Spooks series 1 and 2, and “spy show tropes”

I’m a fan of the spy genre in general. Alias is one of my favorite tv shows, and in general find the shennanigans of espionage in pop culture to be a lot of fun. But I hadn’t watched Spooks till now.

The thing that I’ve found really intriguing about Spooks, as compared to spy shows produced in the US, is basically the lack of wigs, high heels and lingerie. Obviously, you’ve got that element from decades back, with Bond girls and Mrs. Peel’s catsuit. And I think Alias itself did a lot to sort of establish the trappings of what makes a “spy show” in the US. The interesting thing is that Alias was never just about Sydney Bristow in wigs and sexy outfits… oh, obviously, it was partly about that, and obviously that was part of the draw, but Alias was just as much about overarching mysteries and about the character dynamics. Which is why I loved it and why I was never very interested in Undercovers, which seemed to be just about sexy people on spy missions.

Either way, Spooks is a refreshing break from those trappings. Oh, obviously there are pretty people (Matthew Macfadyen, hello!) and there is sex, but the actual espionage is not really about that. The actual espionage focuses more on… well, what one expects actual intelligence agents do. :D

Another thing I love very much about Spooks is how it deals with the dubious morality of it all. A series like Alias has wonderful morally gray characters, but for the most part, in it and other shows like Chuck, the CIA is clearly “the good guys”, and while specific CIA agents may do questionable things, overall, there are things “the good guys” aren’t supposed to do… and this goes for Chuck as well, and what I’ve seen of Covert Affairs (although I admit I didn’t watch the whole first season)… I would say the concept of Burn Notice comes closest to truly embracing the “grayness” of it. But Spooks deals with it on an entirely different level. Harsh choices, letting people die as collateral damage in an op, MI5 (the agency that is ostensibly “the good guys” in Spooks) being used to further political agendas in the name of political stability with some officers being complicit in that, all of this is treated in Spooks not as dark conspiracies to be found out, but as the everyday business of espionage.

Anyway, I am now two episodes into series 3, which means I’ve seen Tom Quinn’s story play out. I didn’t always like Tom, but I always found him interesting… he could be quite the bastard though. I thought the story with his first girlfriend Ellie was often painful to watch, in large part because I just didn’t like Ellie. On the other hand, I wish his relationship with Christine Dale had had more time to be explored. Christine was badass and interesting.

I love Danny, he’s often quite shameless, and his friendship/relationship with Zoe is very well done and interesting. I like how (so far) there is the sense that they could be together, but somehow circumstances are never right, but that at the end they rely on each other as friends and have each others’ backs… but they don’t give each other free passes for bullshit either. The scene this screencap is from has been one of my favorite character moments too.

Harry Pearce is a magnificent, machiavellian bastard. I love how he doesn’t even pretend to have moral considerations as basis for his decisions. He fully believes that the end justifies the means, and he fully believe that he is doing… well, not the right thing, but that in the end, he is working toward the right end.

And finally, series 1 also had two wonderful guest stars: Hugh Laurie and Anthony Stewart Head.

Anthony’s episode as the “legendary” agent Peter Salter was one of  my favorites, and his character was fascinating, to the point where I really wish there could have been more about him.

And that was also the first episode featuring Hugh Laurie as MI6’s Jools Siviter, who was a bigger bastard than Harry, and so much fun. I tend to like characters that are smug, arrogant assholes, and he was definitely that. And his snide comments were so very amusing. So yes, I also wish there were more episodes with him, but I suppose what with Hugh Laurie being busy in the US with House that was impossible.

At any rate, love Spooks, it’s intelligent and interesting, and am working on catching up.

Quick thoughts on Covert Affairs pilot

I’m apparently not going to make the longer post I wanted to about the Covert Affairs pilot,  so I’m just going to make a few quick points about it. :D

What I found kind of meh:

Annie’s lost love. I dunno. I thought the flashback scenes to Sri Lanka were too ~Ideal Tropical Tryst~, so starting with that I just wasn’t really sold on the idea of this guy. Later when he shows up to save Annie’s ass… well, I just wasn’t into that. I mean, I get that is A Plot Point, and leads to the reveal that she’s being used as bait to draw him out, but it kind of bugged me that she had to be saved. And lastly, I’m not sure that if a guy bailed on me like this guy did on Annie, that I’d lovingly save mementos from him in a scrapbook.

