Season 5 Episode 3

Episode 3

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Sep 25, 2006 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
51 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Zaf goes deep undercover to infiltrate an Al Qaeda cell that is planning an attack on the UK. When Adam learns that the terrorists are on a suicide mission he tries to prevent them from reaching their target, but events soon spiral out of control.

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    Third episode in, this fifth series seems to have hit its stride. After the admittedly exciting but slightly unbelievable two-parter last week, this one was back on form. And aside from the thermo-whatsit bomb thing, it was terrifyingly relevant.

    Following a four-man al-Qaeda cell as it prepares to carry out a major bombing on central London, the episode was subdued, and the editing noticeably more settled than last week. The show is always at its best when it moves away from the self-consciously slick stuff and back towards the stylish but slightly grimy side of things.

    Despite some slightly clumsy writing towards the end, this was an absorbing thriller with a nice character study at the centre of it – less about the how, and more about the why.

    To say that it was sympathetic to the fundamentalists portrayed would create the wrong impression; of course their actions are condemned. But along the way, we get a perceptive portrait of a young man, Michael, who is confused, and essentially trying to do what he considers the right thing. In one short piece of dialogue, where he explains to Zaf how he feels able to kill innocent Muslims, we get an insight into this mindset more clearly than we would from a hundred news reports. This was helped by a solid performance from Ofo Uhiara as Michael. The final set-piece, featuring a terrorist being shot and killed by armed police despite the lack of a positive ID, was an obvious reference to Jean Charles de Menezes, with Adam’s sigh of relief a neat touch. It was a brave decision, but the writers shied away from the final step – killing an innocent man. Although that would probably have been a little too much, a little too far for our heroes to go and retain our sympathy, it would have been very interesting to see how they played it, and what kind of moral stance they took. As it was, the point about the greater good was effectively made, and thought-provoking, but a little predictable.

    Another performance worth commenting on is that of Hermione Norris as Ros. I have long harboured a dislike of Norris, completely irrationally, but even I am starting to warm to Ros and the whole ice-queen thing. Hopefully she won’t thaw too much. Also, I want to learn her teleportation trick. That would come in handy.

    When I heard the rumours, I was sceptical about the Ruth and Harry date, but it was beautifully played by both Nicola Walker and Peter Firth. Within half an hour, I found myself really rooting for them, just because I wanted to see more scenes of them together. That said, I’m glad we don’t seem to be heading into murky office-romance territory. Those two deserve better than something so pedestrian.

    The episode had its flaws, of course. Michael’s conversion was a bit quick (Killing people is wrong? Why did nobody tell me this earlier?), and the other two al-Qaeda ‘soldiers’ were a little pantomime. But overall, this is a promising start to the series.moreless
  • A chilling episode with callouts to several contemporary events. Nicely low-key following on from the more flashy opener. Spoilers.

    I am a fan of Spooks, in all its escapist glory. I enjoy the pace, the far-fetched coincidences, the murky politicians and the heroes who take the moral high ground.

    Every now and then though they present me with an episode where they show the 'enemy' in a sympathetic light. Michael was such an enemy. Someone who was prepared to bring the war abroad (Afganistan etc.) to the doorsteps of those taking part. And while I agree with the other reviewer who commented on his quick conversion away from the idea that the bombing was right, it only happened when he was confronted by someone outside of his new world. He had been surrounded by believers in the cause, and Leigh was seperate from that.

    I was also impressed by the shooting of the man with the detonator - I think this went some way to showing how hard a decision it is to make given the circumstances - one life, perhaps the wrong one, weighed against that of the many thousands. Not a decision I would ever want to take.

    I would also like to address Roz. After the conclusion of the first 2 episodes I was concerned about how her character would be handled. Her weakness in front of Adam and her naiveté with her father and friends needed to be addressed. And it was. I was pleased at her portrayal. She was spikey and cold; she would take no sympathy from anyone, and asserted her position using her strengths - in this episode I could see what she had in common with her father and his cohorts. And again, in agreement with the previous reviewer, I hope they keep this up.

    I touched on Harry and Ruth in my last review for episode 2 - I was hoping for a realistic but touching relationship, and I think we are starting to get it. Neither Harry or Ruth are in the first flush of youth, both are quirky in their own ways and I found their date and subsequent conversations very moving. I'm still rooting for them.moreless
Peter Watts

Peter Watts

Environmental Officer

Guest Star

Peter Barrett

Peter Barrett

MI5 Officer

Guest Star

Adhir Kalyan

Adhir Kalyan


Guest Star

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Gugu Mbatha-Raw


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Zaf: She's his ex-fiancée. He got rid of her, why should she be a weak spot?
      Ros: A few things about men, Zaf: they're stupid, they're inconsistent, and a short skirt usually trumps a deeply-held conviction. Present company excepted, of course.
      Zaf: No, no. That was a pretty fair assessment of my personality.

    • Ros: OK. Let's talk about sex.
      Zaf : Oh, yeah, hang on. Sorry, it's just that it's been so long.
      Ros: We can use it to turn Michael Johnson.
      Zaf : You really think I'm his type?

  • NOTES (1)

    • This episode was broadcast first on BBC Three at 22.25 on 18 September, half-an-hour after Episode 2 was broadcast on BBC One. Subsequent episodes were also given an advance showing on BBC Three.