Since Lucas North became central to Spooks, the series has gone seriously south. When he was playing second fiddle to Ros – and third fiddle in the Spooks symphony if you afford Harry his proper place – Lucas was interesting enough and Richard Armitage adequately equipped to look moody. If, for the best part of a decade, you’d been abandoned and inked in a Russian prison, you’d brood too.
But Ros’s death and Lucas’s promotion to section chief have done the Grid no good at all. Of course, it’s understandable that Spooks has seemed somewhat lacklustre since Ros’s exit: she wasn’t just the best character Spooks ever had, she was one of the best female characters on television.
(Yay, then, that judging from initial descriptions, Hermione Norris seems to be, in spirit at least, reprising Ros in BBC1’s long-awaited sci-fi extravaganza Outcasts, in which she plays the no-nonsense security chief Stella.)
That Lucas has so dramatically failed to fill Ros’s shoes not only demonstrates what a dullard he is but also that, despite his matinee-idol looks, Armitage is no leading man.
It’s probably too late to stop the Armitage army from advancing angrily, yet Lucas simply doesn’t have enough heft to make him compelling and the show’s attempt to make him so has backfired badly. A saggy-mouthed Iain Glenn going on and on about “John” is just tedious and though Laila Rouass is very pretty, her Maya is, at best, underwritten and, at worst, to be filed under “Soggy Spooks Characters” alongside Fiona Carter and that Scottish lassie from the first series.
While Hermione Norris’s Ros – and Rupert Penry-Jones’s Adam and Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom – could communicate in a glance or the flash of an expression that they had history, that they were troubled, that they had seen Things, Armitage-as-Lucas cannot. Hence these ham-fisted attempts to give him hinterland.
Worse, the whole “Lucas North is not Lucas North” totally undermines everything that happened in the seventh series. All the Sugarhorse/Tiresius stuff that culminated in Connie’s delicious treachery and her bra-assisted murder of boring Ben feels a bit empty now. The emotional investment in that story feels somewhat squandered. I feel used. And not in a good way.
It’s hard to think of a British series that has so successfully renewed and replenished itself as Spooks has – in no small part thanks to its ruthlessness in the offing of central characters. But once I watched out of love. Now I watch, not quite out of duty, but certainly out of residual loyalty.
You can only hope that Lucas meets his maker in the season finale and the rumoured tenth series reboots the show to give us some genuine intrigue, jeopardy and – crucially – a gang to which we want to belong. Because at the moment, MI5 is a bit meh.