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5.0 out of 5 stars MI-5 in It's Tenth Year - Still a Home Run, March 7, 2012
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This review is from: MI-5: Volume 10 (DVD)
It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since MI-5 first began in 2002, and what a ten-year run it has been. MI-5 has over this decade consistently shown itself to be one of the most intelligent, exciting, and thought-provoking shows ever put on television, and I can say without hesitation that Season Ten continues squarely in that tradition. And without giving any spoilers and without trying to reminisce too much here in this, I can say that I, like millions of people around the world, will now sorely miss being able to watch the latest MI-5 productions as they came out each year.

MI-5 is the government agency in the UK that is designed to deal with domestic security, perhaps roughly analogous to the FBI in the US. "5" is made up of normal people who join the agency "in defense of the realm," and deals with the threats and personal sacrifice each person makes while fulfilling their role in the organization.

Season Ten is the shortest season made during the series entire run (a total of only six episodes), but, in a way, that makes sense because the show is wrapping up the last of the major, unresolved issues from the show's final story arc. But the season still maintains everything that makes MI-5 great: dramatic contradictions, complicated and suspenseful situations, thought-provoking writing, and characters that we come to admire and "root" for as we watch. This is a show that unquestionably is choosing to end production while still at the top of its form, rather than withering away as we have seen in so many television shows over the years.

I always recommend to anyone wishing to watch MI-5 that they start at Season One, and watch the shows in order. The first pilot episode (Season One) is not all that strong, and most every MI-5 watcher largely agrees with that assessment of the opening episode. (It's not difficult, however, to see the immense talent that is being assembled to develop the show; but, like many shows, it took a couple of initial episodes to get the show figured out from the production end.) But just grit your teeth and get through that first episode or two, and use it to acclimate yourself to the characters, approach, and way of thinking needed to engage in the series. And then watch the show take off as the season progresses. By the end of that first season, if you're not hooked and already purchasing the next set of season two DVD's, I'd be very surprised. The show is extremely well written, and makes use of a slew of talented actors from the first season all the way to the last. Directing and production values are so good that each episode is more like a 60-minute movie than a television show. It will entertain you, but it will also make you think about the difficult decisions, dangers, and contradictions the security services face all the time as they follow their mission.

And it just gets better and better, season after season. MI-5 defies every standard rule of television by consistently producing seasons and shows that get better with each successive year. You can't believe that it is possible to maintain the dramatic levels it does once you get through Season Two, but to our surprise, it does, and then, does it again in Season Three. And Four. And Five. And on and on. The show maintains the most amazing level of drama and suspense throughout its entire run, all the time making you think about the issues surrounding the subject of national security and the security services.

MI-5. I'm afraid it will be a long time before we ever see another show like it.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 31, 2012 5:05:37 PM PDT
JDin94704 says:
I couldn't agree with you more.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 4:23:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Feb 28, 2015 3:34:15 PM PST
janebbooks says:
A great overview of a spectacular series. Is it really over?

One reviewer mentioned "a reckless disposal of characters." Isn't that a great line? My daughter and I are now waiting for local library to find Episode 1/2 of SEASON 7. We probably needed the few weeks rest. SEASON 6 was best ever and so exciting... We really need to find out how they "recklessly disposed" of their #1 agent....we think we know what happened to Jo........what a television moment.
Our set of SEASON 7 had a blank disc one......

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 21, 2012 7:47:54 AM PDT
Ray says:
Yes, unfortunately, the BBC ended the show at Season 10. I'm not sure, but I suspect it may have something to do with the budgetary issues currently facing the BBC, and the fact that MI-5's ratings declined in the last few years. The show faced particularly heavy competition from shows like Downton Abbey, which was broadcast at the same time as MI-5 in the UK. But the quality of the show stayed right up there all the way to the end. There was some debate about whether the story line of Season Nine was good (and the same concerning Season Ten), but my wife and I, who viewed every episode in order for all ten seasons, were on the edge of our seats right until the very end of the show. It's an amazing epic that, sadly, is all too rare among television shows. I have always viewed it as a series of one-hour movies, so good was the writing, production, and acting. I won't give any spoilers about what happens in these last seasons, but if you haven't seen them yet, keep working your way through them all.

Posted on Oct 22, 2012 9:26:00 PM PDT
This was one of the best series of its genre in modern times. I recently rewatched the entire series from the first through tenth seasons over the course of just a few weeks, and found myself spellbound all over again. Very few episodes were a letdown, and even then, the letdowns were minor. The intertwining of difficult and challenging personal relationships with world politics (which sadly have not changed much over the last 10 years) was a winning combination with a great cast, even as it evolved. It was fitting that Harry was there until the (literal) bitter end.

