RBOC: “I finally saw Spooks 10” edition

Finally got around to watching Spooks 10. Legenda has more or less replaced my old RBOC posts, but I felt like commenting on this issue and didn’t feel like writing paragraphs. Also, I have to return the DVDs to the library today so no time for serious pondering. If you haven’t seen the series, or have and have forgotten it, here’s a plot summary at wikipedia. With regard to Armitage, I felt at the end like I did at the end of series 9. I’m glad Richard Armitage was in Spooks; I think it offered him some interesting dramatic opportunities at the beginning of series 7 and occasionally after that; I’m sure it was good for his career; I hope he made some money doing it. Had the writing of series 8 and 9 had been as consistently good as it was in the very last episode of series 10, I would have been sorry to see him leave it. But nothing in series 10 — although I ended up enjoying it — made me wish he was still in it.

  • Nothing I saw in episode 1 changed my original opinion that the last shot of John Bateman and the reference to his potential desire for forgiveness were tacky. Why put in a shot that’s almost comical? If you want us to see Bateman’s death as tragic?
  • Similarly cheap: ten seconds of Tom Quinn at the end. Sorry. I didn’t buy it. Tom leaves MI-5 — indeed appears to suffer something like a nervous breakdown — because of his conscience, and now we should believe he’s a hired killer?
  • For most of the first episode, I thought, I’m not going to make it through this series. Was the show always this boring? Or was I really so entranced by Richard Armitage that I could ignore the rest of this? (I’m being a bit facetious — in order to understand Richard Armitage better, I also watched the first six seasons.) One thing I noticed particularly this time was the replay of so many places I’ve seen already. You don’t mind repeated sets so much when the plots are more interesting.
  • Though my ultimate evaluation of this series was somewhere between the drastically differing tones of reviews I read, you can see in the early episodes of this series why some reviewers thought it was tired. Elements like: “spy with a conscience” and “Ruth never fails” and “child in danger!” were repeated here without noticeable change or elaboration. The new grid characters for this series were also undeveloped and / or replays of characters we’ve met before. The “spying” elements of this series were both predictable and not really believable. Which is why it was almost funny that in the last twenty minutes of the show, it occurs to Ruth to ask why they are finding certain kinds of evidence. If they’d ever asked that question before, the show would have collapsed completely. It was one of those curiously postmodern script moments where you wonder if the characters are going to conduct a revolt against the script. In particular, the accuracy and speed with which they accessed and interfaced CC tv data was, well, actually not at all credible. By the end of this series, that computer and its motion analysis system had sort of turned into the equivalent of the transporter on Star Trek as a deus ex machina.
  • It’s hard to avoid seeing, while watching series 10, exactly how much audience capital they burned during series 8 and 9 to make those very complicated plots work. (And it almost makes you think the writers thought that series 9 would be the last.) Because one problem with the beginning of series 10 is how few continuing characters there are left to like. I realized, with the occasional moments of intra-Grid relationship warmth, how much I’d missed that element of the show (the interactions of the spies among each other), which was almost totally abandoned in series 8 and 9, when characters were simply rapidly torched, and the remaining potential relationships (Ros + Lucas, Lucas + Jo) were non-starters. I guess that doesn’t matter so much here, since they knew series 10 would be the last — and there really was only one intra-Grid story left (Ruth + Harry).
  • In essence I think that means we have to see the presence of Armitage in the show as an element that contributed to killing it — insofar as the writers got so involved in plot lines involving Lucas North that they failed to develop the other characters enough to make them narratively load-bearing entities. NB: I am not blaming this on Armitage, and the show was getting old, but Lucas did take up a disproportionate amount of plot energy.
  • Lara Pulver is a talented actress, not just another pretty face. I wondered whether I was going to buy “serious career woman” from her after the campy Cruella DeVille number in Robin Hood, but I did. Her face has a lot more capacity for emotion that one would realize from watching series 3 of RH.Based on some of the reviews I’ve read I’m starting to wonder if her career has been impacted by how gorgeous she is — if casting agents are too distracted by her beauty? (Don’t know and am not interested in researching her career.)
  • I liked Sophia Myles and I miss her, even though I agreed with 100% with the explanation given for decommissioning her (and said at the time that it was a reason not to hire her).
  • Max Brown is better looking than I realized. Armitage really had him so badly out-beautifulled that I couldn’t see him well in series 9.
  • About halfway through episode 2, I started getting interested. As you would probably predict if you knew me, it was the plot line about Martha Ford — who spies because she thinks it’s the right thing to do and then gets abandoned.
  • Composers: cheap but obvious recycle of main theme from James Bond movies during car chase scenes = uncool.
  • Although I never like to see a Section D character die, I was left largely cold by Tariq’s death, and I assume this is because the last few series gave me so little investment in this character. The statement he made about how an MI-5 career was something he had to fight for and so he cared when things went wrong was the most real information we got from him since his first appearance. Oh, that there had been more of this, earlier on.
