Spooks (TV Series 2002–2011) Poster


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`Spooks' delivers....
prose15 August 2003
I read all the hype in advance of this program being shown on ABC-TV in Australia, and thought: yeah, yeah, show me something different. Maybe it's not too different, but it does deliver. I was a bit bored inititally by the straight delivery of MI-5 characters, and how terribly seriously they take their jobs. Matthew MacFadyen is a fine choice for Tom Quinn - he's big and tall, straight-faced, and very, very serious. Keeley Hawes is also very well cast, and eminently believable.

However the last two episodes shown here - the one about the mock terrorist attack, and last night's episode about the visit of the American presidential `circus' were rivetting stuff. I found myself holding my breath for a lot longer than was healthy for me! I was fascinated by how the US presidential entourage insisted they take over MI-5 files for `security purposes'. A metaphor for the world at the moment?? The suspicion that George Bush Jnr was visiting London specifically for a secret meeting with Colonel Gadaffi to negotiate compensation for Locharbie losses was very pertinent, given that Libya came forth with compensation - in the `real' world - just this week.

I look forward to more episodes of this straighter-than-straight, larger-than-life, but very entertaining series. I don't think it's very realistic, but then, who watches TV to indulge in more reality?
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Intelligent work on intelligence work
sgspires31 December 2003
I've seen these on A&E in America and from the first I was hooked. The pressure cooker atmosphere and the modern day dot-com look puts this show about "counter intelligence" on another level than today's so called spy shows.

It's not the eye-candy of Alias and frankly its better than the flat delivery of the now canned Agency or Threat Matrix (both of which strive to be too PC in their "diverseness").

The writing is very well layered. It pulls the viewer in, and there's enough original material that many times you can't "skip ahead" to the fourth act in your mind. Meaning, you haven't figured out the end by the second break.

MI-5, or Spooks, puts enough plot twists in for any true fan of the genre. Well worth the time and effort to watch. Too bad American network television can't produce a show of this caliber.

(11/17/05 comment) Also, I was so intrigued by the UK version of Spooks, that I got into downloading the shows via the Internet, and I have to say it's an even better experience. I wish A&E would run the entire episode and not a chopped up version. The editing has to do with advert breaks more than content. If you only see this on A&E then I would suggest downloading it or renting/buying the DVD sets.
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Best show on television
djames4225 June 2006
Just finished the last episode of series three, and was reminded why this is my favourite show of all time. I think the comparisons to 24 are quite unfair--they both deal with terrorism, but the similarities end there. Spooks is far more cerebral, and spends more effort on character and plot development.

Unlike other reviewers, I felt series three was every bit as good (and in many ways even better) than the previous two. The departure of several main characters was handled exceedingly well, and while they'll be missed, I think their replacements are quite strong and as such, the transition has been quite smooth. Kudos! (Er, no pun intended)
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One of the best things on British TV
The Horseman20 May 2002
Spooks, is quite frankly, bloody excellent. It seems to have learnt all the tricks that the best of American thrillers (e.g. '24') have picked up, and uses them to the best of their abilities. The acting, especially from McFadden, is likewise excellent (unlike many other similar programs, Spooks doesn't attempt to make the characters whiter-than-white. They're likeable, just not perfect). It also has the bravery to use storylines that are shocking, but are what make it the best.

My only criticism is that the characters from 'the government' are a bit too stereotypically slimey.

Otherwise 10 out of 10

Mondays, 9:00pm, BBC 1
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matildamother1 September 2003
I absolutely LOVE this series. I got hooked with the episode involving the deep fryer and I've been hopelessly addicted ever since. This series is incredibly suspenseful and involving and I cannot wait to see what they come up with every week. The acting and writing is superb. I love this genre and I'm glad to see someone is doing something worthwhile with it. Highly recommended!!
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More detailed review of Spooks
stevewillis13 September 2003
Having only just registered, this review is rather late for the U.K viewers.

"Spooks" or `MI-5' in U.S listings is one of the best British drama series produced in a long time.