What I liked, and a lot:

Auggie! I loved Auggie, I love that he’s snarky and smart and that he’s a player. I like that his being blind is just one more fact about him and that, at least in the pilot, we are never asked to sympathize or feel sorry for him for it. Not even when he tells the story of how it happened.

Speaking of which, I thought that was a pretty clever to do the requisite exposition about it, having him assume it’s what Annie is curious about and then it turing out it’s not what she was going to ask.

Annie and Auggie’s rapport. They play off each other really well.

Something I’ve mentioned in regards to White Collar, I love the little details that reveal the characters’ quirks. Like Annie having a cat, and her driving a little compact hashback that is more han a few years old, as opposed to having her drive a shiny cool car. It’s details like that tell you who this girl is.

The car thing also fits in well with stuff that has been said in interviews prior to Covert Affairs starting by Doug Liman and Piper Perabo, about trying to make it true to life, in so far as young CIA operatives are people that live on a government salary and how at the end of the day Annie is a woman in her late 20s, starting out her career, and all that that entails.

I really liked Joan. She’s no-nonsense and badass. I also think her relationship with Arthur is interesting, even if I’m not all that interested in Arthur himself just yet. Of course I love messed up relationships in fiction, the more issues the better, and Jack and Irina were my ship of choice in Alias, so bring on the trust issues!

Speaking of Alias, I think it bears mentioning that I was very clearly wrong in my guess that Annie would be like Rachel Gibson. They’re both rookies, but Annie is very sure of herself, and not at all a klutzy nerd who happens to be hot the way Rachel was. But I would still say she’s also very much NOT like Sydney, beyond being a hot badass female spy. For one thing, she’s got none of Sydney’s self-righteousness, which was the main reason that I actually didn’t particularly like Sydney’s personality. But Annie is fun, and easy to relate to.

Checking out new shows

Been kind of busy and tired, and when I’ve had time I’ve been playing around with WP3’s custom posts and taxonomies (because I’m a geek like that). But at any rate, I’ve watched several things in the past week:

Moyashimon. With Channaka and Kato Natsuki. It was cute and cracky and amusing. Kato Natsuki really knows how to work the leather… in spite of her germ-infested toes. ¦D

Kaname Jun in Unubore Deka is FABULOUS \:D/ on TwitpicUnubore Deka. Watched basically because Kaname Jun is in it. Ikuta Toma was a plus, too (I’m not into JE, but I like him). Anyway, it was hilarious, so will keep watching. Also? Kaname Jun. In pink pants. Dancing and grabbing himself. Need I say more?

First two eps of Burn Notice. I actually had not watched before, figured I should. It was a lot of fun, although so far Michael is the only character I’m really loving. He’s enough, though, and Fiona did grow on me in ep 2. Which means I have 3 seasons of catch-up to do.

White Collar season 2 premiere (okay, so this is neither a new show, nor new to me). It’s great to have Marsha Thomason on as a regular, loved Peter and Mossie’s secret meetings in the park. Didn’t love the greenscreening in the Let’s Hide Tiffany Thiessen’s Pregnancy scene. Loved Neal, obviously. Also, I think it was a good setup for the season, and I’ll probably make a longer post about it.

Covert Affairs. So far? Really promising. I already love Annie (I admit, at least in part because she has a cat that looks like my Otto). Chris Gorham’s Auggie is probably my favorite element of the pilot. Will probably make a longer post about this one too.

Three scenes from Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs starts next Tuesday on USA, and I’m actually really excited because I love the spy genre, and also because I already like both Chris Gorham (loved him in Popular, never actually watched Ugly Betty, though) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (who deserved better than Heroes ever gave him, in my opinion).

At any rate, three scenes from the pilot are up on the show’s YouTube channel. :D

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