You can’t call yourself a fan of crime drama unless you’ve watched every episode of this show, cried at least twice and jumped out of your seat as your favourite character meets a bloody end. And fans of the show will know what we mean when we say, we’re still not over that final episode.
And for those who haven’t yet devoured all ten seasons of this brilliant British spy series, cor blimey, are you in for a treat? It follows the work and people of Section D, which is a counter-terrorism division of the MI5. Over the ten seasons we get to meet a whole host of different characters, usually following one leading man who is naturally – this being crime drama – tortured and juggling saving the country from disaster and keeping his wife and kids from kicking him out the family home. And that’s not very easily done when everywhere you look there’s another terrorist threatening to blow up official buildings and targeting government figures. Luckily the big, scotch-drinking, perennially grumpy boss Harry (Peter Firth) is on hand to keep everything together. Sometimes, at least.
The casting is brilliant in this show, starting off with now married Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes in season two, who were joined by the brilliant Nicola Walker as one of the show’s most loved characters, Ruth, in season two. Then for the third round we get Rupert Penry-Jones, whilst later seasons feature Hermione Norris and Richard Armitage. It’s a real display of British talent, and they’re all very good at playing angsty secret agents who are barely holding it together.
The drama itself is great too, with ten seasons of nail-biting thrills as we watch this lot race against the clock to stop the next terror plot headed for the UK, and the healthy amount of family and personal drama added in means that every gunshot makes you flinch, fearing your favourite character hasn’t survived the episode. Whilst we’ve had a good few crime dramas over the last ten years since this show ended, we’re not quite sure any of them have quite mastered the genre like this one did.
Spooks was hugely popular when it was on air, with The Times’s Sarah Vine proclaiming, “If you want to settle down for your Monday night dose of high quality hokum, Spooks delivers. Without fail. Every time.” And Andrew Pettie in The Telegraph agreed, calling it “high-class escapism at its slickest, most glamorous and entertaining.” The Guardian’s Sarah Hughes, however, enjoyed it so much that she committed to rewatching season one during the first lockdown, reflecting on how “Spooks was adept at balancing the soapy with the spectacular, as keen as peeking into the private lives of its various operatives as it was in dealing with their dangerous day jobs. It is that ability to balance the political with the personal that made it such a superior slice of escapism.” But you don’t need the dramatics of a national lockdown to start your own Spooks-a-thon – we reckon this is a great watch in both political calm and chaos.
First shown May 2002. You can watch a clip of the show by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.