Whilst the plots may seem a little far fetched (sometimes!), I feel that the series puts a new spin onto the role of spies within today's society whilst maintaining a sense of the unbelievable demonstrated throughout James Bonds illustrious career, at the end of the day these characters are normal, flawed people who go home at night drink themselves into a stupor, and rarely get the warm satisfaction that goes hand in hand with 007 and his many girls.

So we have established that the portrayal of the characters is true to life.

The plots however are very Bond esque without most of the worldly travelling or white-cat stroking arch villains. These are gritty, real world narratives that could all feasibly be in the process of happening, pro-life activists, racism, the I.R.A, political slander and all this sprinkled with the inter/intra departmental politics that must surely exist within these offices and are blatantly obvious between MI-5 and MI-6, as well as a healthy dose of CIA - MI-5 competition.

Back to the characters or rather the actors.

Matthew MacFadyen's portrayal of Tom and his acting in general is top draw; he is a highly under-rated actor who would appear to have a bright future and deserves it much more than some of the current Hollywood 'thespians' who are nothing more than pretty faces.

Keeley Hawes is outstanding as the tough yet fragile (keenly highlighted in the episode 1.2) dominant femme Zoe. An outstanding character played with depth by an equally outstanding actress.

David Oyelowo puts in consistently solid performances as Danny the newer member of Tom's '5' team. Played with guile and grit, I feel series 3 will really give Danny more time and space to flourish into the high profile character that series 2 shows he has the potential to be.

Jenny Agutter and Peter Firth are both established actors having appear in films such as 'American Werewolf in London, and 'The Hunt for Red October/Pearl Harbour' respectively. They deliver everything we expect from the true thespian pedigree that they both have.

There is also a refreshing appearance of Anthony Stewart Head playing a dissident MI-5 agent. His performance shows that he is not just Giles in Buffy.

In short this series is a well worth watching, it has thrills, twists and a more natural approach to spying whilst maintaining the myth and romance surrounding the secret services.

99 Lives.
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Absolutely Brilliant
ccjameshenry1 January 2005
Spooks is, without doubt, the tensest and most dramatic (for better or for worse) drama on TV at the moment, season III is especially brilliant and with season IV scheduled to start next year i am itching with anticipation. However, there is something for everything as the story line also focuses on the relationships within spooks meaning that there is an ongoing story as well as a story per episode. SHEER BRILLIANCE The actors are brilliant and i am sure spooks will go down in history as one of the best dramas, kiss BOND goodbye a more realistic, better story is here. Enjoy one of the most memorable security-service dramas ever!
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a nice addition to american television, and a great alternative to the mind numbing onslaught of reality television
alc197323 July 2003
This show (titled MI-5) just landed on Tuesday nights at 10 pm, with many encores throughout the week on the A&E channel. For those of you who are not familiar with the american channels, A&E runs various biography shows, a few other british shows, among others. To put it another way, when I watched it, there were no commercials for beer or fast food. It is a smart interesting show without all the flash of "24" or "alias", which are among my favorite shows. In the first episode there was little background on the characters, which is very different for american television audiences. I felt like I had missed a few episodes. The show did not spend as much time on the tech stuff either, but somehow that didn't seem so important as a great story unfolded during the hour. Very little publicity about this show has made it out there, and I only hope that enough people will stick it out and give the show enough of an audience to continue, lest we be stuck with only more of the summer dreck from the big networks.
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Commissioned by MI5?
terrencesmith66624 February 2005
Spooks has been waiting to be made ever since Fleming's Bond started the wild-fantasy spy genre. This is an attempt at a realistic depiction of the activities and lives of MI5 agents, in the way that The Bill or Casualty depict those professions. Sometimes this gives an eerie feeling of the series having been commissioned by MI5 in order to get an influx of new, preferably ethnic-minority, recruits.. but the plots are always riveting, dangerous and violent so it makes for great TV.

