Don’t do it, Lucas! [Spooks 9.1-9.4 spoilers!]

Same disclaimers. My caps. I’ve been noticing while I’ve been drafting this that the comments are piling up on an earlier post. Sorry I couldn’t write faster, gang! I had some professorial responsibilities to fulfill.

I’ve got slightly less to say this week, mostly because I didn’t find the episode plot anywhere near as interesting as last week’s. It was marginally more complex in terms of plot elements, but the meta-theme (control, manipulation, self-control, who’s moving who) was in general much less compelling for me, at least as I understand it at present. Several times, however, I found myself thinking that this episode couldn’t really be as simple as it appeared while watching. It felt like “The Two Towers” and I wondered whether its primary purpose was to set up plot elements that will become crucial in the future, so that later I’ll be hitting myself on the forehead for not having noticed things now. Too much watching of Spooks has made me, like Mr. Armitage, a little paranoid. The closing flash photo, referenced above, underlined that impression. We’re halfway through the series — already — and the viewer is being set up for the endgame.

The episode:

After the title sequence, nice beginning in what now really does seem to be the bedroom in Lucas’s flat, although if that’s true, there should be a light source from a window behind the viewer’s left shoulder. Or else Lucas rearranged the furniture and hung a shutter since the suitcase scene. Or it’s a different room. Whatever. Why I get so hung up about continuity errors with Lucas’s flat is beyond me.

The contrast is palpable, of course, between the atmosphere of re-established trust between Maya and John and the fact that he is indeed lying to her, not just by omission, but via the statement that he works in private security consulting. The last scene we saw with these two felt like John and Maya; now it feels like John’s ceded the room to Lucas, down to the passive aggressive hint that he thought she was the one who needed to get back to her life. (You may need to leave, dear, but don’t rush!) It’s the kind of scene where you wish it hadn’t been shot in such low lighting so you could see more of the expressions on Lucas’s face, but at the same time the lighting is supposed to signal the murkiness of the situation and the drowsiness of the lovers, I think.

Nice move on Maya’s part, as she withdraws a bit when Lucas leans in to kiss her and mentions that the plan he remembers that she had to open a tapas bar was a long time ago. Oh, Lucas. I hope that getting to be John again, if you’re even able to realize that, as well as everything you’ll do later in this episode to achieve it, is worth this woman. She seems nice enough, but you’re still the one I really care about.

Once he leaves the bedroom, he’s completely Lucas again, down to the careful stance and his perimeter scan of his yard, and only appears to be acting as John — he has to switch from his hyperalertness back to the sheepish smile of the slightly drowsy lover, and it looks like an effort. But he’s not in control, anymore — as he moves into being able to move Maya, he’s being played by Vaughn.

The oh-so-obvious and nonetheless convincing iconic shot of Spooks 9.4, I think: Lucas the spy on the left vs. John the lover on the right, with Maya unaware of the knife in his hand. Loved this. Although I am basically still not convinced Maya is good enough for you, Lucas / John, I do admit that I like how she kisses you, as if you’re a particularly tasty treat she can’t get enough of, a citrus fruit out of which she’s trying to suck every last drop of juice. Whoever you turn out to be and whatever awful crime you’re about to commit or be implicated in, I still believe at this point that you deserve to find the love you’re willing to make all these sacrifices for. Because betraying MI-5 is a pretty big sacrifice, given your alleged eight years in Russian prison, and then again, especially given what you said to Beth in episode 1. Oh, Lucas.

So on the control narrative arc: before the title, we have 3 Chinese hitpersons entering the UK, and the question is how MI-5 is going to control events. The solution: Beth’s developing asset, Kai. Lucas and Harry push her here, and she’s eager to be pushed, as she wants to be accepted. She’s rushed into things. After a bizarre scene with the Home Secretary that once again seems to underline the new government’s incompetence, we see the actual person who’s being controlled here, the scientist Jiang Li, who seems to be in the company of CIA men. Not only can Harry not move the Home Secretary, he can’t move Alton Beecher, the CIA person he speaks to, to give him any more information. Given that the spooks have no more options, Kai’s apparent unwillingness to be run by Beth  — he seems genuinely hurt by her revelation of who she really is — reads as disappointing to both her and the team. Lucas designs an end run around their information problem: burgling the Chinese Embassy. Oh, wait, maybe Kai is willing to help, as he calls to notify Beth that an alarm has gone off and that her team is about to be captured. We again see Lucas’s intelligence and care for his team, as he sets himself up to be arrested as a burglar to get Dmitri off the roof of the embassy.

They regroup and guess what: another slightly obscure mythological reference! Neat how the profiteers and villains of the world are always making reference to classical antiquity. That will keep people like me in business as authors of reference works to be consulted by profiteers and villains — and the people who write tv dramas about them — if nothing else. (I did recognize Amphitrite, but not the other big cultural reference of the episode.) “Amphitrite” is a valuable and badly needed water desalinization technology. The Home Secretary expresses mystification — mystification, I tell you! — that England might get pushed around by China. Uch, as I write this I am seeing already how little general sympathy I have for the narrative arc of this episode …

Just as Beth, Dmitri and Lucas are trying to move Kai to continue to help them, Vaughn is taking the last step he needs to move Lucas to get the information he needs, by insisting that he himself is only being moved by others.

Vaughn (Iain Glen) tells Lucas he has to have the Albany file in order to fulfill “silly promises” he has made, and promises that if he gets it, he’ll disappear forever and leave John free to live whatever life he wants, in Spooks 9.4.

Kai is polygraphed and seems to be telling the truth about whose side he’s on. This scene is then cut back to Lucas’s first attempt to get the Albany file, in which he seems to plan to log on as himself to get it, and then backs off and steps away from the terminal. I was SO hoping that this was going to be his final step in the direction of betrayal, but the narrative from last week means that I had to be wrong, of course.

Then we move to QMK, which refuses to be moved by Harry to check its security or help him out. Here, I loved that Ruth got to get off the grid and do some spying herself.

Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) on her way to penetrate the QMK computer systems in Spooks 9.4. Second best quip of the day: “You try remembering the Mandarin for ‘quark’.” Especially since the Mandarin for “quark” seems to sound an awful lot like “quark.” Best quip of the day at the end of the post.

Here, the big control game of the episode finally goes into motion: in trying to control QMK and prevent whatever the CSS hitpeople are going to do, Ruth tries to infiltrate the lab to install a hack that will give MI-5 access to QMK’s computers. Just as this gets underway, Kai calls Beth to tell her that there’s a bomb at QMK. This information causes Lucas to conclude that the goal is to destroy the desalinization technology, so to evacuate the building, except Ruth doesn’t want to go, so she presses a fire alarm and takes another look at the computer she’s hacked. She discovers that Amphitrite is Jiang Li. Lucas now concludes that it’s not a bomb, it’s an assassination, that’s being planned for QMK. Harry tells Ruth to locate the scientist and get out of the building. At this point Ruth more or less has given up her volition, as while looking for Jiang Li, she runs into the CIA who are running her, and essentially becomes a ping-pong ball between the CIA agent and Harry. Everyone at QMK runs away from the building and goes to a CIA safehouse together, except Lucas realizes too late that the CIA agents shouldn’t have been able to get a GPS signal from their HQ, and the Chinese break in and steal Jiang Li. Yup, they’ve all been manipulated, down to being tricked into burgling the Chinese embassy in order to get the information they needed. Sorry, Lucas, that night in the cell really was for nothing.

“We’ve been manipulated by a foreign superpower on our own soil,” Harry concludes in Spooks 9.4, “not only with ease, but with contempt.”

The spooks, from Harry to Lucas all the way down to Beth, hoist on their own petard, are humiliated. Obvious clue dropped to Lucas’s behavior: Ruth’s noticed he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. And then the awful, awful scene. The one where Lucas lays the groundwork to log on as someone else to get it and then covers his tracks by creating a computer trail of bribery. It almost reads like a knee jerk reaction; Lucas has just lost face after a series of bad decisions, and the first poor schmuck he runs into becomes his fall guy —  22-year-old Stephen Owen. We saw last week how Lucas could use Azis to achieve his ends; now he’s instrumentalizing people on his own side to pursue his own goals. Oomph. But WHY can we see Stephen’s password?

The show gives us several seconds to look at this image on the electronic coversheet of the Albany file, so it must be significant. I didn’t recognize it. I’m sure there are some Spooks experts out there who do.

The control issues go on. Harry discovers that indeed the Home Secretary isn’t quite the idiot he seemed to be in their last two encounters, and knew about the CIA involvement all along. Manipulated by a politician, Harry! Beth, emotionally devastated by the failure of her attempt to manipulate Kai, witnesses Lucas’s reveal that Kai had betrayed his own brother to the Chinese authorities during the Tienanmen protests. As Kai insists, “I have been a good traitor,” Lucas, the good man, betrays Stephen and MI-5.

Caught by a flicker on screen that Stephen has a history degree, I decided to cap this. Then I discovered that he’d been serving as an agent since was fourteen years old. Nice work if you can get it.

It’s sophisticated story weaving and editing, but it all seems so tiresomely conventional to me. The only vaguely interesting point in the plot emerges at this point, insofar as Beth decides that her instincts indeed can’t be wrong and that there has to be another dimension to Kai’s story. And it’s only interesting in light of how the episode ends (see below). Why is it at this point that we’re supposed to believe Kai, when he’s been lying — albeit in response to the manipulations of the CSS — all along? It’s all beyond his control, and he moves from the control of the Chinese to the control of MI-5 with little apparent reluctance.

I’ll talk about the next two scenes  — Lucas delivering the information to Vaughn, and then running to the health care facility to inform Maya that now they can be together — more in the chunk on Mr. Armitage’s performance, so I’ll just insert a nice thumb shot here for our delectation.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) transfers the drive with the Albany file to Vaughn in Spooks 9.4. I hope now that everyone realizes I am starting to make fun of myself with these frequent pictures of Mr. Armitage’s thumbs. At least I hope that is what I am doing.