  • Which really raises the unavoidable conclusion for me that the real problem with both series 8 and 9 was that many of the things that made the early seasons of Spooks great were simply missing. There were almost no great philosophical script moments, attempts at equal plot distribution that would have built up smaller characters in preparation for subsequent seasons, or section D character relationships — series 8 and 9 were heavily about complicated plots with characters from outside the Grid, and in fact, in series 9, the complications of the plot were such that they submerged the great potential philosophical moments of the series (Lucas / John’s conversation with Harry during interrogation), because I couldn’t get past the credibility problem to think about the philosophical issues involved.
  • William Hope (Jim Coaver) is a Canadian, and this makes him a lot more believable as an American. Only a few slip ups. I almost bought this. But I’m starting to wonder if Texas / Oklahoma is the new Brooklyn in terms of accents non-native actors think they can easily feign. It’s not so, folks. But Hope was pretty good. The most believable American was the very young Agent Defoe (Rick Kissack). It was a tiny role but his performance, in terms of its Americanness, youth, and arrogance, was spot on. Kissack has trained in the U.S. and you can tell, I think. He has the vibe of the conservative, cocky, mid-twenty-year-old, new government agent uncannily down to a T.
  • Alice Krige’s performance was strong (I’ve always liked her work), but none of the Gavriks were remotely credible as Russians. So I guess you can say a Russian viewer of this series has an even greater believability hurdle to get over than an American.
  • While watching episode 3, I wondered: are British audiences still buying into this “Muslim evil among us?” storyline? Or its counterpart, the “one good Muslim” plot? Yawn, although I felt sorry for Ashur.
  • The really strong performances in this series came from Peter Firth (good — there were a few points where I almost identified with him, though I have always had very little sympathy for his character) and Nicola Walker (fantastic). Ruth is potentially the character in Spooks that I identify with most. I was torn into pieces when I heard about her death. I’ve always loved the way Walker has Ruth Evershed play with Ruth’s tics in social and spying situations (“antisocial dowdiness”) and here it’s masterful. I loved how she played the Home Secretary (newly slim Simon Russell Beale) for everything she was worth. I hated how she died. Hated, hated, hated it. Which I guess is the sign of a good script.
  • Did anyone believe that the UK government was going to allow Harry’s extradition that easily?
  • When Spooks is good (which has been relatively rare since series 7, although I felt strongly at the time and continue to do so, that 9.3 was a fantastic episode; 8.7 would also be on my list of great ones) it is unsurpassed, and I finally got that feeling again in the very last episode, 10.6, where we see exactly the frighteningly murky depths of Harry Pearce’s character and the precise dimensions of his personal weakness revealed in every last excruciating detail. As the various twists of the deception he’s fallen prey to emerge, in his every reaction, we see a man who is, as Ilya Gavrik charges facetiously in the previous episode, mostly capable of love of an ideology rather than of loyalty to people. Ruth’s statement that “people like us aren’t meant to have those things” (love, marriage, family, houses, relationships) is most true of Harry, because he never had the courage to go beyond his father’s saying. Ruth says, “we’re made of secrets,” and this is why Harry has to return to the Grid, which he (IMO unsurprisingly) does at the end of the series, because has nothing else. Nothing but an idΓ©e fixe and the secrets he’s amassed to guard it. When Ruth dies, the final hope for his humanity (in the sense of its capacity to grasp the individual) dies, too, and nothing is left but spying. You also feel, here, the truth of John Bateman’s words to him in his final moments (paraphrasing) about how Harry won’t be changed by any of it — he’ll just tell self-pitying stories about it later over alcohol.
  • Though the way the final scene is filmed it almost seemed to me that his return is supposed to make us feel better about the fate of the nation. We’re in good hands with Harry. Not. If I have one big structural critique of Spooks as a piece of art, it’s that it all too often made the philosophical issues it explored questions of personal moral philosophy; it never questioned that the fates of these huge entities (and the lives of the people who live in them) were in the hands of such ridiculously venial individuals. That Spooks never saw, or said, that international politics is fatally flawed precisely by the fact that we let it be run by people with such terrible personalities and questionable moralities, people whom we wouldn’t have as friends or allow into our homes, was one of its most disappointing features for me as a viewer. The whisky drinking is the big symbol of this — we are supposed to pity Harry because he needs the satisfaction of a bottle in his office to get through the day, as opposed to asking ourselves, why does anyone have a job where he needs a bottle in his office?
  • Then again, it’s “only” entertainment.

~ by Servetus on June 25, 2012.

128 Responses to “RBOC: “I finally saw Spooks 10” edition”

  1. Excellent. Excellent. Obviously, I agree. : D

    Like

  2. This was really interesting, Serv. I sincerely doubt I will ever watch S10 unless it happens to show up on PBS here, and they’ve never gotten beyond the first or second series with Adam in it, much less to the Lucas years.

    I honestly believe they believed the show wasn’t going to be recommissioned after S9 and that’s why the ending of S9 (to me anyway) felt really tacked on.