Most of the main characters from the first series have now left in various ways... except the boss and of course Colin.. who has to be my favourite character who no-one ever mentions. He's the most realistic spook to me.
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Very, very enjoyable
brotherfallout19 June 2002
This is one of the better British TV thrillers to emerge in a few good years. What initially attracted me was another varied acting choice by Matthew MacFayden, but on watching I found myself compelled. It does suffer from some unrealism, but the characters are so interesting, the plots so varied, it makes up for it. And yes, yes, it does rip off from 24, but it hasn't tried to hide it, so in my opinion that's a good thing, seeing as 24 used some of the most innovative effects. Also, some of the secondary casting, such as Hugh Laurie's nasty Jools and Peter Firth's big boss Harry. Also, guest appearances by Anthony Head and Tim Piggot-Smith just add to the strength of this show. I eagerly await the second series, after the excellent end of the first. If you are interested in MacFayden's performance (he is one of the strongest new English talents) then check out the worthy The Way We Live Now (where he plays a cad) and the absolutely wonderful Perfect Strangers.
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From Across The Pond
lbeatles55111 July 2006
I've been hooked and reeled. I absolutely love MI-5/Spooks. I rented all the available series and I crave for more. I'm anxiously waiting for 2005 to become available. The characters are unique and intriguing. The story lines are complex and luring. The acting is top form. As far as I'm concerned nothing here in the U.S. comes close. We had Mission Impossible (covert missions and fancy gadgetry) but MI-5 is fathoms richer, and smart. I'm a loyal fan of Keeley Hawes first finding her in Tipping the Velvet and recently viewed Our Mutual Friend. She's an outstanding actress and her MI-5 colleagues perform with such command of the art. As far as I'm concerned the BBC can do no wrong.
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Spooks: The deterioration of a great show
JSC-225 August 2008
The early seasons of Spooks, a well-produced BBC action-drama about a small band of MI-5 agents serving to protect the UK, provided compelling entertainment. Giving the writers some latitude in developing plots that had the same team of MI-5 saving Britain each week from a variety of home grown and foreign militants, the show had excellent production values, good story lines and developed the characters' background to help create audience empathy. Led by Matthew Macfadyen and Peter Firth, the actors had good chemistry and, occasionally, the plot raised interesting questions about the dilemmas faced by domestic intelligence agencies.

In later seasons, however, notably five and six, and integrity of Spooks seriously deteriorated, as the quality of the plot became ridiculous, and then absurd. Life-long conspiracy theorists would have had a good laugh and Spooks adopted repetitive themes of general xenophobia, targeting particularly the United States, but also generally simplistic conspiracy themes within most of the UK Government (virtually everyone except our intrepid MI-5 team). Simultaneously, the show forgot to focus on the individual characters, providing two- dimensional studies of the new MI-5 players, with the exception of Adam (Rupert Penry- Jones), who carried the brunt of providing some unsophisticated examples of conflict. As a result, it became more difficult to care about the fate of the team, or of the country, the supposed threats so outlandish it may as well have been science fiction.

It is a shame, because obviously there is an audience for this type of show, and a basic idea that would be engrossing. If only it felt a little factual.
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British Television at its Best
evelyn_emslie23 January 2008
Truly a riveting show. It is not at all like its American counterparts in the sense that one has to pay close attention to the dialog of the show with its witty and often intellectual remarks.

One feels a true sense of realism watching spooks. The characters are real people with real faults. Another aspect I enjoy is the fact that there is no fear in "killing" a character off. One might consider that to be cruel but it once again lends to the realism of the show.

If you are looking to watch something to simulate the mind get the heart racing, anger, fear hope and justice watch Spooks it is in a class of its own as only the British can do.
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Good show that has ruined itself in its third season!!!
jameslamont10 March 2005
Ever since Spooks hit the BBC back in 2002, it has been essential, innovative, superbly written and action packed drama. The first season of the show was exceptional, the show was so ground breaking in the stories and themes it tackled that it won many plaudits and won many prizes. But Seaon 3 of the show was rocked by the departure of its main stars and I will talk about that later, but first I will go over the show generally and the first two seasons particularly...

Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfayden) was the linchpin of the show and rightly so. He was an amazing character and Matthew was absolutely superb as the main star of the show. Keeley Hawes and David Oyelowo were great as Danny and Zoe as the other main cast members of the show. Peter Firth(Harry Pearce) put in a superb performance as the Spooks boss.

The biggest assets the show had was its main three characters and because they were so likable, the viewer really warmed to the characters and the actors themselves.