The main thing that arouses my attention in both of these scenes is that Lucas is starting to appear like he has the worst judgment of all the spooks. It’s a sad repeat of series 8, on some level. Yes, Beth made the mistake of believing or trusting her asset, but Lucas jumps to conclusion after conclusion in the QMK sequence and it’s unclear to me why he should think that the manipulation to which he’s being subjected should stop when this file is transferred. Does he not understand (a) how blackmail works and (b) that he’s now made himself even more blackmailable? He’s manipulated by Vaughn, and then he immediately goes running off to Maya as if he’s really free now. But Lucas North of all people should realize that you’re never really free of your past. Severe script plausibility problem here.

And then we run into the end of the manipulation game. MI-5 have manipulated the Chinese into thinking that the British government is going to seize Jiang Li, so that the Chinese will move her. The Chinese initiate the move, along with the repatriation of Kai.

Jiang Li (Daphne Cheung) listens as Kai (Benedict Wong) tells her that they have no power to decide their fates in Spooks 9.4.

In response, MI-5 step in and rescue Jiang Li and Kai, except that they are stopped in their tracks as the Chinese ambassador threatens London with a bomb. Harry’s concerned that they are once again being manipulated, so he orders Section D to figure it out, meanwhile consulting the Home Secretary, who’s unsurprisingly still willing to give up Jiang Li, who reflects here and in a later conversation with Ruth that she’s accepted her fate.

Jiang Li (Daphne Cheung) tells Kai (Benedict Wong) that they have no power to decide their fates in Spooks 9.4.

In an amazing sequence of coincidences, Tariq is able to locate and Dmitri is able to defuse the bomb so that London is saved. Kai somehow manages to disarm one of the CSS hitpersons long enough to prevent the CSS from escaping with him and Jiang Li. After this, when the CIA is supposed to get both of the Chinese, Ruth protests, and Harry embraces the same nihilism that the Chinese have earlier. (I have to say I’m glad it’s not the Chinese, or I’d have had to start wondering whether the cultural stereotypes of the scriptwriters about the Chinese aren’t as severe as their prejudices about Americans.)

“Well, we’re all being moved around by someone, Ruth,” Harry concludes near the end of Spooks 9.4.

Harry orders Beth to let Kai off where he wants to go, and that ends up being the Chinese embassy. In the penultimate scene, Ruth remarks on Stephen Owen’s apparent betrayal, and after expressing disbelief, Lucas ends with the rather eerie statement, given what he knows about it the truth behind the incident, that “a traitor’s a traitor.” And then he looks around as if to see if anyone finds his reaction incredible. And at the end we learn that all of this tsuris had nothing to do with Kai or Jiang Li or desalinization, and are shown a blownup photo of Lucas North. Dunh – dunh. Cue scenes from next week.

I’m SURE I’m reading too much into this, but if I am not reading too much into this, why does it seem so obvious to me? It must be my developing Spooks-generated paranoia, which got me last week with my doubts about the future loyalties of Dr. Kirby. The last minor player that Harry let escape was Azis Aybek, and he turned into a huge problem for the spooks. Letting Kai go back to the Chinese seems like a similar sort of recipe for disaster, like playing into their hands. Is he doing this to impress Ruth? To say that even in his middle management position, he still does have some autonomy? The identity of “They” and the role They play in Vaughn’s life are looking to be the equivalent this year of Sugarhorse and its vague, undefined desire to establish a “New World Order” — but one’s tempted to think after this episode that They are the Chinese. I’m wondering, given that Kai got to go back to the Chinese — which Beth reads as a sort of death wish step, about which I am not convinced, since the Chinese were trying to get him out of the country already anyway —  and considering the last few seconds, in which the CSS hit squad reveals that they were there for something relating to Lucas, is whether Vaughn’s attempt to “save himself” is going to involve setting out to ruin Lucas’s life once more.

Oh, let’s admit: I’m just angry at Lucas — or what this script is doing to the character just now. Pactum non servatur! I found last week’s developments plausible, but I was pushed this week. If we’re going to make Lucas a traitor for love, scriptwriters, at least don’t let’s have Mr. Eidetic Memory forgetting all his spycraft for a woman again. I really was shouting at the screen both times Lucas accessed the MI-5 security system in order to get at the Albany file. If, as Lucas says in the end, “a traitor’s a traitor,” then Lucas is now clearly a traitor, even if he wasn’t one before. He’s now a mercenary; as Vaughn remarks, he’s done this “for himself.” This development cut me to the quick, even though I figured after last week that it was inevitable. Traitor, ok. But idiot is troubling.

If I were Guy of Gisborne, I’d be making my early season 1 disgruntled sniff about now.

Mr. Armitage’s performance:

As my remarks below make clear, for me the big issue for Armitage’s performance in 9.4 is the facility with which he is able to negotiate the transitions between the personae of Lucas and John. Though these comments circle around various more specific moments and issues that is the big underlying question.

Given, or despite, the script problems, I continue to be pleased with the developing range of expressions that we are getting from Mr. Armitage when he’s inhabiting the John persona. In line with that, I wonder if there’s going to be a point where viewers start to think that he’s opened up John’s expressional and gestural range too far. That question underlies my analysis of the only moment where I developed reservations in this episode, but these are not too severe, and I think it’s worth some discussion. Also, because I’ve now neglected to mention it twice, I want to refer to my perception that the score in the Maya / John scenes is probably the best I’ve ever heard on Spooks. That’s not saying much because I usually hate the Spooks score (I particularly hated it in series 7, with all the Russianesque undertones), but I like it here. If I can find a way to write about it that’s not too technical and nonetheless comprehensible, eventually I will.

Lucas / John (Richard Armitage) watches Maya (Laila Rouass) sleep in his bed at the beginning of Spooks 9.4.

Love the beginning, not least because it feels like a gender reversal — stereotypically, it’s women who have the peace to watch their lovers sleep; waking men are all action and fury. Reference RAFrenzy‘s questions about Lucas’s gender trouble, though I have reservations, and of course de gustibus non est disputandam. Depends to some extent on whether Lucas’s masculinity is the sort you prefer, I suppose. In any case he’s certainly not over the boundary to victimhood in this scene. If Skully is right about the reasons for Mr. Armitage’s peculiar appeal, this is the kind of moment she’s talking about. It’s a nice compromise between a peaceful watching her sleep and the wakefulness that the men of my acquaintance have tended to demonstrate once they were ready to start their days.

As noted above, the scene sacrifices clarify to shadow, and thus specific perception to general feeling. It does offer us some nice profile shots of Mr. Armitage, of course. I think it’s an interesting editing move to show John’s reactions to Maya at the beginning of the scene primarily only in darkened profile.

Maya should be looking at him very closely, as he’s clearly avoiding her glance when he states he’s a “private security consultant.” Of course she has no way to know he’s a practiced liar, because he agreed the night before to be honest with her.

The next statement, too, feels like a ruse, or like he’s not listening. He says, “well, it’s not as exciting as you think.”

Well, in fact, she didn’t say she thought it was exciting, but said it was “mysterious,” and secondly, I don’t buy this from Lucas, who’s clearly reemerging in this scene to get back to his work at MI-5. This has to be a part of his cover that he’d share with anyone — security consultant, very boring. In fact, Lucas must find the work alluring, otherwise it’s hard to believe he’d still be at it after everything that’s happened since 7.1. He’s looking at her here, but this is not either John’s or Lucas’s “sincere” face.

He then deflects the conversation to Maya’s alleged tapas bar plans (see remark above on her slight withdrawal — maybe she is also saying “I am not the person you think I am.” It bugs me that we don’t know if they’ve just been doing the nasty the whole time since we last saw them, or whether they had actual conversations with content in them). And as she reminds him that it was a long time ago, we see him in shadowy profile again:

We see a quick eye blink here that must be an editing choice, but it’s nice — as if he has to react to her reminder that the past is a foreign country. Nice here as well, which was probably Armitage’s contribution, the bowed head that acknowledges the burden of the past on both of them.

I found the next part of the scene particularly effective because we see the transition between John and Lucas that’s been implied in the first part of the scene portrayed explicitly, and we see that it is as jarring for John / Lucas as it is for us. Lucas moves down the stairs, picks up the mail, and hears something suspicious. (Would a spy really have a patio door that’s so easy to jimmy open?) Instantly, he’s completely alert, and we’ve got Lucas’s action stance, including the arm position that suggests he’s ready to spring, as he moves out to the patio and looks around briefly, only to establish that no one’s there.  Then he’s back in the room, noticing the photo that’s been left for him by Vaughn, and there’s a split second micro-expression of dread — a quick swallow, brief raising of the eyelids and a queasy look — before he hears another noise.

The fears of John, the reaction times of Lucas. Lucas North (Richard Armitage) looks at a threatening photo left for him on his kitchen counter in Spooks 9.4.

He doesn’t know what the noise is, and so he has to be back to Lucas. Three steps: pause to think, swivel around to grab enough, move to shelter himself next to the wall, and this really alert expression appears:

One more step, then, to appear around the corner:

But it’s Maya, and so he’s got to put John’s face back on. It’s slow enough that it’s noticeable on screen, as if he’s struggling to recapture the earlier mood, the earlier persona.

He does get there, but the move is visible, and he’s not able to sustain the smile when she asks him what they are doing and he replies that they are doing what they were always supposed to do.

As I mentioned above, I love the knife shot that ends this scene.

On the ongoing theme of Lucas as mentor, I’m still enjoying Armitage here, mostly because he seems so supportive of his colleagues. This may again signal what Frenz sees as gender portrayal issues, but this is the kind of man I like to work with, frankly.

“You trust your instincts,” Lucas (Richard Armitage) tells Beth in Spooks 9.4. “They’ve got you this far.”

I’m a bit disturbed that the gentleness of Lucas’s mentoring is starting to make me think that I might end up liking Beth just because he appears to. I hope he’s watching his back. I am still SO suspicious of every word that comes out of her mouth, but I understand that second-, third-, and fourth-guessing of her decisions because I’ve done that sort of thing myself. We see similar consideration on Lucas’s part toward Dmitri.

I think the script sets up two problems for Mr. Armitage in this episode. For me he responds to one of these convincingly within the realm of his capacity to control for problems, the other in ways that I am still thinking about.

