Thursday, March 17, 2011

MI-5 - Seasons 5-8

I'm finally caught up with this show, as far as America is concerned anyway. A ninth season already aired on the BBC, and that should be coming over some time soon. And it's still pretty good! It's gotten a bit silly in places, because there's really only so many realistic terrorist threats you can do before your writing staff gets a bit bored and decides something a bit too far from what might actually happen would be a great idea. The show's gritty, simple nature is what attracted me to it in the first place, and while it's become more of a typical Hollywood-style spy thriller since then, they at least haven't gone fully overboard like say, 24 did. The lack of serialized storytelling might have helped them keep it contained, although they dabbled a lot more in that area in these four seasons, especially in season six, which was almost entirely based around a continuous struggle between Britain and Iran over the latter's attempts to become a nuclear power. It generally plays like a typical season where each episode is its own caper, except they all deal with the next natural step in that conflict. It worked pretty well, and while the next two seasons plots were both weaker in terms of plausibility and execution, it shows a definite switch in focus on continuity besides just regularly killing off and introducing new characters.

They haven't stopped that at all by the way, with Harry remaining the sole character to ever stick around for more than four seasons before having to disappear or dying on the job. It's almost depressing watching these people knowing that the odds are their lives will be destroyed within the next couple years, and while it was fun to see a character actually return from exile for once, it just increases the odds she's going to die anyway. I guess it's sort of a conundrum, one that I've mentioned before but deserves to be again. The fact that any of the characters could so easily die in any episode makes the stakes always high... but the fact that characters dies so often makes it hard to allow yourself to care about them... and if you don't care about them, it doesn't matter how high the stakes are. It's not a major problem yet, it's just a curious situation.

I'd also just like to mention some of the less plausible stuff that's been popping up more. In addition to the people protecting a whole country from outside threats having computer interfaces that have always looked like they were created in a simple art program with heavy use of the gradient tool, there have been instances of the dreaded image "enhancement", like a person being identifiable by zooming in on their eye with a security camera, and silenced pistols apparently being quiet enough to get away with shooting someone on a crowded street in daylight. The show's still fun, I just can't help partially regretting its trend towards slick action over delicate espionage. It's been subtle enough that I never felt like I suddenly wasn't watching the same show anymore, but I could see it being enough at this point to turn someone off. And with seemingly every new threat apparently being backed by a secret global conspiracy, I'm not sure how much longer it will sustain itself before really getting dumb.

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