Never shy to stow away from controversy Season 2 of the show was also very good. The problem then came in Season 3.....

All 3 of the main characters left and there were these replacements bought in that were so obviously replacements for the others, that the viewer could not help but notice it. The sense of the closeness of the show was gone, as the show stopped focusing on the "bad guys", but started focusing solely on the Spooks private life.

One of the great things about the show was that the show dealt with a wide range of terrorism issues affecting mainland UK but in series 3, the writers were clearly more concerned with the Spooks personal lives, than the actual welfare of the country!! Maybe they should have ended the show after the second season and let the show go out on a high. There are so any stand alone memorable episodes in these two series, that you will remember them for ages. The problem was that the loss of the three main characters the audience had loved for the two previous series, had left and this has had a dramatic effect.

As for the replacements, Rupert Penry-Jones is not a patch on Matthew Macfayden and he is quite wooden at times. Olga Sosnovska is so-so as Fiona, Adams wife. They are the main replacements to the cast, but even the quite well written characters cannot help fill the void of the ex-characters departures.

I used to be a massive fan of this show and I would rate this show as one of the best on the box, and essential viewing but season 3 really let the show down. In my opinion a big part of the show was over when the main three characters left and the new replacements have not done much to change my mind. This is a prime example of a show that simply cannot survive without its main cast, there is just too much history wiped away. If you want to see a top class drama show buy Series 1 and 2 box sets, stick clear of Series 3. Good show (season 1-3) 10/10, Season 3 (4/10)
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Just Silly
dal_asher23 February 2017
I watched the first 4 seasons of this series and it just gets sillier and sillier with each season. I can't say for sure but the idea that any "secret operative" of any agency would tell the young child of a lover that they are "spies but don't tell anyone ever" is just absurd! It seems like they just brag about being spies a bit too much to be believable. The plots become repetitive and nonsense the further on in the series I get. If you want intelligent television try watching "The Newsroom" or "The West Wing" which I consider two of the best TV shows ever broadcast. I would hate to think this is a realistic portrayal of MI-5. It seems to me that real life MI-5 agents must find this program laughable and probably hate the ridiculous image of their service that it portrays. Don't think I will bother with season 5 onward.
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Very Realistic and very scary spooks is the best show the UK have produced
vhs19997 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have been watching spooks ever since it has been broadcast here in Australia. Spooks is very realistic and follows story lines that are real close to real world events. Over the past four seasons spooks has gone through many changes and has in season 3 lost there three main leads Tom,Zoe,Danny and replaced by Adam,Ros,Zaf who still make the show just as exciting more to the point realistic and serious. These episodes are very Controversial and have got a lot of suspense but if you are looking for excitement suspense and even some character based plots well you have come to the right place,good choice of show. i would just like to say keep it up england your doing a great job.

Oh and by the way if you want something up to date to a real world event try episodes 4.01 4.02 in season 4 they were based on the London bombings.
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Best Spy Series Since the Prisoner
chuckewe5 June 2006
Rarely do I find DVD's of Broadcast TV worthy of the expense. MI5 or Spooks is one of the rare exceptions. As an American, I've been limited to the A&E versions, which has others have stated, are edited to allow for commercials. The pace, the actors, the plots even in the edited versions are exceptional. When I found out I could purchase the series on DVD, I gladly did. The only other Broadcast series I've purchased for myself, are Secret Agent Man (danger man in the UK) The Prisoner, and the Hornblower series. I've been pleased with all. The bonus with MI5 is seeing the full episodes. Unlike American series, the UK series have short seasons which keep the story lines clear, concise, intelligent, and plot driven not profit driven. The actors are generally given fleshier roles and unlike many U.S. shows, the actors seem to be chosen on talent, rather then a "look". MI5 brings a sense of what it may really be like in the intelligent community, as a clear delineations of right and wrong crosses paths with politics, ambition, and geo-political idealogy. In short, MI5 raises many morality issues while at the same time, filling one with suspense.
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A&E, Bring Back Spooks/MI-5!
rsampron16 August 2006
Some British crime dramas are so good you forget to breathe at times. That is the case with "Spooks", or as they called it when packaged for American TV, "MI-5".

