Although MI-5 ran into some difficulty ratings-wise against the huge hit Downton Abbey, the tenth and final season of the program turned out to be one of its most intriguing of all. Intrigue is the name of the game for this BBC series, which began airing in 2002. While U.S. viewers know the show as MI-5, which references the British Secret Service, for the rest of the world the series is called Spooks. No matter what you call it though, the show went out on a high note, as the newly released double-DVD set MI-5: Volume 10 clearly shows.
For the final season (or series as the Brits refer to it), MI-5 indulges in what one might call “psychological espionage.” Appropriately enough, the final six episodes revolve around Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the head of the department. The choices he makes extract a cost both personally and professionally, but he stays true to himself throughout.
The season and series closes out with the discovery of a plot to force Britain and Russia into war. Harry is able to thwart the plot and decides to retire and live with Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker). Sasha Gavrik (Tom Weston Jones) has other plans however. His attempt at revenge fails, but at a crucial price. In the end, Ruth takes the blow for Harry, then dies in his arms. It is a heartbreaking scene. After this, Harry returns to MI-5, as his dreams of living a “normal” life are now destroyed. The tenth season has been described as a “Greek tragedy in six acts” by some, and it is an appropriate summation. “You can’t win,” would be another.
Along the way, there are some brilliant performances from stalwarts such as Alice Krige (Elena Gavrik), Jonathan Hyde (Ilya Gavrik), Simon Russell Beale (William Towers), and William Hope (Jim Coaver). Equally impressive are the characterizations of newer cast members such as Shazad Latif (Tariq Masood) and Geoffrey Streatfield (Calum Reid).
MI-5/Spooks will be remembered as one of the finest (and most resilient) espionage shows the BBC has produced. The ending may have been controversial in some quarters, but I thought it was a great way to wind things up. Well done.