Problem one: is Lucas stupid, or arrogant, or just naive? I feel that Armitage once again got a script here that made Lucas do things that weren’t entirely believable from the standpoint of who I understand him to be, or else suggest that, as in series 8, he’s so vulnerable to an unstable influence that he’s not thinking clearly.

This problem begins in the scene where Lucas opts out of the attempt to turn Kai because Vaughn calls, and then lies about it. We could say that he’s so worried about what Vaughn could do to him that he responds immediately for that reason, but Lucas left his last encounter with Vaughn with the upper hand. Maybe the balance of power’s been upset by Vaughn’s break in to Lucas’s house, but is anything likely to happen that quickly? This error sets up Ruth to know that he wasn’t where he said he was during the beginning of the polygraph. Necessary for the plot, maybe, but not the kind of thing I really accept Lucas would do. Then the agreement to obtain the desired file, again presumably on the basis that Lucas fears revelation of John’s past to Maya. But I don’t buy this entirely — Lucas / John could lose Maya, but we still haven’t seen why she could be important enough to him to risk everything, and the script has already established that betrayal to Harry was not going to move Lucas. So, once Vaughn uses his only weapon, he’s got nothing left with which to move John. So why can’t Lucas wait, think, move more cautiously?

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) shoots at the CSS people from the CIA’s not-very-safe safe house in Spooks 9.4.

In fact, we could say that a general lack of caution pervades Lucas’s decisionmaking throughout this episode. He’s the one who’s always jumping to conclusions — for instance, he’s the one who starts pushing Beth to motivate Kai and it should be his responsibility for helping her to think more critically about the asset, one supposes; and it’s his failure to think through the CIA’s story that drops Jiang Li into the hands of the CSS. He makes error after error in reasoning his way through this case. Now, of course, he’s not the only one, but he’s the section chief.

What I like about Armitage’s performance in the bounds of a script that I feel makes Lucas look dumber than could ever possibly be is that his gestures in the scenes as the piece goes on seem to be establishing a sort of arc of hardening recklessness. We can see this in the contrast between the two scenes with the computer. When Lucas first goes to access the Albany file, we see many of Lucas’s typical nervousness signals:

But when he goes to actually accomplish the data theft, all of the nervous is gone and Lucas is hard. One imagines this is because he almost have to have gone in the hopes of making himself attempt the theft again, then runs into Owen and realizes he can push it off onto someone else, and suddenly it becomes an operation and no longer a self-compromise. In the frames that follow, we see only one hand to face move, and it’s brief and contemplative, rather than sad or distressed. Lucas’s expressions throughout are concentrated, alert, engaged.

And when he does turn to the last step: framing Owen, Lucas’s eyes divert from these concentrated postures for just one brief moment of contemplation — and they look dead, not sorry.

He really looks mean, above: Lucas has become the kind of person who can target a fall guy.

One wonders what role Harry’s statement in the scene where Section D figures out that they’ve been had plays a role in this process of hardening. The camera catches, just for a second, Lucas’s expression of humiliation as Harry notes that they’ve been played with contempt:

The episode does have a trajectory in which the elder screw it to the younger, and as Lucas accepts Ruth’s statement that Owen is 22 and will do time for Lucas’s crime, one can imagine Lucas thinking that he himself was harmed when he was 22 and this is the way of the world. The timeline would be about right.

The only problem, here, is that the script then wants to convince us again that this was a painful step, even as the previous scene establishes that Lucas accomplishes his task with cold-blooded efficiency and indeed arbitrariness. Owen was just the person who happened to be standing there that day, not the object of any particular vendetta, and yet Lucas saw his personnel record and knew at least something about him. The next scene with Vaughn would not work to accomplish what it does unless Lucas retrieved not only his persona as John, but the John who was harmed by Vaughn in the past. It’s immediately obvious from the first long shot on his face that it’s John who’s entered the bar:

We’ve never ever seen Lucas look like this — even in the scenes where he’s playing the double agent in 7.2 and has to convince Elizaveta of his pain at betraying MI-5. The subsequent moments are equally pained, as Vaughn asks rhetorically whether John involved a fall guy. But it’s like in drinking the vodka, which was also Lucas’s drink of choice, Armitage moves his body all the way back to Lucas. He makes it seem like his choice, now, to be the tough man playing poker with the big boys.

“I did what you asked,” Lucas / John tells Vaughn, and downs his vodka, in Spooks 9.4. “Now you and I are done.”

The next line is really important: “You didn’t do this for me,” Vaughn replies. “You did this — for you.” What’s great about the expressions on Armitage’s face at this point:

is the combination of surprise, wariness, and the move at the very end towards something that looks like anger or sadness on the right side of his face (for a change) and the slight, almost involuntary opening of the lips. What we see in this scene, something that John doesn’t realize, is that just as Vaughn did whatever caused John to become Lucas in the past, he has triggered exactly this step again. We see whoever it is here at the end of the scene realize the extent to which his activities in the world have compromised the pure thing he was trying to recapture — but only for a split second, as he’s already made his way back into Lucas. Armitage transmits facially the process that Vaughn is accomplishing (im)morally.

Really sophisticated, Mr. Armitage — a great way to deal with a problem script and still have a halfway believable character development. Hats off.

Problem two: the emotional range that Armitage has established for John. Over the past three weeks I’ve been tracing ways in which Armitage has expanded on Lucas’s expressions and gestures in order to build a repertoire of these for John. It seems to me on some level that we’re approaching the discursive limits of these repertoires, and I’m interested to hear what you think. (By “approaching the discursive limits,” we poststructuralists mean that the vehicles established for the conveyance of particular content are starting to strain under their rhetorical load, i.e., that whatever it is that needs to spoken in a given setting is exploding the capacity of the available expressive means to speak about it.) I think these limits are reached twice in this episode. Once I found it convincing, and once I was uncertain.

The convincing moment is the scene where John runs to Maya in the hospital to proclaim to her that they can be together now and “do anything.”

Really, even given the broader expressive capabilities that Armitage has built into John, this scene is off the map. You have John yelling at the beginning, you have him emotionally out of breath, falling back into the waiting area chair, responding perhaps in disbelief at what he believes he has just wrought, you have his excitement at informing Maya that their future now stands wide open, you have the “earnest forehead crinkles” that aren’t really a part of Lucas’s repertoire — Lucas prefers the “crinkles of pain” or the “crinkles of irony.” In fact, we’ve never ever seen Lucas do anything like this; at this point John has completely separated from Lucas’s gestures and expressions to become a different person.

I have to say, though, that I found this believable, and an exciting scene to watch, and I think it’s for two reasons. The first is that Armitage is completely John in this scene; there’s no hint of Lucas here at all. He enters the scene and ends it as John. The second is that the ending of the scene is not only poignant, it recalls the end of 9.2, where it seems that the purpose of all of this recovery of his past is not desire so much as it is remembrance, a remembrance of his past that’s established through contact with Maya. John’s eyes are closed as if he’s summoning the recollection of a former self, and the way that he presses his face into Maya’s at the end of the scene seems to suggest that he’s trying to breath her in entirely and engulf her in his senses as much as he is simply kissing her. Armitage thus moves John back to the emotional core that he’s established in 9.2, and the scene remains very credible and indeed moving.

The moment I was uncertain of was the (somewhat earlier) scene in the park, where Lucas / John now has to make a decision about how he’s going to respond to Vaughn’s demands.

Here Vaughn is asking Lucas again for the Albany file, and promising to disappear once he gets it.

In this clip, for the solid first half of the scene we’re still seeing Lucas as he listens to Vaughn’s demands. This could be Lucas of 7.2 talking to Arkady Kachimov, in terms of facial expressions, until the call ends, and it looks like Lucas is going to stride off resolutely through the park, except he’s suddenly lamed, and we see a whole-body expression, a convulsion of dismay or anger, before a quick cut to Lucas sitting on the park bench and holding his head in his hands. This is frankly something that we only rarely see from Lucas, to my knowledge. I mean here intense emotive convulsions in a situation where no one else is physically present for Armitage to play against. I could think of only two, off hand, which you can look at to compare: the scene in 7.2 when Lucas can’t sleep, and the scene in 8.4 when Oleg Darshavin informs Lucas that he’s holding Sarah Caulfield hostage. Interestingly, just like the one above, both of these scenes also involve frame-speed tricks that both simultaneously draw our attention to the convulsive moment and abbreviate it so that it falls slightly outside our perceptive frame. But in the scene from 9.4 everything about the emotion and physical motion is much more extreme. Convincing?

While I don’t think this is awful, I was jarred by this scene, I think because the transition from Lucas to John is immediate — there’s just no pause between the Lucas persona on the phone and whoever it is (John?) who performs that initial reaction. It’s John, one imagines, who’s on the park bench at the end. This was a bit too abrupt for me, too quick and far of a motion outside of Lucas for me to accept easily. What do you guys think?

And as a final question about the characterization of John and Lucas: Who do you think we’ll encounter first next week?

Clothing Armitage:

Although this isn’t the first time we’ve seen it, I’ll come clean and declare that I just don’t like the wifebeater as a style choice for Lucas. I never have. I realize this is likely to be a minority opinion.

Our friend the season 9 Belstaff jacket, still making him look great. Something that I noticed this time in looking at it that I hadn’t before is the contrast between the oversized features (collar, cuffs) and the tightly fitted moments in the jacket. It creates the potential for an impression of toughness and vulnerability at the same time that we didn’t see in series 8’s jacket. The collar creates a sort of looseness and a largeness that can accentuate his occasional looks of desperation.

Similarly, here, the unsnapped wrists make him look like a boy whose nacket is just a touch too big, even as he barks his responses to Vaughn into his phone.

As miserable as Lucas looks here, I still loved these jeans, with the slight relaxation in the cut of the bottom of the leg really making the leg look like a long, tapering pillar. I’m sure he’s not upset because of the way the jeans look.

Random:

Armitage is still delivering some impressive action moves, to wit:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) heads back down from the roof of the Chinese Embassy in Spooks 9.4.

