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Spooks 1&2: "Djakarta is coming"

Spooks began its fifth season. God, it was satisfying. Dark, painful, exciting and unexpected, and again they re-emphasised that no one is safe. Of course, we've all known that since the second episode when they committed death by deep-fat fryer on one of the team. Wonderful in a bite-your-knuckles way.

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.


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.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)
Closing my eyes and not looking at the screen so I can type this.


The first ep at least should be on my computer when I get home. Will have more to say after I've watched it.

BTW, it's lovely to see you posting and I should send you email. I send you warm and friendly electrons.
Sep. 19th, 2006 09:52 am (UTC)
I loved it and I hope you will too, even as it makes us all go eeeeeeeeee.

I waft warm and friendly electrons back in your general direction *g*
Sep. 19th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC)
I'm doing the same thing as C.! I just got home from work (at 8:30 bloody PM) and see that both torrents for the opener have finished downloding, yay! Resolutely NOT looking above the "post new comment" line. Am gonna fix myself something to eat and settle down to watch.
Sep. 19th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
Just finished 5.2
My adrenal glands are still recovering. I thought it was dark and complicated and brilliant in the best tradition of the show.

Have I mentioned how much more I like Adam than Tom? He is one cool, brilliant bastard when he needs to be.
Sep. 19th, 2006 09:55 am (UTC)
Re: Just finished 5.2
I think I am with you on that, actually. I loved Tom but Adam just seems that bit more interesting with his cold, sharky smile and ruthlessness contrasting with the fierce way he guards the things he *does* love, like his family and his team.
Sep. 19th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
And A&E just started showing the fourth season over here...

I still miss Zoe.

Sep. 19th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)
The fourth season is pretty good, but the first two of five were really gobsmacking.

Zoe? I got nuthin. I am watching Adam Carter with unusually avid attention. *g*
Sep. 19th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC)
I just finished watching.
... Oh my fucking God! I thought I was going to have a coronary. That was a great episode, with brilliant Adam, Harry, some fab action!fu from Zaf. And I thought the actress who played Ros, who's been in loads and loads of things, (although I didn't know her name) was great. I liked the cold, calculating streak in her, for all her principles. She'd make a good foil to Adam, I think.

I'm having really hard time with Colin being gone. That whole sequence, and Colin saying how he isn't a fighter, but he won't be humiliated, and... and... oh God. Colin's been with the show since the first season, and I think in some way, this hit me even harder than Danny's death. Because Danny went out fighting, and he chose, in a way, how he went, and there was dignity and nobility in it; and poor Colin was so brave and so afraid and ill-equipped and IT JUST ISN'T FAIR that he died. Which is the whole point, I know, and that's the sick genius of this show, but you don't kill sweetly dorky techies, 'cause that's just so fucking CRUEL and damnit, I'm crying again. SHIT.

I stick my hands over my ears and sing LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU re. your predictions for Ruth. NOTHING IS ALLOWED TO HAPPEN TO RUTH. I declare so!

*cowers in fear*

Damn, I've missed this show. And now, I'm a mess.
Sep. 19th, 2006 09:59 am (UTC)
I don't trust them not to crush my soul with their ingenious but distressing plotting choices. I think that's why I love the show so.

I'm glad you liked it though because that means I will have someone to shriek with come Tuesdays.
Sep. 19th, 2006 10:05 am (UTC)
I actually assumed Adam was dead at the end of the last series so I was surprised when I heard he was returning. Rupert Penry-Jones's performance seemed warmer and more winsome than ever before, I suppose Adam is healing and moving on. Ros reminds me of Emma Frost from the X-Men, she's going to shake things up. I liked the way the father/child theme ended in the affectionate playground scene. Poor Colin! I also liked that Malcolm selected Walt Whitman as the reading but was disappointed that my slash sense had missed them hitherto. Of course Hitchhiker's was Colin's favourite book.
Sep. 19th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
I don't know about Colin but I thought I got the odd sonar-ping off Malcolm.

I like Ros. I think she's going to be a bad, bad person on the side of good.
Sep. 19th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
See, I missed Malcolm. That said, I missed most of the series and all of the original trio. I've still got some episodes I gacked last October gathering bytes, better sort them out.
Sep. 19th, 2006 06:39 pm (UTC)
I remember the actress who plays Ros from “Wire In The Blood”, so was glad to see her here. Since she popped up in the credits, it rather spoiled me for figuring she'd somehow turn out to be a good guy by the end, since only “our” people are shown in the credits. Am hoping she'll be ambiguous at least.
Sep. 19th, 2006 11:48 pm (UTC)
They do rather give away who gets to be the new spyheroes on the credits and the website. I'm wibbling somewhat over the lack of Ruth in the credits presently. I don't want her to leave and I fear that's what this Harry business is leading up to.

I think Ros is going to be a bad bad person on the side of good. Hermione Norris has great comic timing so far as it comes to sarcasm so I expect (a) she's going to get some wonderful lines and (b) lots of people are going to hate her.

I like her. I'm going to enjoy being appalled by her.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )