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.

Laurie and Cumberbatch in Fortysomething

Been watching Fortysomething, because I was looking for more Cumberbatch, and it’s got him and Hugh Laurie, so how could I refuse? :D

So the first thing I have to say is that much as I love what House can be at its best, watching this I realize Hugh Laurie has such amazing comedic timing that he’s kind of almost wasted on a drama. I mean, yes, House’s snark is funny, but seeing him in Fortysomething you realize that’s just a fraction of what he can do. Because Fortysomething is ridiculous and hilarious, and although it’s got a great cast, Hugh Laurie is a huge part of why it’s so funny.

Well, Hugh Laurie, and his Proud Banana, and the front lawn decorated with blowup dolls, and “My wife… is in a park with a lesbian. And ducks!” and Stephen Fry as a disapproving fishmonger, and just all of the hysterical situations these characters are put in.

As for the great cast, I love Paul (Hugh)’s relationship with his wife Estelle (Anna Chancellor). It’s funny, and he’s ridiculous, but they also have great chemistry, and the sense that there is affection there, and yes, also love in spite of the whole “Paul Slippery can’t remember the last time he had sex with his wife” thing. Ultimately, for all the ridiculous antics of the series, this marriage comes across as very real.

The youngest son, Edwin is hilariously evil, the middle son Daniel is a bastard, but an amusing bastard, and the eldest son Rory is Benedict Cumberbatch, and given my current obsession with Sherlock, that should be enough, shouldn’t it? And it is, but I’m still going to say it: Rory is adorable. Long-suffering, the “nice” one while his brother Daniel is the “hot one” (debatable, personally I think Benedict is much better looking) who steals his girlfriend, possesses a certain self-effacing humor. Sure, we might go for the “bad boy” when we’re young and stupid, but in the long run I think most women will pick Rory over Daniel (that’s kind of a tangent, the series’ handling of that particular situation is just spectacularly funny, though). And seeing Sherlock playing House’s son is really amusing, for obvious reasons.

Anyway. Screencaps of Benedict as Rory, because that is the reason I wanted to check out the series. :D