And, to conclude, best quip I’ve heard in a long time:

At a CIA – MI-5 meeting along the Thames embankment in Spooks 9.4. Harry (Peter Firth): “[I] see you’re plunging into the indigenous cuisine.” Beecher (Colin Salmon): “It’s the vinegar. [Snort.] Who knew?”

Oh, Mr. Beecher. I will subscribe to that — both to the vinegar on salty “chips” and the surprise about how great it tastes. I discovered it in London, too. Rule Britannia.

~ by Servetus on October 12, 2010.

177 Responses to “Don’t do it, Lucas! [Spooks 9.1-9.4 spoilers!]”

  1. A wee bit over-complicated?

    They should all go home and let Ruth run Section D; she has the intuition and terrior-with-bone talent. Harry as her back-up; better control of Lucas/John as field agent…(but that wouldn’t be as much fun).

    The best part is to watch Mr. A grapple again with a very odd script and characteriztion. (And you thought LOST was confusing?)

    I fancy Lucas and Beth for riding off into the sunset (or sunrise) together. Maya is rather remiscent of Elisaveta, though not a clone. Beth is a more exotic Margaret Hale.

    Heresy, I prefer Mr. Armitage’s pre-JP body image, but that’s probably just Gisborne-nostalgia.:(

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    • Yes, complicated plots are no fun if they don’t make sense either on their own terms or in terms of the character.

      The upside of this episode for me was indeed the sense that Armitage made out of Lucas, who’s once again become implausible. Seriously, if I were Armitage and had this kind of experience often I’d leave series TV forever to become a script writer.

      Right now Lucas seems to be treating Beth like a younger sister …

      One weird thing about this episode was that most of it seemed to be shot with Armitage’s body “in between” Lucas and Porter. You see it particularly in scenes where he has bare arms, like the “knife kiss” moment, I think.

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  2. So the Albany file, what does the image of Turner’s
    Battle of Trafalgar mean? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Trafalgar_%28painting%29
    Nelson and “England Expects Every Man to Do His Duty” – does that mean something to Lucas, is there a hidden message in the image itself? Lucas looks at it as though there may be a hidden message or code. Maybe compare the image of the painting with what we see on screen? Have been thinking about it without any conclusion.
    What an episode, for me it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

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    • Thanks for filling in the detail on the image, as I did not recognize it. Not surprisingly, I hate Turner.

      I’m hoping against hope that the fact that Lucas spent all that time looking at the screen before he downloaded means that he found the tool he needs to end up on top. Even though he’s now a total schmuck.

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  3. A few thoughts: noticed that Lucas was completely dressed in black this episode? Black shirt and black jeans in the grid. Not the usual dark blue or grey colours. Clearly a sign that he is meant to be regarded as the bad guy now.

    Are we supposed to believe that he did not look at Vaughn’s file after getting A level clearance, that he did not look at the Albany file after accessing it and that he never did wonder what Maya’s picture did in the suitcase? We don’t know because we weren’t shown and because we don’t know Lucas looks very stupid at the moment,a puppet manipulated by Vaughn who does his bidding for the only purpose that Vaughn does not tell Maya what exactly he did in Africa (was it so horrible that it would drive her away if she can accept that he was in prison for something he was guilty off?). After all he was not at all naive but clever and ruthless in the way he set up the young man to cover his tracks.

    There could be a lot more to it but it won’t be revealed until episode 7 or 8. I suppose if everything is what it seems at the moment I should be disappointed by Lucas and by the writers. But even if that is everything and Lucas is an idiot who is loosing his head over a woman, it sets the scene for the next episodes very nicely. Lucas has opened a Pandora’s box by stealing “Albany”, it will have consequences, he will pay for it, regret it and hopefully try to make things right in the end. He did not become a bad guy, he is someone who was blackmailed. We are up for some big drama and halfway through the series this story arc has only just begun.

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    • Interesting observation about Lucas being dressed in black throughout the episode signaling the “bad guy”. I hadn’t thought about that,or noticed, but you are absolutely right Jane. I have to confess Servetus that I love the “wifebeater” on Lucas and was missing it, and happy to see it return – LOL.
      What I wonder about the episode was is Lucas/John being manipulated by Vaughn and Maya, or is he the manipulator? Maybe wishful thinking on my part here. I do wonder about the mini-breakdown he has in the park after talking to Vaughn, what to read in that jumble of emotions, anger, frustration, despair…he’s not cold and calculating at that moment, in that scene. Yes, I also wonder what did he do in Africa that was so horrible, and are the writers building us up for a revelation that will satisfy us or dissapoint us?

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    • Hey, Jane, you really have a charitable heart. I hope you are right that all of this information comes to light and either exonerates or helps Lucas, and that this is not just a case of the scriptwriters again making Lucas look stupid and implausible for no apparent reason.

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    • Maybe the suitcase contains all the personal items of John’s life before he became Lucas North, and that this was for some reason entrusted to Vaughn for safekeeping. Just speculating.

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    • @Jane, black doesn’t necessarily mean “the bad guy”. Black exists due to the absence of light. It could also signify the degree of confusion and conflict (lack of light or clarity) he is experiencing or that he is losing his sense of himself. They’ve left out alot of information (how DID he explain the prison tatoos) and had purposefully mined the field with contradiction upon contradiction. Lucas may finally be experiencing the culmination of his capture and imprisonment ordeal…time will tell.

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      • Nice comment about the potential meaning of “black” here. It will be interesting to see if the point of S9 ends up being answering all the questions generated in S7 and 8.4.

        An ongoing issue for me is that I want to read metaphorically all the way through Spooks, and I keep being confronted with this sort of problem — dressing him in black: statement or accident? My postmodern sensibilities notwithstanding it is truly frustrating. I’d be delighted for him to keep on playing Lucas, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand to watch Spooks 🙂

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        • That’s how I feel, Servetus; it’s not that I am ready to give up Lucas as a character, but the show itself is beginning to drive me bloody bonkers. The mysterious moving tattoos, Lucas as solid MI-5, well maybe not; does everything have a meaning or is a lack of a good continuity person and scriptwriters too lazy to read or re-watch previous eps? I am not your intellectual equal by any means, but I do have a logical mind, I like to think. And it’s not all adding up for me yet. And there is an awful lot of territory they will need to cover in just three eps (assuming this is the end of the line for Lucas . . .)

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        • @servetus and angie,

          This is the heart of the matter as you’ve stated it, I am not ready to give up Lucas but Spooks as a series, yes I am.

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          • I guess it is just as well it’s highly unlikely RA will be appearing in Spooks after this series, as several other fans I know of feel the same way, Ann Marie–hating to say goodbye to Lucas, but not really wanting to see him put through any more of this dog-and-pony show at Spooks, either.

            And how wonderful to know RA has such a brilliant project lined up in the future . . . still trying to take all that in. Plus CA and we can hope, more SB (because I love John Porter and Superman wears JP pajamas).

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  4. I found the hospital scene to be a bit odd…he rushes in and tells her we can be together. As far as she knows, he works in private security, so what would be the impediment to them being together??? I wonder if Maya’s past isn’t more complicated??? Her tone was a bit creepy, when she said we have to be together.

    I can’t wait for Ruth to bust Lucas. She asks for his phone records. I wonder how long it will take?

    I have a feeling LN is going to be killed off before the end of the season.

    Fav line: when Harry tells Ruth she needs to start wearing a cow bell.

    Like the Home Sec, his droll sense of humor, I like the hapless persona hiding the shrewd politicn. Honestly, I found all the sub stories more interesting that the actual story.

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    • Yes, this was a script problem along the lines of the ones Jane pinpoints above — we don’t know what they know about each other. Of course, he apparently doesn’t know anything about her, either. She could have plenty of hidden reasons for what she’s doing, too, including being in league with Vaughn … aaaargh. It’s hard for me to believe that they’d spend a whole night together, though, and not talk at all.

      I agree with you about the demise of Lucas. This episode means he’s either got to emerge a hero (someone says that below) or be written out. It’s inconceivable given how this series works that he could survive what he just did without a resolution.

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  5. Just have to say that wifebeater + knife + passionate kiss = *swoon* *squee*. Love the shirtless scene, is it me or is he actually looking more muscular?

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    • I think he’s still got a lot of Porter there, particularly in his shoulder and back muscles. Arm muscles, however, seem to be losing mass at this point.

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    • I have to say I love that shot with his back to us kissing Maya and holding the knife. The more I look at it, the more it thrills me.
      When I saw his pants(trousers) I said ‘Those are the pants he was wearing when he returned to the UK, when Harry exchanged him with a russian spy(I think)’. They are the same, right?

      OML 🙂

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      • yeah, the same style and color/pattern anyway — probably not the same exact outfit. 🙂

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      • I was pretty thrilled on the first viewing…hmmm..wonder what that says about us? Best not to think about it too much.

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        • I asked myself that, why does it trill me…my answer: ‘Nah, never mind, just enjoy’.

          OML 😀

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          • Sometimes, OML, it’s just easier to accept and enjoy. Not complicate things with–thinking.

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            • This is a life lesson I wish I could learn 🙂

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              • I’m still working on it at the half-century mark. I was such an earnest and serious young thing, I’ve had to learn to loosen up and sometimes just “go with the flow” as I have gotten older. Which just goes to show you one should never stop learning.

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      • I thought exactly the same. I’m not sure if he wore them in the series but I swear there is publicity pic of Lucas in the washroom scene wearing Adidas jogging bottoms. The Russians like to dress their prisoners well. (In the actual scene he already had changed to jeans)

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        • it’s some of that clothing people in the West are always being asked to donate for poor people elsewhere — probably the FSB got its hands on some of that for its prisoners …

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          • I was noticing when we were in Mexico recently how many of the locals had t-shirts with American schools, companies, etc. on the front. Similar thing . . .

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            • I read an article at some point about how it is that fans can buy a t-shirt that says “My team superbowl champions” within minutes of the end of the Superbowl. Apparently it’s because companies have calculated they make a lot more sales if the item is available immediately. So they print t-shirts with each of the teams in the game winning, but they only sell the ones with the “right” information on them. The items printed with the “wrong” outcome are then donated to charities in Africa and elsewhere that clothe the poor. Apparently travelers to Africa have the frequent experience of seeing sporting contest related t-shirts with false outcomes on them. Who knew?