    Don’t know if you saw Lara in Sherlock, but she was quite good as a dominatrix. And I am glad to see she can play more than wild-eyed bunny boiler characters.
    I like PF as an actor, but I totally hated Harry Pearce by the end of S9. And when i heard Ruth died to save him, I was cheesed off. They killed off all the characters I liked/respected.

    I remember truly being on the edge of my seat for S7. S8 had its moments, but overall I was so frustrated with the whole Nightingale plot and the unfortunate Sarah Caulfield character it diminished my enjoyment.
    S9 was just too much of a soap opera in my opinion and you know how I feel about what they did to Lucas. Once he died, I didn’t much care what happened. I do think the show was ready to be retired.

    Like

    • yeah, the station in the market I live in currently has seemed to stop at series 4. On the other hand — if Armitage becomes well known in the U.S. because of The Hobbit, perhaps PBS will move it on a bit further — you always think the reason they’re showing the early episodes is b/c PBS audiences have loved MacFadyen’s acting in historical dramas.

      I’ve been in the hold queue for Sherlock for about six weeks and just got to the top of it, so I just picked up those DVDs. I guess I’ll see what everyone is so excited bout.

      re: killing off characters you respected — well, it more or less killed off all its characters by the end.

      Like

      • Except bloody Harry! How I learned to hate that man by the end.

        And that bit with Tom was just so ridiculous, wasn’t it?

        Great overall review, Servetus. I couldn’t even invest enough energy into watching series 10 to be able to analyze it! So thanks for doing it for me πŸ™‚

        Like

  3. Good analysis. Agree with most of it. Spooks 10 was sadly unengaging for me in general, I think I was still mourning the loss of RA. But I loved that Tom came back at the end, I felt that was a bone tossed to the viewers who have watched it from the start.

    Like

    • well, good you got your reward! πŸ™‚

      It was probably disastrous for it to be scheduled against Downton Abbey.

      Like

    • I thought Tom coming back as a hired killer for five seconds was a joke! I guess it irks me that MM is often still considered “the original spy” and think that is unfair towards all those that came after him.

      Like

      • I suppose if you watched the series originally (before Armitage) you probably got more invested in Tom than I ever was — but I find MM quite limited as an actor. I’ve never understood why he gets as much screen time as he does.

        Like

        • Oh, Servetus, do you mean that? Have you seen Matthew in “Any Human Heart”? I watched a couple of episodes at my Matthew’s house the other night and loved him in it. My son has pay TV but I can’t afford it. But, luckily, there’s still quite a bit of decent stuff shown fre-to-air in Australia.

          PS. I also loved MMcF in “Little Dorrit”

          Like

  4. I tried, I really did! I was one of ‘those’ people who really liked season 9, so it seemed obvious I would move on to the next season. Just couldn’t to do! Lara Pulver’s character bugged me so badly, that when I saw her as Irene Adler in Sherlock, I couldn’t believe it was the same actress. There’s a moment when you have to pull the plug, even if it’s just so you don’t tarnish the image of previous seasons!

    Like

    • I loved watching the X-Files back in the day, but gave up towards the end of the series when it just seemed as if they had lost the plot. As you say, sometimes it’s simply time to end a show before things become embarrassing.

      Like

    • Huh. I thought Pulver was fantastic — such a switch from Robin Hood — but there was so little character there that it was hard for me to like or hate her.

      Like

      • Couldn’t stand her in True Blood, loathed her in Spooks season 10, LOVED her as Irene Adler. So either she’s a great actress who has been offered bad parts or a bad one, lucky enough to get the part in Sherlock πŸ˜‰

        Like

  5. Thanks, servetus. You’ve inspired me to reserve the dvd for series 10 at the library, after being on the fence about it for more months than I want to think about. I’m a devoted fan of Peter Firth, and I loved the slow-burn romance between Harry and Ruth, so I hated the way the series ended (Of course, I know what happens in series 10, I just haven’t seen it).
    I blame the writers for that–I mostly didn’t like series 9; thought they trolled Lucas while simultaneously failing to develop any of the other characters on the team. My conclusion was that they didn’t have the chops to handle an ensemble cast, and haven’t been too eager to see more. πŸ˜›
    I really liked the early years of Spooks, and thought series 7 was the best. Overall, it was a terrific show.

    Like

    • Harry and Ruth get several moving scenes. However, your basic instinct may have been right.

      I obviously agree very much re S9 — the ensemble cast went almost completely under in the attempt to destroy the leading man. Scorched earth was the result.

      Sympathize about whether to put yourself in a queue for something you don’t know you’ll want to see. The public library here only allows 10 holds simultaneously, so you really do have to prioritize.

      Like

    • Do you guys have newish DVDs at your local library? Lucky ducks.

      Like

    • What does “trolled” mean, please?

      Like

      • To “troll” is (as I understand it) to take a character or story and totally violate their fundamental nature. Here is a good explanation:
        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Troll
        I think that for the sake of the unexpected effect, the writers distorted Lucas’ basic nature as we’d come to know him over the previous two years.