We were introduced to some fantastic actors, tense scripts, rich characters, and harrowing images. There is a perpetual ethical struggle within and amongst the characters, as they search their way through the dark of the drugs trade, terrorism, and such.

I will never forget what I felt when watching a Muslim bomber preparing to blow-up innocent children in a playground.

Probably the best thing I could say is the program proved more than realistic; it was prophetic, given the events on 7/7/05.

That just shows the excellence of the program.

Sadly, we can no longer view it here in the states as A&E has pulled it. I am hoping they recirculate it to some of their other network channels, as they've done with "Midsomer Murder"s to the Biography Channel (honestly). Perhaps to BBC America?
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Fun, stylish and paranoid.
timotheus19 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Caught the series 7 (dealing with FSB and traitors). Professionally done, nicely played, sloppily written - still a lot of fun to watch. A network of sleeper agents in Britain, heavily armed Russians in London hunting MI5 operatives in the streets of the capital - if you, like me, remember the ages of the Cold War - this will be a interesting experience. The story of the season's finale is not original: it reminds the 1977 Don Siegel's Telefon with Charles Bronson (without the mind control, mind that). However horribly inept Russians with golden crucifixes speaking horrible Russian wanting to destroy England aplenty! If you catch it on the telly - do not miss.
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spkelsekladden24 June 2012
When i watched the first episode of the first season, i thought this was brilliant.But after watching half of season two I'm just bored. If this is how the real MI5 is run i would be seriously worried. They act like bloody fools. The show has been compared to the American 24 I'm not sure if thats is a good thing or a bad.

They fumble around they seem to take a lot of unnecessary risks and every episode always ended with a huge anticlimax. They could have done with some more action in the show. They build up so you sit and Wait for something exciting to happen,than it all just flattens out to nothing but some small talk and a pat on the back
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Falling away
thos4025 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Spooks" is, was, and always will be a super thriller, and marvellously stylish. It has always depended upon the willing suspension of disbelief by its audience, but the 2008 series now showing in Australia has imposed too strongly upon my ability to believe. Thrillers always rely upon the notion that the stakes are high. In current series, the goal is to prevent war between the West and Iran, with a chance of WWIII beginning. However, I find myself beginning to approach a new episode with a shrug of the shoulders: "How is the world going to end this week?" Then Malcolm's ability to break codes with seconds remaining to Armageddon is just too far out of the realms of the credible. And he does it every week. Every person in Greater London must have his or her own camera trained upon him/her, because, except when the plot requires someone to drop out of sight, anybody in the city can be found within a few seconds.

"Spooks" is essentially a classy soap. People change character from week to week. This week's goody may be next week's baddie. That is a staple of soap operas, and in the world of television spies, double agents and double crosses, that is fine. But Jo's recent inability to face torture is such a reversal -- in previous episodes, she was so unfailingly brave. And then Adam has her feign death, when the obvious thing to do was nothing until the baddies came to torture her -- just not a logical thing to do. Similarly the death and resurrection of Ros completely defies logic, just as the reappearances of characters written out of a soap frequently defy logic.

"Spooks" is still watchable, but not nearly as good as it was.
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Absolutely love Spooks.
ysic227 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
From watching a few episodes from BBC online, I was totally hooked. I then bought 9 seasons of Spooks and watching one to two episodes a day. What I love about it, is that it doesn't try and glorify the roles of Mi5 agents, it feels so realistic, and well it touches on topics that you feel wow, what our governments are probably doing to protect our country and keep us safe that we will most likely never know about.

It brings up the political agenda as well and how that that conflict can arise with bringing to justice criminals as it affects a politician's own personal agenda.

Some of the scenes are scary and the suspense just keeps going, its not predictable but keeps you on the edge of you seat, and my mouth has been left hanging open for quite a few of the scenes. What you also get is you never know which main character will die or be asked to leave the service, so never ever think that even the main characters are safe.

So if you like things blowing up, spies, the James Bond, etc. You will love this.
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Suspenseful and smart...
solpsizm14 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If I could give this a 7.5 I would, but sans .5s I'll give it an 8 because when this series was good it was really good.