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              • They don’t just do that with the Superbowl either; any major college rivalries, college championships–they have people printing two different versions of shirts to sell people as soon as that game is over.

                So, yeah, I can see that happening. I mean, who is going to buy one here with the wrong outcome printed on it?

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  6. @rob, I have an awful feeling you may be right about Lucas’ demise. Perhaps that is why Richard bought the champagne at the series’ end for the cast? As his farewell present . . . needless to say, I am upset at this turn of events. Seeing him screw over that young agent broke my heart. And the hospital seem did not seem “right” to me, either. I feel as if Lucas is bipolar at this point; well, of course, he does now have two personalities . . . one one hand, he seems to have completely lost control and on the other, to have become more controlled and cold-blooded than I’ve ever seen. Can’t say I like this Lucas North much. But he did look smashing.

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    • It wasn’t champagne it was Chablis (dry white wine). 🙂 Well if Lucas does not come out of this as the hero, Richard is done with Spooks. In that case we don’t have to get angry about inconsistencies and plot twists we don’t like any more. I’m very pragmatic here.

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      • That’s probably the best way to keep your sanity, Jane. It’s just that I liked Lucas so well. 😦

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        • Me, too. I think of Richard emphasizing in that interview with Flirty Girl (sorry, can’t remember her name) that Lucas “is a hero,” which makes me hope this is all just a big old manipulation by Lucas of Vaughn and Maya (sorry, I don’t trust her now)instead of the other way around. And why does a spy live in such an easy-to-see-into-and-break-into place??

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          • Indeed, I wondered that last week. Unless, of course, you want to be seen and broken into.

            The thing that makes it hard for me to see all of this as just an elaborate ruse on Lucas’s part is that the little pre-season publicity I allowed myself to read reported Armitage as saying that she’s the love of his life. If that ends up being true, but that since he knows what’s in Albany at the very latest he is pulling a fast one on her, that still makes Lucas seem very, very cold…. 😦

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            • Of course, RA also said nice things about Sarah Caulfield’s character and GOR prior to Spooks 8, and look how that turned out–the major debacle of the series.
              I’m getting very paranoid these days, methinks.

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          • @angieklong
            Thanks for that reminder. I’ve re-listened to the interview and RA’s comment that: ‘Lucas is effectively a hero but there is a side to him that’s hidden’. I feel a bit better now. Perhaps there’s hope yet.

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            • I feel I am grasping at straws these days, hoping for something to comfort me. We all have to hope for the best but be prepared for the possible worst.

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        • I feel like you, I like Lucas and was very hopeful for this season, that he’ll be the strong efficient section chief (just like Ros) and his relationship with Maya would be better written than last season.
          Maya is OK, so far she’s there so we see RA great kissing 😛 but what he did to that man, I’m in denial because is kinda dissapointing, even more after no sign of remorse when Ruth ‘discover’ it. I know RA’s character aren’t just good or bad, I expect him to do things his way/not by the rules but be overall good.

          OML 🙂

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          • At this point the only good plot resolutions all involve “ends justify the means” explanations (I had to frame that young man so that I could accomplish a greater goal). I can accept that, I suppose …

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            • The only good thing I can imagine after watching episode 9.4 is that Lucas bought some time through framing an innocent MI-5 colleague.
              They would necessarily have to do an internal investigation, where Lucas as section chief could control the research. – Except Ruth is already quite hard on Lukas’ tracks. But where would the fun be otherwise. –
              But I do not know if that interpretation of Lucas motives is just wishful thinking on my part, as I really would like Lukas to be good, clever and still be around in series 10.

              Episode 9.4 in general caught me quite off guard with Lucas so easily giving in to Vaughan’s demands. Also the picture of the death of a national hero rattled me. Was it a sign for Lukas’ (intended) fate?

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            • “I had to frame that young man so that I could accomplish a greater goal”… now it’s clear the greater goal was worth it, so he is officially clear and we will compensate for it.
              I can accept that.

              OML :/

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    • Angie, I thought that too when I read about the Chablis. 14 pounds a bottle is a lot for an end of season wrap but probably appropriate for a “so long and thanks for all the fish” tipple.

      I agree that the question of how we understand the character appearing in the body of Richard Armitage is getting harder to understand from scene to scene. At this point I felt he was still managing it most of the time — I am crossing my fingers for him for next week.

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      • It just left me feeling dazed and confused. Mind you, I had just spent two wonderful hours listening to Beatles music performed by a fantastic band, clapping, yelling, singing along and ended up dancing with one of the band members who I discovered was born the year I graduated from high school . . . so I was feeling really–tired and wound up but in a good, happy sort of way. And then I watched this ep and the evening sort of went down the crapper for me. And I was tired and wound up in a bad sort of way. My side started hurting about 2 a.m. That’s what I get for acting like a cradle snatcher. *bemused grin*

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  7. I am still so upset that I can’t think straight. I have so many questions:
    1) Wouldn’t the Russians after 8 years of torture uncovered “John”?
    2) Why is Vaughn allowed to run around willy nilly?
    3) Didn’t Lucas look up his file once he had access?
    4) Why would he believe Vaughn would disappear after getting the file? Now Lucas is on the hook.
    5) Were Vaughn’s comments about the importance of setting up a fall guy portentous?
    6) It just doesn’t make sense to me that Lucas would lose himself so completely so quickly and more importantly toss away EVERYTHING.
    7) Perhaps John is the legend, would he have MARRIED and possibly fathered children with Elizaveta under a legend?

    Finally, The scene in the hospital didn’t play true for me although I will have to view again looking at it as the totally emotionally off the chart behaviour of John rather than Lucas. I have pause for the whole scenario with Lucas which I think has been reinforced by what servetus said in describing the iconic moment, the knife and the lover, I am hoping John is just another mask and this whole thing has a moral purpose. “A traitor is a traitor”. Sigh. 😦

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    • Perhaps he’s playing Maya because he suspects her to be in league with Vaughn? And gives the performance he is supposed to give if everything goes as Vaughn plans?

      I think we are meant to scream at the TV over Lucas stupidity at the moment but the solution could be something else entirely. Remember that in episode 3 he seem to be in control of the situation, he got Maya where he wanted her by not telling her the whole truth and resisted to Vaughn’s attempt to blackmail him. Don’t you think it is possible that he only pretended agree to help Vaughn but is in fact setting a trap? Things like that happen all the time in Spooks. I could be totally wrong of course.

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      • I thought Maya could be in league with Vaughn this morning when I was thinking over it again. But that means that I’ve once again been totally faked out by what I read as Armitage sincerity body language …

        I hope he’s setting a trap. You’re right that the episode makes Lucas look so stupid that it springs to mind quickly.

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        • Someone pointed out that she could have opened the glass door and let Vaughn in?

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          • That’s what I am thinking, Jane. She is up to something. And after the debacle that was his relationship with Sarah Caulfield, I just think as smart a man as Lucas–unless he was far more unhinged by those eight years we assume he was in prison–wouldn’t jump right in to a relationship with a woman he hasn’t seen in 15 years, even if she was supposed to be the love of his life. I would think there would be enough of the “once bitten, twice shy” philosophy to keep him a bit more grounded and cautious.

            I just don’t want him to leave the show (and I feel more and more as if this is his swan song) with Lucas seen as a traitor and a liar, a true bad guy. He was my hero . . .

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            • The problem for me with the reading of him being cautious about her is the 9.2 hospital meeting sequence. It just reads as so sincere.

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            • Let him remain your hero. Write a story about him, Angie. You don’t have to see him as the writers do.

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              • Indeed, Angie. If this ends badly you can fix it for ALL of us.

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                • Yeah, well, I had to face it with Guy and may very well face it again with Lucas. At least with Guy he died (in the show, he’s not dead to me, mind you) “a good Guy.”
                  On pins and needles as to how everything will end with Lucas.

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      • Well, I am thinking that (because I inadvertently read an interview that didn’t have a spoiler alert) there is so much more going on here than we can see now. After last week’s confrontation and challenge to Vaughn why would he back down now?

        Also, more importantly, he apparently DIDN’T tell her everything, including what his job is! hmmm…

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        • Yep, he is not being completely truthful. And neither, I suspect, is she. And Vaughn now has even more ammunition to use against Lucas/John. Why would he stop pulling the puppet strings? And boy, is he a creepy guy!

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        • that (why he backed down now after having told Vaughn no last week) was the most implausible piece of the script to me, assuming that we are supposed to believe it as read.

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      • Jane, I’m with you on this.

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    • All great questions.

      I suppose the moral trajectory of the show — “who’s moving who, control” could suggest that there are more levers being pulled here than we can see. The final scene implies one of them, of course.

      Sighing with you. 😦

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    • @ Ann Marie LOL — Why is Vaughn allowed to run around willy nilly?this is kind of funny since, he more or less shuffles around, I could prob take him our. 🙂

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      • Has Vaughn had a stroke of some sort? His walk, the way his mouth is drawn down on one side and his speech would all seem to indicate that. He doesn’t exactly look like the healthiest physical specimen.

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      • I wondered this, too. If he’s so dangerous why doesn’t Lucas / John just kill him!

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        • He can’t kill a person that seems a real threat (according to Lucas’ reaction/acyion) but can frame an innocent man! *sigh*

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        • Because Vaughn is a relative? Perhaps Lucas is John Edwards?

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          • Well, then he can speak to the dead?

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            • I don’t want Lucas to be ‘John Edwards.’ Perhaps only Americans get that reference? 🙂

              Now if he were Jonathan Edwards, that would be really interesting, though I suspect a big turnoff to most of Mr. Armitage’s core fans.

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              • Nope, not wanting him to be the guy who speaks to the dead, either, Servetus. I would be interested to see what he would do with the theologian who wrote “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” however.

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                • I could totally see him as some really angry Puritan preacher, or really any of the strong male characters, good or bad, in “The Crucible.” (and then no problem with the accent issue, either)

                  “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is one of my all time favorite texts. I’ve taught it repeatedly. Now I am outing myself a bit, but it’s so weird to actually like that piece of lit that it can only be confusing to my readers 🙂

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                  • Agree with you there. I could easily imagine him playing such a role, hearing that deep and commanding voice ringing out from the pulpit.