        Like

        • I wrote at the time that I felt like Armitage was taking all of Lucas’s sincerity gestures and torching them — essentially like burning the character before our eyes.

          Like

          • He did his best to make it work. While I’m watching, I believe it, but it just sits wrong with me. I’m going to read what you wrote again, because I need a little more clarity on the subject–you are good at laying it all out clearly, Servetus.

            Like

      • Maybe this is clearer:
        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TrollFic

        Like

        • Thank you. I’ll go look at those links once I hit “post comment” πŸ™‚

          You realize that I read these blogs to further my education, don’t you? It really has nothing whatsoever to do with my love for Richard. πŸ˜‰

          Like

          • LOL I think it’s okay to hit two birds with one stone, so to speak. It’s so much easier and more fun to learn while you’re also enjoying your love for Richard.

            Like

    • Saraleee, do you comment on poems on Wattpad? If it’s you, you got a mention in the Guardian this morning! Go to the Guardian website and search for the story “Margaret Atwood joins Wattpad” – one of your comments on her poem is quoted!

      Like

      • That is SO COOL.

        Like

      • OMG! OMG! *thud*
        Yes, I did comment on one of her poems! She’d just joined Wattpad and there were, like, one or two comments there and I just thought it looked so lonely, you know…and being a fool who always rushes in, I commented, even though I never know what I’m talking about, especially when it comes to poetry (which is always deeper than I’m capable of comprehending).
        Yikes! Now I’m going to go find out what it says…

        Like

  6. Wonderful analysis, Servetus !!!
    I did not like the last part of Spooks 10, but here I am deeply biased, as I did not like Spooks 10 in general, though I tried very hard, because I thought I was biased by RA in the previous 3 series and wanted to counteract.
    I fully agree, that though I liked to see what happened to Tom Quinn, he is an absolutely unbelievable assassin for Harry Pierce.
    What I found lessened the tension of 10 even compared to the much criticised series 9, which in itself still is gripping, is, that they mostly abandoned to give each episode a strong story of its own. Combining all episodes together under one great plot for S10, which was not so overly fascinating for me, as a whole made it much more boring than all previous series (and I saw Spooks right from the beginning before watching RA in it).
    So I completely agree, they thought it would end with Spooks9 – see, hear and know/speak nothing and overall be ‘nothing’ ;o)

    Like

    • I watched them all in a row in three nights, so I didn’t have the issue of not having the strong cliffhanger — which I agree, S9 was excellent on.

      I didn’t think S10 was the worst series. I didn’t *hate* any of them, but S5 might have been the one I liked least.

      Like

  7. I love your idea about characters revolting against the script. Wouldn’t that have been great on Robin Hood?

    Like

    • I think it was the way it was scripted that seemed unintentionally comical to me. Ruth says to Erin, “Is there anything that seems … wrong?” and Erin points out that everything is wrong. Then Erin thinks awhile longer and it occurs to her that it’s kind of odd that they immediately found the picture that led to the name of the terrorist who was in their databanks having been seen that morning at Domodedovo Airport (file footage from S7, one guesses) who was on the flight in question … and they discover that the paper shredder in which the picture is located is intentionally jammed. A rational person is going to be asking this whole time about the series of improbabilities that the plot is hanging on at this point — which include Harry being extradited to the U.S., Elena being able to convince Ruth to initiate a black op to get Section D to rescue Harry, the black op actually working (Section D takes out fifteen U.S. military and secret service?), everyone synching up in an abandoned defense site that’s apparently near Dover (beautiful!), so Elena can pass on the fake information to Harry that the Russian plane is flying a suicide mission, all in order to get UK jet fighters to fire mistakenly on this civilian flight and mess up the Russian / UK intelligence agreement … I mean, if you’re the enemy that’s planning this operation, how much probability that none of this will work can you accept as part of your planning? (I’ve frequently thought the enemies in Spooks go through a surprisingly elaborate level of preparation to achieve their ends …)

      So when Ruth asks, “does anything seem wrong?” you kind of expect Erin to say, “well, you know the entire plot of this episode has seemed a little contrived to me.” Except she doesn’t πŸ™‚ Now if Calvino had been writing the script she certainly would have.

      Like

  8. Sorry Servetus, what does RBOC stand for? Can’t work it out. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • “random bullets of crap” — it refers to being too lazy to write a thought-out post with an introduction, discussion, and conclusion, and so using the “bullet point” function of the software to separate one’s thoughts.

      Like

      • Well, I never would have worked that one out on my own! πŸ˜‰ Thanks! Good one! Btw, I love the expression “out-beautifulled”! Richard tends to “out-beautiful” everybody, doesn’t he? Not that he does it on purpose, bless his heart! Max Brown IS quite good looking!

        Like

        • In series 9 they intentionally de-beautified Max Brown and Sophia Myles by giving him a buzz cut and her stringy hair with dark root and allowing a few pounds more.

