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Spooks, review by Marco Piva

No spook is safe in Section D

Death is just a way of life for the MI-5 agents in Section D, under the strong and powerful leadership of experienced spy Harry Pearce (Peter Firth). They face the grim reaper day-in, day-out, bringing death to those who threaten the safety of the United Kingdom but too often risking their own lives.

Created by young TV writer David Wolstencroft, Spooks first went on air on BBC One in May 2002 with a first series of 6 one-hour episodes. It was so appreciated by the general audience that it was renewed, annually, for 10 series: the last episode was broadcast in October 2011, but a movie sequel is in the works.

Spooks

The concept is relatively simple: the agents, under the orders of Harry Pierce who himself answers only to the British Home Secretary, have only one target: protect the country, whatever it takes. Shocking swerves are a regular occurrence, important characters die only to be replaced by even
better agents, life-or-death decisions are taken with no time to think. And the agents aren’t always right.

The tension is palpable throughout each and every episode. The struggle to protect the country is accompanied by the challenges the spies face in their personal lives, as they are forced to keep their profession and responsibilities hidden even from their closest friends and family.

Forget James Bond: the “spooks” are men and women deeply scarred by their profession, hardened and made cold, calculating machines. Feelings would make their job harder. But, being men and women, they can’t always hide and ignore love, friendship, compassion, sadness.

Spooks

Even the most over-the-top moments don’t seem exaggerated, thanks to a masterful writing and directing and to great actors.

A spin-off, Spooks: Code 9, was very unsuccessful and ended up being limited to a single, 6-episode series broadcast in 2008. It was a clumsy attempt to transpose the atmosphere of the original series into an edgier, younger context, in which the UK has been the victim of a terrible terrorist attack on the eve of the 2012 London Olympics that killed the whole Parliament, nearly the entire Royal Family and all the London-based “spooks”.

Spooks was broadcast in several countries all over the world, but it was unsuccessful in the USA, where it was renamed MI-5 as there the word “spook” can have a racial connotation. Unfortunately, A&E Channel was forced to cut the episodes to the length of 45 minutes to fit advertisements in, and the original episodes are so action- and emotion-packed that they simply don’t allow such cuts without a serious damage to the quality of the story.

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