                    I am the granddaughter of what is known as a “hardshell” Baptist preacher. I do not recall much about him as he died when I was only five; but apparently he was a master of the hellfire and brimstone variety of preaching, a man small of stature with a thick thatch of prematurely white hair and a thunderous voice that got and kept your attention . . . he was an itinerant pastor who traveled the hills and dales of east central Tennessee, preaching the gospel. Two of my uncles also became pastors, one sounding uncannily, I’m told, like Grandpa in his cadence and diction (but with a gentler message).

                    Somehow I don’t think Grandpa Wood would have approved of my fan fic *blushes*
                    Although with 10 children born to the family, he certainly believed in being fruitful and multiplying . . .

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                    • Jonathan Edwards or your grandfather reading sl***h fic? The mind pales. 🙂

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                    • Yes, Servetus, they might let me get away with Guy and Marian or Layla and John, but . . . Guy and Allan at Turner’s Pond in L&F? Captain Jack and, uhm, everybody in TAC? I fear not . . .

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    • Ok, Head is on straight now.

      I believe Lucas is a patriot and that he is manipulating Vaughn and to some extent Maya. I think he knows there is a plan afoot and I believe that John is the legend, not Lucas. Lucas is real.

      Why do I think this? For a thousand reasons which servetus will be relieved that I am not going to list here. But, primarily, because HE DIDN’T TELL HER EVERYTHING, including the nature of his real job.

      Will this series be his last? Perhaps, but I firmly believe that a man who will endure 8 years for his country will not so easily throw it away, and if he dies, will die a patriot.

      Happy to debate and discuss…

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      • I have now watched the episode and I actually felt relieved after all the chatter about Lucas because I feet as you do, Ann Marie. The whole of this series has been based on double-crossing, double, even triple, agents and this can’t just be incidental to what appears to be going on in Lucas’ life. I think Lucas has been deep undercover for many years and that his relationship with Maya, perhaps even from the beginning, is not what meets the eye. He could have been a sleeper placed in an organisation that Vaughn and Maya were involved in and now that organisation has awakened and the final showdown is about to be played out. Harry stressed in series 7 that Lucas was one of the very best agents of his time and I think that the viewers are being led to doubt him so that we’ll have to re-evaluate all that we have seen and thought in connection with his actions throughout. There is also something slightly off about his relationship with Maya. I think that she seems wary of his haste in renewing their acquaintance. Even the set-up with Stephen, seemingly so cold-blooded and callous, might not be what it appears and could have been arranged together with Harry.

        Another reason why I now feel doubtful about the Lucas as traitor line we’re being fed is that when he is in his MI-5 role he is decisive and heroic, more so than ever before. He is self-assured and takes rapid decisions and carries out operations as a good Section Leader. Perhaps he’ll still turn out to be the Blake-loving PK from Cumbria that we caught a glimpse of in series 7?

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        • I hope so.

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        • When Harry gave Lucas the section head job at the beginning of the series, Lucas asked for carte blanche and Harry did not challenge that. Lucas is not orthodox at the best of times so perhaps he feels the action he is taking is within his brief. His distress in 9.4 may be that he does have feelings for Maya and he knows that he has to play her.

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        • Righteous post, MillyMe. Amen. We should start a pool as to who comes closest to the actual series in our theories. And then if the writers screw it up, Angie can fix it for us, as I believe servetus suggested. 🙂

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          • Angie, being the consummate deliverer of our wish fulfilment when it comes to Richard’s characters, has already agreed to take on the task of writing Lucas as the gorgeous hero we know him to be after Spooks 9. Just as Guy was loved into existence after his death in RH3 by many, so will Lucas be, should the same fate await him!

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            • Why do I suddenly feel like a rather klutzy, well-upholstered lady knight holding up a pen (which is mightier than a sword, of course)and exclaiming how I shall right the grievous wrongs committed by TPTB? *giggle*

              I do have Lucas’s back covered. I can’t let him down. After all, he hangs out on my sofa virtually every night, he’s one of the family! LOL

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              • You’ll be so busy fixing mistakes in Armitage-related scripts, you’ll never get to write your own novels. I, of course, will read anything you write with pleasure, but some projects may need to be pushed off in favor of your own artistic trajectory … 🙂

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                • I have been musing over this very consideration, Servetus. Work has been so stressful and energy-consuming of late, and with an auto-immune disorder, I often don’t have a lot of excess energy to spare.

                  It’s hampered me in getting my Truce epilogue written; I have so many ideas in my head, so much I want to write. I need to write.

                  At what point will I have to lay my fan fic pen aside for a while as I work on my own novel?

                  Oh, how I wish I were independently wealthy!

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                  • I think you should do what most makes you happy, Angie, and only you can know what that is. I love your fanfic — and I am not one of those people who thinks that fanfic is a less-than-worthy genre. On its own terms it can be incredibly fulfilling to read, and recently it’s been hugely necessary to my emotional health. Truce has played an important role in that regard. At the same time, however, fanfic is not respected by the world and it’s volunteer. If you want to move toward writing novels, eventually you will probably have to slow way down or stop. I’d be sad if you did that but nonetheless supportive. On the other hand, you might decide it’s too important to you as a hobby to give it up. I’d support that, too, obviously. 🙂

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                    • Thanks, Servetus.
                      I’ve just had so much on my mind lately. I do know I have to always be doing something creative in nature or I’m sort of miserable. And probably not much fun to be around.

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        • As you know, MillyMe, I sincerely hope you are right. Because I just can’t stomach the idea of Lucas as a truly cold-blooded, Connie-like snake of a traitor.

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  8. I have not yet watched the episode, but I am not even sure I want to, when I read what Lucas does to the young man. I know it’s childish, but I am close to tears.

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  9. Me, too, Ann Marie, but right now I just feel depressed. All the more so because of all the people at snarky (sorry, don’t like the woman much) Vicki Frost’s blog denigrating Richard’s acting abilities again. Just because he isn’t your hottie cup of tea or you find Lucas dull and boring, don’t say the man can’t act. Thankfully, there are some who have pointed out he IS talented and charismatic–and does the best he can with what is thrown at him, script-wise.

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    • To go back to the discussion about his fans and the quality of his roles etc. , I bet when gets himself into something that is serious and award worthy and not a “hokum” they can make fun off and uglifies himself, people will be kinder about his acting.

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      • Yeah — this script, frankly, would have challenged the talents of even the very, very most experience actors. He’s actually doing very well, I think, but the character trajectory leaves him not a lot of places to go in this episode.

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  10. What I am super disappointed about is that since Lucas has taken over the missions are not running very smoothly. He does seem to be the caring boss, but at the same time things are not going very well, are they?

    This episode was just so crazy as everyone has pointed out. Here’s something that has always bugged me, Lucas was tortured for eight years and then he comes back and just jumps back into work. It just seems too convenient. Maybe he is some for of triple agent. Or maybe I am overthinking this. What a roller coaster ride! Is he a baddie? Will he be a hero? Is Maya an “agent”? More questions that answers!

    Who is this Vicki Frost woman? I will put a pox on her house for disparaging our man’s acting abilities. Richard is not hot? Whaat? I don’t understand.

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    • Actually Vicky Frost was quite taken with Richard when she interviewed him a few months ago. Unfortunately his charm wasn’t enough to convince her of his abilities as an actor. 😦

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      • Frost is a tough nut to crack, apparently. I still wonder if she has bothered to watch him in shows other than Spooks?

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    • Yeah, it’s not really conceivable that he could run all the stuff he does in S7 and suddenly be so incompetent in S9. Maybe, as fitzg says, it’s that he’s good as an action man in crisis situations in the field (8.7), although that hypothesis is severely undermined in this episode …

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      • I have to rewatch the episode to understand the whole Chinese plot but I got the impression that it was mostly about Beth struggling with the first asset she has turned and is running and now things go wrong and she cannot cope with it? Have to look out how much of it is Lucas fault.

        Anyway, things go wrong with Spooks quite often and agents have difficulties to cope with the situation. It is a recurring theme. It was only in series 7 and and 8 that we had infallible super woman Ros, Tom and Adam were fallible enough.

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        • it’s not Lucas’s fault, except in the sense that he’s always jumping to conclusions and aiding Section D ending up in the soup. However, to be consistent I do need to remind myself that without these mistakes there would be no plot.

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  11. Well, I’m not “managing” this series well! (Love the suggestion that Mr. A should turn to script-writing; producing, too. Only don’t remove him from front-of camera)

    Was Lucas alway bi-polar – maybe that’s why spooks can be spooks. Or is it a combination of Russia/double/and at this point almost triple lives? Agree, he’s not operating with much field sense just now – that’s why Ruth and Harry have to manage him.

    If pragmatism is the only option, then please, on to the next great thing for Mr. Armitage afterward. Can’t believe SB is going to be the pinnacle….

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  12. To paraphrase “bloody internet” – bloody script writers….

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    • Actually, at this point, I am feeling more charitable toward those SB scriptwriters (and I’ve been thinking myself rather superior to them as writers, frankly). The Spooks people are reminding me just a little too much of the nutters who worked on RH in terms of inconsistencies and bi-polar behavior of characters and implausibilities.

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      • @angie,the RH scriptwriter, the geniuses who decided to solve a lover’s triangle BY KILLING THE WOMAN! They wanted to rock Robin’s world Mr. Armitage has said and I guess they achieved it. Although I always thought that season 3 was the homoerotic fulfillment of one of the scriptwriters whom I will not name here. Although I can say that season 3 also gave me some memorable Guy moments (long hair, sexy waist, riding (quite well actually) a lovely white horse and a very funny tavern scene- Oi!

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        • and those pants he wore with the surcoat. Mmm, mmm, good.

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        • Yeah, let’s kill off the heroine, that’ll make everybody happy–NOT.

          I have to say S3 Guy definitely rocked MY world . . . what a feast of great acting–furious, tragic, heroic, and yes, funny!– we got there, on top of his appearance: marvelously engineered trousers, the nipped-in waist, broad shoulders and the way the coat curved over his lovely posterior. I loved his leathers but can’t imagine him as S3 Guy without his S3 guise.