          Like

          • wasn’t he supposed to be fresh out of the army or something? I thought that was the reason for the buzz cut. As far as Sophia Myles went, I thought she was cute πŸ™‚

            Like

            • Yes, but there was no need to de-beautify John Porter because he’s a soldier, quite the contrary. His haircut was probably not military but much more flattering. SM looked a lot more glamorous in other shows.

              Like

              • No, I mean, Max Brown’s character. Hadn’t he just left the British special forces?

                I guess I’m happy when any woman on tv looks reasonably normal these days.

                Like

                • Yes, he’d been in the army, Max’s character that is. I actually preferred Max’s buzz haircut to his Edward Seymour hairdo! I really like Sophia! Richard seems to like her too. They look so cute together in the dance hold on that old black&white photo …Richard looking down as if counting the steps or something..One of my favourite pictures. πŸ™‚

                  Like

                • Yes, MB’s character came from the naval equivalent of the SAS.

                  Like

  9. I watched S10 when it was originally aired in the UK last year so have to admit to being a bit rusty. BUT. I have watched every single series and loved them all, and I particularly adore Harry. As a “middle-class” Brit and daughter of a serving officer in WW2, I totally get Harry – and his relationship with Ruth. It’s just sooo English. Has anyone seen “Remains of the Day” with Anthony Hopkins? Harry/Ruth always reminded me of that. The one point where I disagree with Servetus about Harry is that he didn’t go back to the Grid because he had nothing else to do but because it was “what one DID do”. Personal life and tragedy have nothing to do with duty, and Harry is nothing if not a man of duty and service.
    BTW I sobbed uncontrollably when Ruth died even though I knew the writers would never allow Ruth and Harry a happy ending.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment, wydville. I considered what you said before I wrote my remarks, and I disagree πŸ™‚

      I don’t think you have to be British to “get” duty (I’ve been a public servant my whole professional life — I have never worked in the private sector, although that may change, soon — and American public servants also have quasi-moral notions of dutiful behavior; and I suspect German readers are nodding their heads here, too), although of course there may be peculiarly British versions of the idea. I don’t think there’s any question whether Harry feels duty. What I’m criticizing is the extent to which that’s a correct allegiance on his part. I would argue that it isn’t, and I would also argue that the series doesn’t want us to see it as such.

      What I question in this post, as I have all the way through my viewing of the series, is “duty to what?” That’s my point about his notion of duty being an idΓ©e fixe that has no content in the end — national interest is an ideology, not a moral ideal (though I suppose it could masquerade as such), and doing something because you have always been required to do it doesn’t offer a compelling reason why you can’t stop doing it when the idea stops having meaning or becomes destructive. Harry’s allegiance to “regnum defendere” is an idΓ©e fixe that kills every important relationship he has — and to which he regularly sacrifices individuals like Martha Ford with zero qualms, orders his coworkers to do it, praises them, and then when they want to quit, peptalks those coworkers into continuing to engage in personally destructive behavior to themselves and others for the sake of this idea — which he can’t even articulate in so many words.

      As regards the end of the show, he may go back to the Grid out of duty — but in fact, we have seen nothing else in his life, for instance, that would allow him to constitute a retirement (which is, we assume, why he abandons the estate agent in the house he’s viewing — because he realizes he has nothing else). There is, to use Gavrik’s metaphor, “no tortoise in his garden.” I mean, this is the man who, when he realizes he’s about to be extradited, doesn’t call his daughter, but takes the opportunity to empty the milk in his fridge? What a sad statement about his life. So in essence, he doesn’t really have any alternative to duty in the end, but the last two episodes of series 10 reveal just how totally empty that notion has been. He acted out of duty with regard to leaving Elena and Sasha, who he believes to be his son, in Berlin in the 1980s — only to discover that he was the victim of someone else’s similarly cockeyed notion of duty. And as viewers we can’t even decide between them — there’s no reason to prioritize his patriotism (if you want to call it that) over Elena’s. *He and Elena are no different*, as the harrowing scene where Harry threatens to kill Sasha demonstrates. In essence, the way the show ends points out that the idea he has given his life to has no meaning. It is not noble. What he has done of out duty is just one more move in a chess game that preceded him and will continue long after he’s gone. His only virtue lies in having played the chess game better than others, and he fails even at that, as the last episode shows — Ruth having to save him from his false deductions.

      Now, it wouldn’t have had to end that way. Presumably most people who are that loyal to an idea for that long get more positive reinforcement than Harry does from the Spooks script. But the fact that he doesn’t goes to pointing out the emptiness of the ideal — it doesn’t even really give him any pleasure; he just keeps doing it. The end could have been scripted differently — and the show could have given us some feeling that the ideals that Harry sacrificed his wife, both his children, all of his important friendships, Elena and the boy he thought was his son, and finally, Ruth, to — had some bigger meaning. But the show doesn’t really do that. Indeed, the shot in the memorial, where we see the names of the Spooks who have been killed in the decade the conventional viewer is supposed to have been watching this show, points out that that’s it. They get their names on a memorial in a hidden place visited only by bureaucrats. Adam’s name isn’t even on it because he’s not supposed to be dead. In that sense, Harry’s duty in S10 ends up being about him. It’s not at all about the idea. And that is his tragic flaw, in my opinion — that he is never a big enough man to actually ask, what is this idea to which I feel such duty? He gets the duty / loyalty part. But the noble idea is completely missing. He doesn’t develop enough internal selfhood, ever, to figure out that the lines in the game he’s playing are just lines.