For those of us in the states whose main exposure to espionage thrillers was 24, this series is different from that in 2 main ways: 1) the series doesn't revolve around one main character and so main characters do die and 2) the production values/budgets are not as high as 24, especially in the first few seasons, so as sometimes is the case suspense is generated in MI-5 in ways that derive more from actual espionage and cat and mouse games than gun battles or high-tech surveillance.

At least in the first few seasons, which may be difficult for viewers accustomed to fast, perfectly synchronized and action packed 24 type entertainment. (Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of 24, especially the first 3 seasons, but after 9 seasons of one character having literally a 100 lives, one need something a bit more close to reality). Guns are used by the main characters only with absolute necessity, and I don't think they ever used anything above handguns. As the seasons progress though, this series incorporates more and more elements from a 24 template, from a more frenetic pace, prevalence of guns and especially bombs, explosions and big set-pieces, to stories that incorporate conspiracies within conspiracies. although thankfully the number of arcs dealing with corporations pulling the main strings were limited.

The greatest source of suspense in this series is the fact that save for the possible exception of Harry Pearce, no character is safe from exile or death (mostly the latter). Because this series, at least for the majority of the first 8 seasons, is procedural, this is even more important, for in any one shot episode featuring a villain who will not appear again, almost any character can be killed or forced to leave MI-5.

Not that this is a character-centered suspense series. Althoughh we get glimpses into the main characters personal lives for the first 8 seasons, for the most part the characters are seen only as in their importance as officers of MI-5. And the guest characters, mainly villains, are not portrayed as either instanly sympathetic or villainous, but mostly a combination of both. The lack of over-sentimentality is often seen in the officers' use of assets, ie. people who can serve the successful completion of their mission. They are often used and discarded by the MI-5 officers, often with minimal remorse.

Around seasons 5, 6 and 7, this series becomes an amalgalm of its first 3 seasons and a 24 type entertainment. It is here that this series is at its best, where big set-pieces and vast but compelling conspiracies combined with the fact that we know any character can die at any moment create cool and satisfying suspense.

2 things to note: 1) there is a heavy anti-American theme throughout the series that permeates even to the horrific and cringeworthy American accents employed by the English actors. (but to be fair, no one from the Russians to the own British government is safe from being villainous as well). 2) Seasons 9 and 10 are atrocious. Unnecessary and ridiculous backstories are created for the 2 most likable characters simply to generate shock value, and characters are made to do preposterous actions that make no sense either in their character arc or by logic. Despite this, this series overall is very entertaining, especially in its middle seasons, and is well worth a watch for anyone craving smart suspense that is not overly contrived.
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good with some flaws
ccollins198223 October 2011
good if not unrealistic in some aspects are mi5 officers armed was under the impressions there supposed to be more invisible and unarmed and un able to arrest anyone lol but the last series was absolute rubbish was hard to stay interested .....im British but feel that at times it seems so anti American its hard to believe it gets put on TV in the USA....and the Russians seem to always be out manoeuvring them ...as irritating as it may be at times its a shame its being cancelled and as usual its been cancelled without a replacement in place maybe they should re brand it and set it in the cold war could be more interesting......it was more interesting when there was one story line per episode rather than dragging a main story line out over the whole series and the constant changing of the main character is irritating i find my self losing track of some of them not to mention how many times they change the home secretary its like 7 in 10 years ......its good but flawed in some aspects sometimes u just have to put your brain to sleep and watch personally id rather watch the first few series and not bother with the last 2 and the ending was a bit disappointing
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Great show, still
thelmaritter-130 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I disagree with most of the naysayers here. Spooks is a consistently great show. Its seventh season was just as good as its first. Yes, there are some episodes that are not as compelling as others, and occasionally the replacement Spooks do not seem as interesting/endearing as the ones we lost early on, but the stories are always fast-paced and the dialogue snappy. The complaints about the choice of story lines is sort of nutty; if every episode were about Middle Eastern terrorist the show would go stale quickly. I'm an American and I don't take offense at the shady CIA guys in dark sunglasses stalking around. (It's television, for Pete's sake.) And how p.c. can a show be that has one MI-5 officer say upon reading a mocked-up human rights speech, "It almost makes me believe in civil liberties!"
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