Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9

Oof, the start of the downfall…Series 9 of Spooks turns into the Lucas North show with terrible ramifications

“Do you know how I knew it was true? Because for the first time you made sense”

It couldn’t last, two strong series of Spooks back-to-back were undone by the horrors of Series 9. And it needn’t have been this way, it opens with a great 10 minutes. Ros;s funeral! A proposal! Harry as an assassin! Ruth getting called “that dogged, brilliant bitch”! But new head writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent then have the trickier task of reconstructing a new team, and don’t quite nail it with Sophia Myles’ Beth and Max Brown’s Dimitri only ever appearing in shades of beige.

Worse though, is the shifting of the entire season’s narrative onto Richard Armitage’s Lucas who – dun dun dur – is actually someone else called John Bateman, whose torturously wrangled personal history is dragged out through the presence of Iain Glen’s Vaughan. Undoing all the good work that Armitage had done in building the fascinating ambiguities of Lucas North, the entire John Bateman storyline was a huge mis-step and ultimately indulges Spooks at its worst. 

Nicola Walker-ometer
Never better than turning Harry down, she’s a vital steadying presence in a show that badly needs it.

Top 5 guest spots
1 I’ve long admired the work of Nigel Lindsay and he doesn’t disappoint as a sexy assassin here 
2 Amanda Hale has sadly become an intermittent presence on our stages so it is nice to see her customary intensity well-used as Meg, tragically caught up in the hunt for a deadly biological agent
3 Benedict Wong also impresses in the next episode as Kai, a Chinese diplomat who brilliantly works the double/triple/quadruple/who’s-counting agent angle, finding real pathos too in his final moments
4 Another appearance under the tragic label is Fiona Glascott‘s CIA cyber-expert Daniella Ortiz, initially teamed up with Lucas in an amusing buddy trip way but then sacrificed to the wider Lucas North nonsense
5 And in one of my favourite story strands in a series sorely lacking them, Trevor Cooper s local council employee Keith Deery is a nuanced portrayal of ordinary life gone slightly awry (led astray by a wordless Rosalie Craig no less!).

Saddest death
I’m clearly meant to put Lucas here, or Maya, but not giving a monkey’s about either, I have to look elsewhere. And so I’m going to call a draw between the above-mentioned Meg and Daniella.  

Most WTF moment
Could MI5’s HR department really be so easily fooled?

BIggest betrayal
New head writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent get their head on the block here, for botching the dynamic of the series so badly, both in terms of failing to establish an effective new team and in the ridiculousness of the Lucas North affair.

I think it has to be Simon Russell Beale‘s canny and calculating Home Secretary, which counts as one of the first times this celebrated actor really registered for me. 

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