      Like

      • As someone whose father was a public servant for almost 40 years in the U.S. and he was almost killed several times as a result, I have a hard time seeing duty as only a British idea.

        Interesting that it would be considered so.

        Like

        • I suspect that some of my German friends (the German concept is “Pflicht” and it’s etymologically related to the English word, “pledge”) would be similarly minded. Although there’s a whole discussion in Germany since the war about the secondary virtues, and “Pflicht” would probably be one of those things potentially on the line between a primary and a secondary virtue.

          Like

        • I was also just thinking about Japanese notions of duty, in line with the remark about “Remains of the Day,” as Kazuo Ishiguro is Japanese – British. (Do people even put it that way in the UK?)

          Like

      • Wow, Servetus, how did you manage to craft such a devastating argument in such a short space of time??? I am in complete awe.
        What I wrote was mostly a gut reaction to just one thing you said without too much thought behind it – and you have demolished me!
        I completely agree that duty has no nationality; it is just that I have known many British service men and women (and also of other nationalities so I can draw some comparison) and there is a quality to their stoicism, lack of acknowleding emotion, understatedness that is quintessentially British and Harry epitomises this.
        Harry has been in service all his adult life: he did at least one tour in Northern Ireland during the 1970s and must have seen many atrocities: maybe that’s where his focus originates. I would say that possibly he is a big enough and clever enough man to question what he is doing but the alternative to “keeping calm and carrying on” is not a viable one.
        Go on, Servetus, kill me….

        Like

        • well, I teach argumentation and use of evidence for a living. So it would be bad if I couldn’t put together a good argument quickly myself. I also just saw the episodes in question last night so they are on my mind. πŸ™‚

          re: the duty thing — I think that if you look at the 1970s and 1980s, any nationality with an international political presence had officers serving a “noble” cause and experiencing life in a moral crucible in those years, if you will, dealing with the inevitable tarnishing of patriotism — for the British it was Northern Ireland; for the U.S. Americans it was Vietnam; for the Russians it would have been Afghanistan, slightly later, of course — and all the people on the other side had their issues around duty as well — Northern Irish, Vietnamese, Afghanis (I’m aware that’s not really a nationality). There’s a whole genre of American writing about Americans who went to Vietnam and discovered that their ideals were questionable. Harry is British so he experienced the British version of that — no question. The issue is in what sense it would be qualitatively different.

          To me this is a bit like the discussion we were having elsewhere last week about Australians and their modesty. A blogger said, if you visit Australia it’s particularly important not to appear arrogant. My response to that was essentially — well, that’s pretty important everywhere. I can’t think of a single place I’ve visited where people were like, ooh, display some arrogance for us, that will make us like you more. What would be useful to know is, what kind of thing is especially likely to make Australians specifically think you’re arrogant, so you can avoid doing / saying those things. So I would say, if you want to say, this behavior is peculiarly British, my question would be, what does Harry do in this situation that his opposite number in the U.S., or Russia, or Japan, or wherever, wouldn’t do? In what sense does his Britishness separate him from others in similar situations?

          My suspicion is — and I could be wrong about this, certainly — is that where the “Britishness” comes in is not in the behavior itself, but in the perception of the behavior by the observer. That is: you are British, and you recognize this as a behavior you associate with your society in particular ways. It could be interesting to ask yourself that question. I was thinking after I wrote my response that I wonder how a Japanese viewer would perceive this episode. (In the U.S., we’re always being told about how dutiful the Japanese are.) Would he say, oh, that is a behavior I recognize from own society, or would he say, that’s a behavior I don’t understand, it must be British?

          Like

          • Oh Lord, what have I started!!
            First, Servetus, after I dashed off my response to your demolition-job I was driving to collect Daughter and gave considerable thought to your riposte. Of course, as a historian, you are trained to look at sources and apply the “5Ws” – it’s just the speed at and accuracy with which you did it!
            Second, to all of you, don’t for a minute think I consider “duty” as peculiar to the Brits, not at ALL (and I am in fact only half English). It’s just, for want of a better word, the “angle” which differs.
            Which brings me, Servetus to your last paragraph, where you have hit the nail directly on the head. Perception. The English do not acknowledge displays of emotion as either rational or acceptable. In fact, they are seen as borderline hysterical, downright untrustworthy, vaguely suspicious and, er, “foreign”. Ditto ostentatious behaviour. Thus, “old” money drives around in dilapidated Volvo estates (station wagons) or venerable Land Rovers. Rolls Royces/Bentleys are positively vulgar; Mercs and BMWs are generally driven by “new money” (sooooo sorry, Richard) and Jags are marginally acceptable but only if over 10 years old. (How many people have I outraged in that last sentence??? But, broad brush strokes, that’s how it is!!)
            If you follow the British popular press, you must have seen how we love the underdog: we promote, we slavishly follow, we praise, we adore. But Celebrity beware: don’t get too rich; don’t show off too much; don’t wear too many designer clothes; don’t once stray from humble pronouncements; the instant you become just that tiny bit too big for your boots, we delight in bringing you back down to earth with the mightiest of crashes.
            Does that give you an idea?
            Reverting to S10. After Ruth dies Harry allows himself one crack in his fortitude: he goes to see the cottage Ruth had dared to think of as their future home. Then the shutters close and it’s business as usual.