          The gorgeous hair extensions he so effectively worked into the S3 Guy’s character arc–a greasy curtain to hide behind initially as the drunken, wounded animal we first saw, and then the shining locks as his confidence (and time spent in the bath!) returned . . . and the floppy black pirate shirt. The spurs. I liked it all. Oh, yes.

          Yes, there were redeeming qualities to S3 in spite of the at-times ridiculous writing. Homoeroticism? Oh, yes, my dear, it was practically springing off the screen at times. Which amused me greatly as I watched this “family show.”

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        • I passed over this initially, Ann Marie, but great point about solving the triangle by killing the woman. I think the way the script worked she had to die at that point, but I agree that it was objectionable that the script pushed in that direction.

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          • I realize that killing off Marian was perhaps inevitable, but my wish is that Vasey had done the deed–leaving Guy and Robin both grieving, with each accusing the other of being the reason for her demise. Robin embittered and determined to take his revenge on Vasey and Guy fighting his sense of allegiance to this man who is the only “family” he has (and with family like that . . .) and wanting to avenge the death of the woman he truly loved. Eventually they do come together as a team to combat Vasey. You could have still had plenty of angst and drama and wonderfully boozy, tormented S3 Guy, but not left Guy with Marian’s blood on his hands.
            That being said, RA and Lucy played that scene beautifully. I do hope he gets to work with her again at some point.

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  13. I just want to remind everyone here: NO SPOILERS!

    If I’ve been royally had by both the scriptwriters and by Armitage’s performance, I’ll be delighted to concede that when I discover it, but I want to find it out myself, ok ? 🙂

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    • I don’t think I’ve spoiled (Spoilt?) but if I have I am sorry, purely unintentional. I have been trying to avoid any of the musings and most of the articles out there. I read one by Laila Rouass thinking she might comment on working with Richard Armitage but…..

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  14. As I have said before, my lips are sealed. And also trembling because I love my Lucas–what I perceive as the “real” Lucas, which apparently way be way off course–and I fear for him.

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  15. I’m just confused…Why would the Chinese want Lucas? And could that be linked to this Albany/Vaughn situation?

    And I think Maya’s reaction at the hospital when ‘John’ arrives, screaming her name, out of breath, delivering that statement ‘I’ve fixed things. Everything’s clear. We can be together, do anything’…just a bit strange. How did she go from being angry that he disappeared out of her life 15 years ago and distrustful the night before to saying ‘OK…OK…..(Just because they spent the night together?) I don’t know. Seems a bit implausible to me – however great a lover he may be. I mean really, how could she trust him that quickly and not ask more questions about his odd statement (i.e. what do you mean you’ve fixed everything? What did you do?) Her expressions in that scene also seem to imply she is weighing/thinking about something.

    Could it be that Lucas is playing Vaughn but the John side of him thinks Maya is on the up-and-up and is sincerely relieved that he thinks he’s been successful at dealing with the Vaughn situation (I suspect unbeknownst to us he’s done more about this situation than the audience is meant to know at this stage). To me the whole episode as it relates to Lucas/John feels like we are being shown only the tip of the iceberg of his actions…lots remains unseen, untold to us.

    Agree it’s a bit weird that he is so not on the ball as section chief. Could he be so distracted by the Maya/Vaughn situation? But then again, he didn’t seem that on the ball on the boat either – with Dimitri and Beth running most of the show.

    Remaining confused…Will watch it again to see if more comes to light. And thanks to Musa about the title of the art re: Albany file (“England Expects Every Man to Do His Duty”) – Suspect this is the key to the Lucas/John story arc.

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    • Lots of interesting questions, calexora. I, for example, was suspicious two episodes ago that she’d just jump into his arms, but Skully, in contrast, found that convincing. And the scene in the park — ok, we see that, but given dramatic conventions, as it happens when he’s completely alone, something about that upsetness has to be real.

      I don’t think there’s any plot resolution available that I can think of that really leaves the Lucas character as we knew it intact. That is, I think it’s reasonable to suspect that there are huge ruses going on here (as I said at the beginning, it feels like the episode is deceptively simple) but it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which the data theft and the framing of Stephen turn out not to have been harmful. Lucas may be playing a good game, but I still think he’s playing his own game.

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  16. Is Vaughn ex-MI-5? How does he know the Albany file is in the archives….? Perhaps Lucas’ mentor when he first entered the service? And something went wrong on an op? Just guessing here. I could be way-off….

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    • theoretically, we know from some of the earlier photos taken that there are flashback scenes coming up …

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      • I hope those flashback don’t end up on the cutting room floor as some other promised scenes has appeared to go.

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        • I don’t know — everyone was saying there was going to be sex on a kitchen table, but the very limited stuff I read about that was about Mr. Armitage saying that he didn’t think Lucas was going to have sex on a kitchen table with her. Sometimes people read what they want to into a comment. Though if they do ever have sex on a kitchen table in the last three episodes, I’ll definitely be there watching eagerly 🙂

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          • Well, I’m confused, because Laila said she has several sexy scenes all over the house with both Ian and RA, but not sure what “sexy” constitutes: a kiss, a morning after scene as she had with Richard or actual kitchen table shenanigans?
            Really rather hoping I don’t have to see her being groped or groping The Despicable Maughn. It will only make me hate her, rather than being simply highly suspicious as I am now.

            Wouldn’t mind Lu-John and Maya going at it, mind you . . .

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  17. For the first time I am considering not buying the DVDs, and I have been a fan from the beginning. Suffice it to have the d*rn thing on my hard drive.

    Thank goodness for John Porter.

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    • Amen. At least, I don’t think they’ll turn JP into a bad guy, Nietzsche. Maybe these last four eps will make us change our minds and long to rush out and buy the DVDs. Fingers (and toes) crossed, my dear.

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    • I’ll still buy the DVDs, if for no reason other than THE kiss.

      But I agree, thank goodness for Porter.

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      • Same here, it’s that marvelous kiss and RA’s fine acting in spite of it all that will make them worth the purchase for me. Oh, Porter. We need you now more than ever. I sincerely hope RA’s filming of The Hobbit also allows him to shoot SB; assuming he is contractually obligated, anyway?

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        • I hope so because I can’t stand it if Porter drives off into the desert never to return. On the other hand if Mr. Armitage was only doing SB to stay in work, I don’t want him to work at something he hates.

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          • Well, as you know from Sloth Fiction, JP is bloody tired of driving around in that hot desert sun, poor bloke. So he is certainly hoping for his Creator to show up again and take him new places.

            I did get the distinct impression RA enjoyed playing JP, to the point of dreaming his dreams. So if that is the case, perhaps he would welcome more Strike Back . . .

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  18. Two days out, I’m still scratching my head. I guess for now I’ll concede that there are things about this episode that I don’t understand. In terms of Armitage’s performance, though, I still think I’m on interpretively safe ground. If it turns out that Lucas is a victim, I’m right; if it turns out that he’s playing a game we can’t see at this point, and so his repertoire as John seems strained here, that is then Lucas overacting in order to sell his position. If the latter is true, then my main objection is why does this particular episode still have so many implausibilities in it? If Lucas is pursuing some sort of op, then why does he do so many things that appear implausible / incompetent from the viewpoint of the inside of the script (not just mine)?

    In any case, I’m sure the end of the series will be fascinating. Even if it means I have to stop watching Spooks because I’m imprisoned in the UK for murdering the scriptwriters …

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    • @servetus, You could never be convicted because there would be millions of possible suspects, me included!

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      • It would be like Murder on the Orient Express. Only with many, many more people putting the knife into their bodies. The conjugal visits sound like it might be worth it, too.

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    • I don’t think you’d be alone on the murder, Servetus. Can you imagine the stir that would cause? Stop the press! Armitage Army Murder Mission: Spooky Writers Cop It!

      I hope that we can expect plenty of conjugal visits from a certain gorgeous spy from Cumbria as a reward for avenging his honour! 🙂

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  19. Well, if worse comes to worst, I’ll join the SWAT team in London. Suggest we burgle BBC House, lift every script, abduct the writers, and force them to eat every script, cardboard binders, rings and all.

    Mind you, they’re prbably chortling away that their S9 is generating so much controversy – all good publicity! At least, we’re TALKING!!

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  20. @servetus, after the Monday night madness passed and I got all my little gremlins back into their respective mental boxes I took the time tonight (last night?) to read and savor your original post here. Your use of humor provides a nice counterpoint to the cerebral analysis and dare I say, the Latin, of your narrative.

    I was particularly interested in your analysis of the scene where he runs to her at the hospital because in my initial viewing (I still haven’t watched it a second time in its entirety, just your clips as it is still a little raw for me) I didn’t find it believable. I have to say I still don’t, completely. Her reaction, “You shouldn’t be here”…why not? They apparently just spent an interesting night together and that is her “day after” reaction?

    You were right about the range of emotions Mr. Armitage gives John here which is a niggling point that bothers me. It does so because of what you pointed out in the opening scenes in the kitchen with the patio door and the knife. The transitioning between Lucas and John tells me that Lucas is still on duty (he sure seemed to be trying to get Maya the heck up and out, not the usual reaction of a love besotted, newly rekindled, satiated lover).

    Finally, I agree, the wifebeater (really hate the name of that) is not an attractive look in my opinion (my BFF vehemently disagrees) except that it serves to underline the Dum Spiro Spero.

    Thanks for letting me work out my Lucas angst on your blog. Just thought! Oohhh…from episode 3, perhaps we are meant to “Keep the faith”???????

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    • Work out your issues here any time, Ann Marie. I’m writing to work out my own, after all!

      I was thinking too that I should have let the episode “set” in my brain for an hour or two before writing. But part of the exercise is getting my impressions out and on the table so I can feel free to read other’s comments without feeling influenced.

      As I think about this more at the moment, what’s clear is that in the hospital scene Armitage’s gestural repertoire has completely left Lucas behind and takes off significantly from that of John. So if we want to see this as John, it’s not completely implausible — he’s more open. If we want to see it as Lucas acting, that might also be convincing. I so wanted to believe in John as real that I was tending toward the first. But if John is a legend, as you and someone else have said, then it could be the latter.

