Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spooked again

About two years ago, I wrote a critical review of the popular BBC drama Spooks (or MI-5 as it is known in the U.S.A.). At that point, I had only seen the first season and two episodes of the second season.
Then about a year ago, I wrote an update of that show, after having watched most of the following six seasons, clear up through the end of season 7.  

At the time of my initial critical review, I saw a dismaying pattern to the plots and scripts of this show intended to be a gritty, cutting-edge action show about a leading counter-terrorism unit: Instead of focusing on the actual terrorism of the daily news -- Islamic terrorism -- the show consistently deflected that in order to uncover the supposedly "real" terrorism between the lines. Consequently, every terrorist and terrorist organization under the sun except Islamic was trotted out to flesh out the plots -- Russian terrorists, shadowy Euro businessmen terrorists, environmental nutjob terrorists, right-wing Christian terrorists; and, of course, the always reliable (but increasingly irrelevant) IRA terrorists. On the rare occasions when the story line revolved around a Muslim terrorist plot, the Muslims were carefully framed as a "tiny minority of extremists" (often contrasted with one or more token "moderate Muslims"), and invariably the players were discovered to be pawns in the deadly game of some sinister non-Muslim cabal who were thus the "real" danger.

This pattern of PC MC deflection only continued through all its subsequent six seasons, showing a pathetic deficiency in progressing along the learning curve about the one topic that was supposedly at the heart of this television drama. 

In fact, even that is too kind: All these seasons of Spooks have shown an apparently willful desire to artfully obfuscate the role and significance of Islamic terrorism, through weaving all sorts of plots in which it figures at best tangentially, and most of the time, at worst, as a positive decoy for the "real" dangers our societies "really" face from various dastardly non-Muslim groups and individuals out there (including from within our very own institutions at the highest levels) far deadlier -- the message being telegraphed is clear -- than Muslims. 

Disgusted, but drearily unsurprised, I just stopped watching, even though the show was chugging along in popularity, promising to be perhaps as long-lived a show as the American ER (indeed, Spooks is still going strong).

On a lark one evening, about two weeks ago, pottering around my ranch West of the Pecos unusually bored (which is saying a lot), I was browsing around in my Netflix account, and noticed that all the shows of Spooks were available for free streaming -- right up to the present, which seemed to be season 10.  I figured I'd give it one more try.  Perhaps the show's producers, directors and writers had finally begun to wise up a little.  So I sampled the first show of season 8.

Again, I was impressed by the quality of the direction, writing and acting, and the obvious money the producers had to film on location.  The story began with the kidnapping of the head of MI-5 (Sir Harry Pearce, played by the stolidly girthy thespian Peter Firth brimming with Shakespearean gravitas) by some terrorist group.  As his team is rushing to try to get intel on what group has kidnapped their boss, and where they are located, the initial reasonable suspicion is that it was members of S.A.R.V. (the "Sacred Army of Righteous Vengeance"), which the lead agent describes as an "extreme Islamic group" (which I suppose is better than "radical extremist fundamentalist ultra-conservative Islamist Wahhabist Salafist group"...).  In fact, the team receives a communiqué minutes later, in which S.A.R.V. apparently claims responsibility for the kidnapping.

Finally, an actual Islamic terrorist group, to start out season 8 with a bang!  Perhaps they had finally wised up, I thought to myself, pouring another glass of Malbec.

I should have known never to trust anyone in our mainstream culture.  Within five minutes, the lead kidnapper takes the mask off the face of the bound and gagged Sir Harry, and reveals himself:  a non-Muslim Indian "ultra-nationalist" pretending to be a Muslim, to throw off the scent of the intelligence agencies.

Trembling, sweaty, my left eye flinching like the beleaguered Herbert Lom's Inspector Dreyfus, I reached madly for the remote to eliminate this monstrosity from my presence, so I could subside back into a whimpering, weeping, insanely cackling heap in the dark.

1 comment:

Olave d'Estienne said...

Naw, I bet you just chuckled grimly, shut off the tube, and put on a nice concerto.

Do you feel that America's Nation of Islam is an actual sect of Islam or a bunch of fakers?