            Like

            • Is your original comment included here?

              I giggling myself stupid here. Your description of not letting celebrities get “too big for their boots” sounds so much like our “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (I’m Australian) πŸ˜‰

              Like

              • Tall Poppy Syndrome? Really? What, as in the bloom that stands out above the rest and therefore has to be cut down for its audacity? Loving it.

                Like

            • I am making a cursory reading of pieces as I usually have to, so I did not intend any harm to you, Wydville. I will make an effort to read more closely.

              Like

              • Hey, listen, no offence taken whatsoever. In fact that’s where I went wrong: I read the post rather fast, thought I had something to say, wrote hurriedly without without too much thought or precision and had a demolition-job deservedly done on me for my efforts πŸ™‚

                Like

        • To give you an example of what I’m talking about: as an outsider to both British and German culture, I tend to see both of these societies as displaying a level of obedience to abstract notions of social authority when I observe it that amuses me because I don’t observe it in the United States. In Britain, people line up (“queue”) at bus stops and get on in the order they’ve lined up in. In Germany, people smush onto the bus like crazy, but they stand patiently waiting at traffic lights when no car is coming. We have investment in loyalty to abstract notions of social authority in the U.S., too, but U.S. Americans jaywalk and push each other out of the way on buses like crazy.

          Like

          • That’s funny Servetus, they do that in Austria too! They wait for the green light (which takes forever to come, btw!) at the pedestrian crossing when no car is coming! Nobody does that in Hungary! πŸ™‚ Nobody. So I crossed the road at red light in Salzburg and the people around me must have thought “oh the bloody foreigner!” (joking) πŸ™‚

            Like

            • in Germany there are signs that say “den Kindern ein Vorbild!” (an example to children!) and people cluck at you disapprovingly if they’re standing there and you jaywalk. It’s one of those amusing cross-cultural moments πŸ™‚

              Like

              • I swear I heard them clucking when I crossed! I thought I was only imagining it but you’ve just confirmed it did happen! πŸ™‚

                Like

                • Yup, they were clucking. Try not to take it personally.

                  Like

                  • Oh no I wouldn’t dream of taking it personally. πŸ™‚ I was a little surprised and amused by their reaction, that’s all. I waited with them for a while but my patience eventually ran out. πŸ™‚

                    Like

            • It is against the law to cross a street when the traffic lights are red, no matter how stupid it seems to wait. Of course you don’t do it. Not that I have never done it, but I always feel bad about it, even if I don’t endanger myself or anyone else. And I don’t do it if anyone is looking! On the other hand, smushing into the bus may be inconsiderate but it is not forbidden!

              Like

              • πŸ™‚

                Like

              • Erm Jane, are you actually German? πŸ™‚

                Like

                • Yes. I grew up respecting traffic lights and we are always shocked when we are abroad and see that in other countries it isn’t like that. πŸ˜‰

                  Like

                  • Have you been to Hungary, Jane? πŸ™‚

                    Like

                  • When I travelled in Europe in 1997, I was amazed that most drivers didn’t seem to respect pedestrians at pedestrian/zebra crossings! I mean at the ones without the trafiic lights.

                    In Australia, drivers must stop even if the pedestrian on the side of the road hasn’t actually put a toe onto the zebra crossing yet.

                    I know I’m old-fashioned but that “smushing” onto buses gets to me. I was taught it was bad manners to push and I still can’t do it at 65!!

                    And, yeah, I tend to be one of the ones who waits until it’s legal for me to cross at the lights, too. πŸ™‚

                    Like

                    • it would depend a bit on what part of Europe. Everywhere I’ve lived in Germany, Germans have been manic about those zebra stripes. Now in the U.S., if you’re on the roadway in a crosswalk it can still be open season πŸ™‚

                      Like

                    • Never been to Hungary, but had to learn in France and Italy that no-one would stop as long as I would stand on the side of the road but that there was a fair chance that they wouldn’t kill me if I start walking without looking left or right.

                      Like

                    • In Hungary the driving morals are very, very bad. There have been many instances of people being hit by a car while crossing the road legally on the zebra crossing. I was almost hit by a police car once while crossing the road on the zebra.

                      Like

          • Hahaha…as for BMV- in my country these cars are run by big bald men without neck.;) The passenger is always veeery tanned long-haired blonde.:)

            Like

        • Or another example: once in talking about his car, Armitage stated that he drove to work early and parked it in a discrete place so people he worked with wouldn’t think he was showing off. Most Americans don’t especially like showoffs, either, but none of us who commented on it think that driving the particular car he owns and parking it in a place where people would see it would constitute showing off in a negative sense or some kind of immodesty.

