Though it was announced in August that the show’s producers had decided to bring Spooks to an end, don’t reach for the tissues just yet. If the standard of this instalment of BBC One’s flagship spy drama is indicative of the quality of the remainder of the final series, Spooks will be going out on a ten-year high.
The episode opens with the ever-charismatic Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) attending a tribunal concerning some of the questionable decisions he made towards the climax of Series 9. New or forgetful viewers needn’t be concerned that they won’t be able to keep up, however, as all of the continuity is quickly wrapped up within the first five minutes, with the rest of the run-time dealing with a gripping new story arc delving into Harry’s past.
Without giving too much away, a pattern is beginning to emerge in the way that Sir Harry operates, with the subject of the tribunal and indeed the main story of the episode both highlighting a potential problem in his approach; a story thread that is sure to come to a head towards the end of the series. Known for its generally procedural approach, it’s nice to see Spooks tackling a much bigger story arc in its final season.
Though some may be disappointed that none of the story threads introduced in this episode are concluded by its end, viewer interest will certainly be sustained throughout the hour thanks to a brilliantly tense climatic set-piece, the introduction of Section D’s new recruits and an admittedly predictable (but undoubtedly interesting) plot twist.
The aforementioned additions to the team come in the form of Erin Watts (Lara Pulver) and Calum Reed (Geoffrey Streatfeild). Though the episode predominately belongs to Peter Firth, True Blood star Pulver’s performance as our new section chief also manages to shine through, despite limited screen time. Streatfeild gets even less screen time than Pulver, so has less of an opportunity to make an impression as a sarcastic, arrogant technology expert, but seems welcome enough for now.
Overall these new additions work in all the ways that Series 9’s newbies – Beth Bailey (Sophia Myles) and Dimitri Levendis (Max Brown) – arguably failed last year, altering the dynamic of Section D in a new and interesting way. Speaking of Dimitri, it’s nice to see his character finally developing in this episode, after playing second fiddle to Lucas North throughout his debut series. Returning characters Tariq (Shazad Latif), Ruth (Nicola Walker) and Home Secretary Towers (Simon Russell Beale) also turn in solid performances, with the Gavrik clan making a strong impression too.
Whilst this opening episode may seem a little slow for some, the rest of the series should be all the better for it. All indications point to the final run being the strongest ever, which is undoubtedly fitting for a show that has managed to sustain its success for over a decade, but is also somewhat tragic, considering the fact that this is the show’s conclusion. A great thing will have been lost when Spooks goes off the air, but at least it’ll be going out with a bang.
Airs at 9pm on Sunday 18th September 2011 on BBC One.