Friday, October 29, 2010

MI-5 - Season 1

Well this is cool - a spy show that doesn't totally glamorize the profession. I guess you can leave it to the English to do that. If James Bond's MI6 is the globe-trotting foreign intelligence agency like the CIA, then I guess MI5 is the equivalent of the FBI, focused on rooting out operations on British soil. The stakes on the missions are often somewhat low, with some aspect of the intelligence community at stake rather than the world, and the spies aren't superheroes. They live secretive lives outside the job, and sometimes they get killed brutally and unceremoniously. It's a lot different than the standard depiction in the media of this kind of work, and I like it for that.

This show is actually called Spooks in its native Britain, and I kind of like that more than the slightly generic-sounding MI-5. It sets the correct expectations for what the series is. The headquarters aren't terribly high tech beyond a few computers, and the cast is relatively small. It's not about the operations of a whole intelligence force, it's a few people in the spy game. I know Matthew MacFayden from Pillars of the Earth, as the monk in charge of getting the cathedral built. Here he has a mid-level position at the agency, and has to worry about protecting his girlfriend and her daughter from the truth about him. There's a couple younger spooks below him and a couple older ones above him. They deal with things like possible IRA bombing threats and white supremacists trying to start riots on British soil. There's only six episodes in this first season, but they do a good job of establishing the setting for a show that's still running today, with each episode on its own telling an interesting and often quite tense story. The office politics and domestic stuff is surprisingly interesting as well, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing a lot more.

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