          Like

  10. I’m slowly working my way through Spooks 9, episodes 7 and 8 to go. I haven’t bought Spooks 10 yet, After reading your assessment, maybe I’ll just iTunes view the episodes and save the shelf space. Ha!

    Like

  11. S10 only cemented my opinion I had at the end of S9, all of a sudden they were given another season and the writers had to think something up quickly. It lacked quite a lot of what made the previous series (more) watchable, despite the gigantic plotholes of course. πŸ˜‰

    I also think because viewers knew this would the last season anyway, they were a lot more forgiving.

    Like

    • Yeah, that’s possible. I didn’t really read reviews of it while it was showing, just at the end. But in terms of the ingredients on the table at the beginning of S10 I totally agree with you. It was kind of like opening your cupboard after you’ve been away for six months and scrambling to put a meal together.

      Like

  12. I’m on/off with Lara Pulver. I found her irritating in S10 – constantly breathless, as though breathlessness is meant to indicate tension, raise the audience temperature. Wondered whether she had skipped the breath control courses at drama school…But I was more impressed with her performance in Sherlock. It was a bit more nuanced. (Actually, I did think she played a baddie rather well in RH and worked well with her screen brother.)

    Like

  13. First “beautifuller’, now “out-beautifulled.” I love it!

    As for Spooks 10, I drifted in and out of the episodes, never becoming engaged with it because I really didn’t care what happened to the characters. I only watched the final episode because I’d seen the rest of the series, and would have been happier if Harry had died protecting Ruth, instead of the other way around. It was so predictable.

    BTW I don’t mind the RBOC! My brain copes better with small bites!! πŸ˜‰

    Like

    • The issue for me with RBOC is that I always forget something I wanted to say. If I write in paragraphs, the requirement to connect one thought to another tends to force me to get everything down.

      It would have been great if he had died protecting her. I don’t know how it could have been scripted — but in a sense that last scene, where she tells Sasha that she was the one who gave Gavrik the key to the room where Elena was being held, was par for the course. He manipulates, she goes around and cleans up his messes.

      Like

  14. My impression of season 10 is that the writers had espoused this bleak idea that the protagonist’s job was to risk everything to fight against a faceless, overwhelming and corrupt system (I think this is a spy-thriller paradigm, where one noble individual must save the world from evil).
    So Harry was laying everything he had on the line in his battle against evil, knowing that he could lose it all and knowing that his only possible reward for winning the battle was to live to fight another day.
    I suppose in some ways that could be viewed as noble, but as Servetus has pointed out, by the end of the series, he’s given up everything that made him human.
    And we’re supposed to feel good that in the end he returns to the Grid? I’m not especially warmed by the notion that the civil liberties of a nation are left in the care of a hollowed-out husk of a man, addicted to playing a game that can never be won.
    I also felt that by the end, Peter Firth didn’t altogether like his character’s behavior. In one interview, he seemed troubled by the way Harry was using Ruth’s vulnerability.
    I prefer to think that the “system” is neutral, and that it’s the individuals who need to be kept in check. I also believe that doing one’s duty ought to result in a positive outcome for the protagonist. But I get that the writing team for Spooks thought that happy endings are bourgeois, so I’m laying in extra tissues for when the dvd finally gets to me. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • good point about the genre paradigm.

      I actually thought that Peter Firth was great — and watching this series made me think I’d want to see him in other stuff.

      And I love your point about happy endings being bourgeois. I watched “Rabbit Hole” with my parents the other night (beware, post coming) and they hated the ending. Not because they didn’t want the couple to stay together — they did — but because they didn’t think the film rewarded them enough for doing so. (Actually, my dad was even a bit confused on whether they did stay together in the end.) For me, if you’re going to write a happy ending, that’s the way to do it. Low key.

      Like

      • Funny thing, I still primarily recall Peter Firth for his very short, but significant portrayal as zampolit Putin in the The Hunt for Red October. πŸ™‚

        Like

      • Ah ha…another movie to add to my list. Thanks for reminding me.

        Like

      • I think Peter Firth is an awesome actor. He was also wonderful in Amistad, as one of the British officers working to shut down the slave trade. And of course, as a very young man, he was brilliant in Equus opposite Richard Burton. And…well, you get the idea.
        And bourgeois or not, I love happy endings! I’ll be interested in finding out about Rabbit Hole.

        Like

  15. For me he will always be Scooper in the Double Deckers.

    Oops, that dates me a bit.

    Like

  16. […] I just got the series 1 Sherlock DVDs from the library this week. Obviously I’ve been hearing about it forever because of the heavy intersection between Armitage and Freeman / Cumberbatch fans. […] However, I have to finish watching series 10 of Spooks tonight b/c the DVDs are due tomorrow [I put that review here]. […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

 
%d bloggers like this: