Friday, July 31, 2009
Spooks, also known as MI-5, is a British TV drama about the intelligence agency MI-5 and its counter-terrorism activities.
So far, I’ve seen the first season, and the first two episodes of season two.
It’s a well-directed, well-written, well-acted drama. However, in terms of the specific issue of how they handle the problem of terrorism from a standpoint of gritty plausibility—after all, the entire show, like other law enforcement dramas, pretends to be grimly realistic about its subject matter—the entire first season was laughable.
That season aired in 2002, which means they must have written it post-911. Every episode is about terrorists—but never a hint of Islamic terrorists. They strain and reach for every possible flavor of terrorist except Muslims. They have Armenian terrorists holding a Turkish embassy hostage (Armenians, mostly Christians, are supposed to be the good guys, remember? The Turks massacred them in a series of pogroms amounting nearly to genocide and have oppressed them ever since through other ongoing abuses). They have an abortion-clinic-bombing terrorist. They have a white racist terrorist. They have Russian terrorists. And, of course, there is always the trusty IRA to try to deflect from the real terrorism threatening the world today.
Then in season 2 (so far), the first episode again involves IRA terrorism and fuses the plot with a Serbian terrorist in possible collusion with the IRA.
Finally, with the second episode we have an actual Muslim terrorist! However, the story line is ruined by the nearly ubiquitous face-saving maneuver: the Muslim terrorists are twisting the doctrines of true Islam, you see! And for the true, peaceful Islam, we have the two characters of a rival imam, as well as a Muslim who volunteers to be a mole to gather evidence on the extremist imam. The dialogue for both these characters contains pointed moments where they sell to the audience the supposed fact that “true Islam” in no way countenances the terrorism of the bad cleric, and that in fact “true Islam” is viscerally opposed to such extremism.
I will continue to watch this series, and will issue a follow-up report on whether the writers of the show have demonstrated any kind of a rational learning curve about Islamic terrorism. As the show spanned from its starting date of 2002 all the way to last year, when it ended, I particularly look forward to seeing whether the traumatic attack of the London bombings of July 7, 2005, will be reflected in a more intelligent approach to dramatizing the world of counter-terrorist intelligence after that point. I won’t be surprised, however, if the show’s writers and producers opt instead for the typical mainstream response throughout the West: namely, the more that Muslims explode, the more, not the less, do Westerners whitewash Islam and try to sweep its ugly dangerous nature under the Oriental rug.
Later on, I got around to watching seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Here's my review:
MI-5, 7/7, 911, 3 or 4,000 at Ground Zero: It's the numbers