Now that I think about it, not all of it hangs together perfectly but what a ride.
As I said on vonnie_k's LJ these were two episodes that had me muttering "bastards bastards BASTARDS! at the writers in the best possible way.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WOULD SOME OF YOU WATCH THIS GLORIOUS DOUBLE-EPISODE SO I CAN YELL WITH COMPANY!
Oh my God, they killed Colin, the cold-hearted bastards!!!111!!
This part of the episode was wonderfully done because I was expecting the rescue right up to the moment where we saw Colin's body swinging from the trees.
The bad guy henchmen in these episodes were wonderful because they were so unshowy, so unmoustache-twirly. They were nondescript, dead-eyed, careful men, with that London/Essex Accent of Maximum Scariness, and they were mostly very clever. For starters there was the way they played the race card against Zaf at the air traffic control ("I'm not being racist but which one of us looks more like a terrorist?") They were rather like the blue hands men in Firefly -- scary because they weren't necessarily out to *scare*, you don't even matter enough for them to care whether you're scared or not unless it serves a purpose.
All the violence in this episode was powerful because of the way it wasn't gratuitous but it was very *meant*. When Collingwood's functionary smashed the civil rights leader in the face, it was as much of a shock to me as to her. When Zaf brought out the baseball bat and disabled the man who had killed Colin, that was very deliberate too (and incidentally, Zaf is a devious and brilliant fighter -- those scenes were superbly choreographed.
We got a new character, Ros. I think I am going to enjoy Ros if I can cheerfully dislike her. I think Hermoine Norris is a good addition to the cast. She has a lovely line in free-flowing psychopathy and cold-eyed spite that I think will be fun, and she's shown fantastic comic timing in other roles. I suspect they're going to take her where they would have taken Fiona had she not had Wes and Adam to keep her from stepping over the line.
Now to the plot: what I noticed most was how self-consciously ripped from the headlines it was, how much it was modelled on what's happening now, in terms of writing and of casting.
The pipeline and terminal attacks clearly were influenced by the accidental explosion at the Buncefield oil depot; Rowan, the prime minister's son is probably meant to remind us of Euan Blair; the main civil rights spokeswoman is called Ruby Mackenzie but the casting of an Asian woman is clearly meant to recall Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty.
The main plot, of a coup attempt by powerful rightwing elements within the government, is frighteningly plausible. They tied it in very roughly to last season's cliffhanger though I wouldn't want to have to work out whether Angela was *for* the coup attempt when she yelled out "Djakarta is coming" or giving Harry one last warning.
Indeed "Djakarta is coming" is one of those elements which makes less sense the more you think about it. I suspect Ben Richards watched the first season of the renewed Doctor Who and loved the "Bad Wolf" device, so he plucked this from the pages of history, but I don't think it works.
Firstly "Djakarta is coming" wouldn't resonate with the British public even if they did get off their arses to google it. The coup against Allende's socialist government -- the other terrible thing to happen on September 11 -- was trailed by the phrase "Djakarta is coming" as a warning to leftwingers, referring to the murder of hundreds of thousands of leftwing activists in Indonesia eight years previously. Then it had resonance.
In this case it would only work if there had been a terrorist atrocity in Indonesia -- not out of the realms of possibility given Jemaah Islamiyah's work in Bali -- or some kind of biological warfare attack or disease outbreak like Sars in the region. Otherwise it's just a conveniently honking big clue to who the bad guys are.
I suppose at a push you could say that it was meant to provoke the Socialist Workers and others of their ilk into raging against the government, as they are the only ones who would likely pick up on its meaning. However, to me it seemed more like a cool idea improperly thought through.
Another moment of huh was with the press, which is much less monolithic than the episode would suggest. At the very least the Indie and the Grauniad would kick off. Still, the pace of the episode meant that I wasn't too worried about it.
Much better was the whole "smile at them" team confrontation. Adam, you are a magnificent and ruthless bastard. And a bit of a liar but not much of one. I also loved the touch of class warfare about the way that Harry regarded Collingwood too.
And then at the end, as a little packet of sweethearts left at the feet of the viewer, we got Harry and Ruth turning into Harry/Ruth. This, I fear, means VERY BAD THINGS for Ruth, as I can't imagine that they would lose Harry. But still. It brought happiness of a very temporary kind for this viewer.
This was the best season opener for Spooks I think. A little bit of everything delivered at fantastic pace and with just enough plausibility.