died.
And Lucas/John was heartbroken.
And part of me wanted to cheer, for various reasons. The crying felt real. Well played, Richard Armitage. You know how your voice can get all funny when you’ve got tears lurking and crying wants to jump out of your throat but before that, it just sits there and makes you sound weird. That would be difficult to act, I reckon, and the man did it beautifully.
Another thing he did beautifully was going from nice ol’ Lucas, hero-of-the-day ex-inmate of a Russian prison, to John Bateman, certified psycho. It’s really chilling. Perhaps because in real life, he seems like such a nice guy and from what we’ve seen of Lucas before, he’s a decent guy too, but suddenly he’s a cold-blooded killer who doesn’t have qualms over how to execute a friend and co-worker. And be so calm about it! That’s what I find really creepy. You could argue that he has a heart, because he does everything for Maya (“it was all for you!” – that’s what a lot of these telly baddies say, especially after doing particularly horrible things to other people), and he does tell Harry where to find Ruth before it’s too late. Perhaps there could be good left in him.
But he died.
We did know that he tried committing suicide when he was in the Russian prison, so that had been set up in his character earlier on. Which I had actually forgotten about when I saw the episode where he goes to visit Malcolm in the end and it was all a sham, because the house was empty. That’s when I thought “I can see him being able to kill himself”. And thus concludes the story arc of Lucas North and John Bateman. By jumping off a building.
And I didn’t even feel (too) sorry for him.
Which is another sign (at least for me) when an actor is really good at what he does. If it’s an actor I really like, it takes a lot to not just make me think “I know he’s an awful man, but umm, he’s played by X and dangit, I still think he’s lush!” When I, instead, think “I can’t believe I’m seeing a character played by X and I actually DON’T like him!” If you know what I mean? When the gruesomeness or horridness of the character manages to override the fact that the actor is super handsome.*
John Bateman, you creepy bastard! I don’t care that I much prefer Richard Armitage visually in this series as opposed to series seven, where he’s way too skinny, but gosh, no, John Bateman is not my cup of tea. A shaggy-looking, chip-munching Lucas North is welcome any day. I’d cook him a hearty meal to put some meat back on those bones, but Bateman? I’d leave him out in the cold. With a snow shovel. Our drive could do with some clearing, it probably has about 4″/10 cm worth of snow on it.
How on earth did he have the time to set up all those elaborate things anyway? Car, satnav, clothes, surveillance … Did Phineas & Ferb help him, or how else did he get all those things done in such a short space of time? Is this one of those times where we need to suspend our disbelief to get along with the plot?
Anyway, the final episode wraps up the story of John Bateman/Lucas North and sets up for a series ten which could potentially be the last of the show. How can Harry weasel his way out of “you did give up state secrets”? If he goes, the show goes. Simple as that. At least I hope he’ll get to retire with Ruth, so that they don’t have to do the spy thing, but can start decorate Christmas trees and stuff together instead. Bake cookies.
Even if Richard Armitage is out, I think I’ll still be watching series ten. Just to see what happens. Have followed Spooks for three series in a row now, so have sort of got attached to Harry and Ruth. And, let’s face it, aside from some seriously strange turn of events in series nine, Spooks is still a very good show. Even though we never did get to see any actual kitchen table shagging. (An awkward photo doesn’t count.)
John Bateman, how ironic that you were shagging a doctor. I really don’t think you were very well. You would have been institutionalised, yes, but in a mental health unit. Going back to prison was never really an option, but at that point, you were too deluded to realise that. You poor, screwed up thing.
I shall forget all about Caulfield from series eight and put all about Maya and Vaughn/Michael and John from series nine out of memory. And all I shall be left with is the guy who brought in the donuts.
Rest in Peace, Lucas North. You will always be my hero.
* An example of this, and even more so, was watching Dead By Sunset, when I was so repulsed by Ken Olin’s character that I actually managed to forget how ridiculously tall, dark and handsome he is in that production, and instead wanted the character’s head on a spike. At the very least. John Bateman is nothing but a cute li’l puppy in comparison. Especially considering John Bateman was made up – Brad Cunningham was actually based on a real person. ICK NO!!