      I read “you shouldn’t be here” as a statement about not having non-medical personnel in what looks like a corridor to a hospital, possibly a recovery room or ward?

      However, whatever the context, I still love that kiss. Unless it turns out that it’s Lucas, acting in complete coldness to someone who’s also being manipulated by him and is not acting maliciously. Then I’m troubled by my own reaction.

      And I think we have no choice but to keep the faith. At least for another four episodes ….

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    • And also: I want to clarify that my frustration with this episode is not with the emergence of a non-heroic Lucas. That bothers me as a Lucas lover, but not as a critic of the episode. It’s a personal problem, but it doesn’t extend beyond my feelings. What bugs me about the episode, i.e., what annoys me as someone who thinks about how it works, is that so many things emerge that seem implausible given what I know about Lucas’s skill as a spy. If indeed all these implausibilities are pointing toward a different resolution to the narrative than the one that currently seems to be looming, that would make me as Lucas-lover happier, but it wouldn’t solve the problem of implausibilities, i.e., I feel like the scriptwriters are asking me to endorse things I find improbable in order to move their plot along.

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      • @servetus,

        You’ve hit it here in several parts:
        “is that so many things emerge that seem implausible given what I know about Lucas’s skill as a spy.”
        “I feel like the scriptwriters are asking me to endorse things I find improbable in order to move their plot along.”

        I don’t mind suspending disbelief for a time, but I wonder if we give the writer’s too much credit? What if some of this is just sloppy (and poor) writing?

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        • Yes — the sign of an effective clue to the resolution of (say) a murder mystery is that the reader isn’t inclined to find it suspicious when she reads it, so that when she finishes the book she thinks, “now why didn’t I notice that?” To me plot implausibilities are the hallmark of a bad clue, because we notice them quite quickly. And if they’re just sloppiness, that’s even worse, it’s like the writers aren’t taking us seriously as consumers of their product even as we take what they are producing for our consumption very, very seriously. I suppose you could say that taking a tv drama seriously is the sign that I need to get a life, but then again, popular drama is the key to understanding the temperament of an entire culture and its age. It reflects in vital ways how people see themselves and their world.

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  21. Which would suggest that popular culture (when you’re living it) is intrinsically illogical? Are we driven to believing six impossible things before breakfast? Are the writers living in a Dali landscape?

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    • Yeah, interesting. It may not be logical in a larger context, but it has to have its own internal logic, one assumes.

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  22. I do wonder if John/Lucas will get to ride off into the sunset with the girl? Instead of being blown to smitherreens like his predecessors.

    I think Vaughan manipulated John and Maya to do something in university or after unversity in name of some sort of cause and by John buckling to Vaughan’s black mail, he thinks they are free of the crime they committed or were manipulated to committ.

    I believe that John/Luca is done with being MI5 and is looking for a way out. He will disappear at the end of the season and leave it all behind. These are my theories and I haven’t read any spoilers.

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    • Sometimes it really gets to me when scriptwriters don’t bother to keep track of things they’ve written.
      Lucas has stated he’s resisted because he was MI5 and at his return the thing that gave him nthe normality of his life before prisson has been MI5, not forgetting the speech he gave Connie. So if he does want out IMO, is implausible in the bigger story-line. All that can’t be fake, if he didn’t feel that he should have a personal agenda which he doesn’t seem to act on, because all this new action are triggered by Vaughn.
      I don’t think this is Ros’s death affecting him, is it? So he wants a life and lucky for him, here appears Vaughn reminding him, he long lost love is alive, in the same city.

      I really want to be surprised by the writers, that all this *is* the tip of something more complex and plausible. Like ep2 where we saw only part of the story(Lucas’ part) and then we have a flashback with the rest (Beth’s part).

      OML

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      • What your comment points out is exactly how much of our knowledge about Lucas (beyond the things I mentioned in the post) has to be abandoned if we are to find his behavior in this episode even remotely possible.

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  23. It is reassuring to me when I come here and read your blog that there are more people out there who think Mr Armitage is a good actor. It has been disheartening this week to learn that some people think he’s downright bad! I can understand if some people aren’t fond of his style of acting, but to think he’s actually bad was a surprise to me. But I suppose the more he becomes known the more this will happen. Different strokes…

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    • Hey, kadamanja, don’t give up heart. As I wrote above there are so many script complications in this script that it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on, but this script must have been a terrible challenge for him and I think he did just fine with it.

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      • Please, let it all make some kind of sense in the end. It suddenly struck me we may get stuck with some sort of cliffhanger at this series’ end where we don’t know what fate Lucas meets (since they are planning a Spooks 10) And no, I haven’t read any spoilers related to that. I mean, we were all pretty sure Ros was dead; it was a horrible explosion and Hermione had hinted she was ready to go. But what if they choose to be really sadistic and leave it open?

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  24. This is an interesting conundrum. What do we have here, a good actor working with a bad script or a good actor working with a script so good that only the few realise the convolutions? I certainly will never entertain the notion that this is a bad actor with a good script where Richard is concerned. I’ve seen in him in too many other things. And even here, he grabs my attention whenever he appears on screen.

    By the way, I, too, don’t really like the “wifebeater”. I thought the black t-shirt last week when he was working on his lap-top was to die for!

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    • We’ll only know once we see how the plot line for Lucas resolves itself, but honestly: even if it turns out that John is somehow real and not a legend, I still can’t see how his performance as John in this episode is all that terrible. Really, in the hospital scene, assuming he’s John, it’s an extension of his previous characterization, not a departure. It’s just that we’re so used to closed off Lucas that it’s hard for us to accept a more emotional John. IF John is real and so is Maya, she also appears to accept the performance of John as it is.

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    • That’s what personally p**ses me off are those who criticise Richard in Spooks and make a blanket statement he is a bad actor, when they have never seen him in anything else. As far as I am concerned, he is always a good actor; the productions in which he appears may vary in quality and cohesiveness of writing and direction, but he consistently does the best he can with what he is given.

      I actually rather like the wife beater (and only because Lucas is in it, I am sure) but find the black T-shirt to die for.

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      • The more I watch Spooks (and I started rewatching series 8 these week late at night in light of the info we now have about Nicholas Blacke from 9.1) the more I see a show that puts a lot of constraints on his performances.

        I’m trying to figure out if my dislike of the wifebeater (British friends: singlet means something different in the US) is simply a cultural prejudice. I also thought the black T-shirt was to die for.

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        • If you think about it, Peter Firth has shown much more range in other projects–Equus–for example, then he is really allowed to in Spooks. Hermione was fab as Ros, but again, somewhat limited by the constraints of the production. It’s the nature of the beast, I suppose.

          I have to confess I tend to associate wifebeaters with trailer parks, cheap beer and “Cops” ( for non-Americans, a reality show that follows actual law enforcement officers around on their beats) but as with tattoos, I am willing to give Lucas North a pass.

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  25. […] least for me, Mr. Armitage, you got it just about rightSuggestion to Armitage marketing departmentDon't do it, Lucas! [Spooks 9.1-9.4 spoilers! pw=spooks9]On the ill-fitting suits: or Armitage resartus, part 1Mr. Armitage, his fans, our pursuit of "great […]

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  26. He’s excellent in Spooks. Don’t worry about those male-pattern-jealousy critics. Or the occasional female, who is just trying to maintain self-protective distance. (I do that myself, and dive into caustic/whatever humour, ’cause it’s silly to have actor crush; but not really). He is an extremely good actor.

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    • Yes, I agree. I didn’t read the Vicki Frost blog stuff (I’ll read them all when I am done with Spooks), but my impression from other comments I’ve heard is that she was taken in by the weird plot of the episode to an even greater degree than I was. If that’s true, it invalidates comments about his acting, as no one has any idea who John / Lucas is at this point and thus what his motivation could be.

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      • Excellent point, Servetus. How can a viewer judge a performance when there is so very much we do not know? (And I’ve been reading spoilers, and there is STILL so very much I do not know . . .)

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  27. I have been ruminating on Lucas as we all have. I don’t need a spoiler warning because I have purposefully not read anything that has given me any inside ideas. My thought is that with some of the social/political statements that the writers of Spooks seem to like to make, it has occurred to me that they may be inclined to make one more. Mainly that, there are no heroes. Eight years in prison, so what…he’ll turn on you/us eventually. It appear that they are systematically dismantling Lucas as if to negate his pain and sacrifice. He’s brilliant, gifted, yet naive, stupid and lovesick and lonely (psychotically lonely? there’s a thought)..it just doesn’t compute unless it is intentional. Just a random thread…

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    • Great questions.

      I just watched 3.5 last night, in which Adam forces Danny to assassinate someone. The pressures that loyalty puts on people in these situations are not to be borne, and that question has played out again and again. I think it’s an interesting contradiction to have a character who’s emotional stability is apparently contingent upon his explicitly articulated loyalty (e.g. in 7.2. and 7.8) but then put him in a situation where loyalty is not enough. I just hope that the reason for the latter is plausible.

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    • It’s a definite possibility. It’s a very disheartening and cynical POV, isn’t it, if that’s the tact they are taking.
      We are in the middle of mid-term elections here and as a journalist, I am subjected to even more exposure to mudslinging than the average citizen (endless emails on top of what we see in commercials and in mail-outs) so I am feeling pretty cynical and jaded about politicians in general, and wishing voting day would come and go as soon as possible. I don’t trust any of them very much and my county and state’s welfare depends on them.

      But I so want to be able to trust and believe in Lucas North, a fictional character. And I don’t want him to turn bad without a very, very good reason . . . Go figure why it matters so much to me.

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  28. […] by the way that the series 8 scripts treated Lucas North, and after a brief respite, Spooks 9.4 and 9.5 took Lucas North down a rather alarming path from which viewers who do not consume spoilers […]

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  29. […] life at present than Maya appears to be from this script.) The result is that we have a John who, like Lucas in 9.4, appears regularly not to think in his operational algorithm past whatever the current dilemma is. […]

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