Season 1 Episode 2

Episode 2

Aired Monday 9:00 PM May 20, 2002 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
108 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Tom and Helen must go undercover and befriend the wife of a suspected hardcore racist in order to prevent a racewar. Meanwhile Zoe and Tessa learn that a boatload of refugees is due to dock at Dover in the next few days. Things worsen when the operatives realise the two things may be connected and their covers may be blown.moreless

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  • Beware: Brutally violent.

    Spooks is good viewing; well written, thought-provoking and compelling. However, this episode contains a scene of extreme, realistic violence involving fatal burns by boiling oil. I wish someone had warned me. The other two reviewers of this episode cite its "mind blowing brutality" as a point in its favour. The first reviewer calls it the "single most shocking, brutal piece of television in the history of the BBC" admitting that while the episode has it's flaws (the villain was not believable), "that one moment causes any questions in your mind to disappear instantly". In other words, it was the depiction of extreme violence that transformed an otherwise mediocre episode into the great TV. I guess if you're into "shocking brutality" you might agree. I don't. I think this episode crossed a line. I know it's years old. and probably no one cares any more, but it's a couple of weeks after the Sandy Hook shootings and the brutal rape and subsequent death of a young woman in India, and I kind of wish I hadn't just watched someone burning to death on TV.moreless
  • a shocker

    This episode was mind blowing. In that it was so good. In that it was so brutal. In that it pulled no punches whatsoever. This episode drew me into the show, especially the character of Tom. I had to watch the rest of season one and two asap after this. I think maybe the shock of this episode is what makes the show feel so real from then on. I love the characters of Zoe, Danny and especially Tom. Also Tessa. Since all these characters are going to drop off I don't know how deep into the archives I'll go watching this. However, I would definitely recommend all of season one and two.moreless
  • Not for the faint-hearted.


    After the heavy exposition of the pilot episode, you might think this second installment would ease up a little. You\'d be wrong.

    As described in the plot summary, the team attempt to keep an eye on a hardcore racist and prevent him from starting a race war. In order to do this, his wife (well played by Debra Stephenson) must be brought on side. Matters are further complicated by the absence of Zoe, working on another case. So what do they do? Helen, the bored secretary who I for one had picked as a future agent, is drafted in to pose as one half of a couple, to befriend the wife. This was hinted at in the previous episode, with periodic references to how bored she was. Throughout this episode, it was made clear that this was Helen\'s choice - this never bodes well.

    What follows is a slow-burning half hour, as the pressure on the two agents builds, contrasted nicely with Tom\'s conflicted feelings about Ellie.

    And then, finally, the third act. The cat is out of the bag, and an inexperienced Helen is exposed to the true danger of the job, rather than the exitement that has come before. What follows is possibly the single most shocking, brutal piece of television in the history of the BBC, as Helen is dispatched in a way that made every single person watching similtaneously wince. I for one spent the rest of the episode spluttering \"What? They... Why? What? How could they? Did I imagine that?\"

    While this episode is by no means flawless, with the racist being such a pantomime villan you almost expected him to start eating orphaned puppies. However, that one moment causes any questions in your mind to disappear instantly. No episode has since equalled it, and probably none ever will.moreless
Kevin R. McNally

Kevin R. McNally

Robert Osborne

Guest Star

Debra Stephenson

Debra Stephenson

Claire Osborne

Guest Star

Jasper Jacob

Jasper Jacob

Bill Watson MP

Guest Star

Rory MacGregor

Rory MacGregor

Colin Wells

Recurring Role

Esther Hall

Esther Hall

Ellie Simm

Recurring Role

Heather Cave

Heather Cave

Maisie Simm

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • After Osborne has been assassinated, an MI5 agent comes over to Tom and Harry in the churchyard and whispers something in Harry's ear. What he actually says is, "The goose has landed".

    • The car which Tom drives whilst briefing Helen is higher up than all the other cars. This is because it was on a low-loader so that Matthew Macfadyen did not have to worry about driving safely.

  • QUOTES (3)

  • NOTES (4)

    • The American title for this episode is Looking After Our Own.

    • This was the most complained about television programme of 2002. The BSC reported a total of 154 complaints about the graphic portrayal of the murder of Helen Flynn. The shock of the death was made worse by the way the writers and producers had set her up to appear like a long-term character.

    • The scenes on the beach were filmed on the cobbled courtyard outside the university where much of season one was filmed.

    • The deep fat that killed off Helen was cold tea with somebody blowing bubbles up from underneath.


    • Appears in van: Garfield the cat
      Garfield the cat was a popular cartoon character and subject of a recent film, in this context however he is used to warn the spooks that an urgent message is waiting.

    • Written on document folder: "Happy with your wash?"
      The photos of the dead refugees washed onto the beach have a piece of paper enclosed with them to Bill Watson, "happy with your wash" the old catchphrase for a washing powder.