Posted on Feb 9, 2015 10:53:46 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 9, 2015 10:54:55 AM PST]

Posted on Feb 9, 2015 10:54:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 9, 2015 10:57:04 AM PST
Hikari says:
Note: Season One of MI-5 was also comprised of 6 episodes, so it ties S10 as the shortest. I have only just seen S1 so it's fresh in my mind. S2 had ten. S2 also features a very early brief appearance by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch! One conceit that was mercifully dropped after S2 (I can hope) is the precious 'Dark Angel' prelude to the main menu, which you can neither skip over nor fast-forward through. That was all too "Mission Impossible"-ish and a clumsy bore.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2015 8:41:48 AM PST
janebbooks says:
My goodness, could you wait to watch SPOOKS/MI-5 for the last few years. Thomas and I bragged about the drama series as the best ever on the British mystery discussion.
Now I want to watch the ten seasons all over again! I missed Benedict Cumberbatch in S2...

Did you know that David Oyelowo, who was Junior Case Officer Danny Hunter in Series 3, was recently nominated for a 2014 Golden Globe for portraying Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film "Selma"?


In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2015 4:26:03 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 10, 2015 4:29:11 PM PST
Hikari says:
Hi, Jane,
No, I did not know that about our "Danny" . . though I have seen David turning up in various projects over the years since leaving MI-5. That distinctive name is hard to miss. In the bonus features to Series 1, David discusses his highly-received performance as "Henry VI" at the RSC in between seasons of MI-5 . . he wrote a book on the experience. Evidently his race was a major source of controversy for some. I was more surprised at his youth for such a high-profile role . .he wasn't more than 25 at the time. Danny Hunter was actually Junior Case officer from the beginning of the show, exiting the scene sometime in S3 in the all-too-familiar way for MI-5 operatives--in a body bag. I haven't made it that far yet but I know it's coming. I asked TAS to confirm my certainty that as a bright, ambitious, capable and good-looking young agent, that Danny was sure to wind up dead, and quite soon. He either forgot that Danny didn't get 3 full seasons or he was trying to throw me off the scent.

MI-5 is undoubtedly exciting and action-packed, and I have my favorites among the cast, including unsung heroes like Malcolm and Ruth and I find myself developing an unexpected crush on 'Harry' and his sexy lips, though Lucas North wins the prize for hottest spy. I will look forward to watching Ruth and Harry flirt in whatever that clandestine way might suffice for MI-5. They are so cute together, a coupla of office-based spook nerds. Nicola Walker was a favorite from her earlier show with Robson Green, 'Touching Evil'.

I can't share your assessment that it is the 'best ever' out of British television, though, sorry . . it's glossy and photogenic and breathlessly paced and certainly relevant to current events and all . .but I find it, when all is said and done, superficial. We can't delve very deeply into the lives of these spooks because they don't even know who they are themselves half the time . . week by week, it's just another breathless array of international crises, explosions, shootings, stabbings, abductions . . .there are numerous ways to kill a secret agent but only one or two ways to construct a bomb or hack into a computer. The kinds of things the agents deal with weekly get very repetitive, as does the patented formula of losing a very important member of Harry's team in every third or fourth episode. Don't get me wrong--I'm enjoying it and finding it addictive, but it's like a video game . . a means to clear the baffles of the mind between bouts of more substantial fare like "George Gently" or that ilk.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2015 10:38:52 PM PST
janebbooks says:
Hikari, MI-5/Spooks: best ever television series to binge on...
Here's what I said in my Florida Times-Union column yesterday: (some words were edited out)
Title: Television drama series to binge on....

MI-5 (known as Spooks in the UK) is a British television drama series of ten seasons that originally aired on BBC from May 2002 to October 2011. The series follows the day-to-day work of a group of MI-5 officers based at the service's Thames House headquarters in London, England. It is notable for both its high production value and its use of popular guests. Iconic London landmarks including exterior shots of Thames House, the real headquarters of MI-5, the London Underground and London Bridge were used as locations. Some filming was done at The Old Royal Naval College of Greenwich.
The guest stars are primarily officers of MI-5 and include the better known British actors of the times. Only the headquarters research and technical staff appears in most of the seasons. (Peter Firth plays Sir Harry Peace, Head of MI-5's Counter-Terrorism Department; he is in all ten seasons). The series is known for its casual and indiscriminate disposal of characters. Here today, gone tomorrow-in various and sundry ways.
Mi-5 was nominated seven times for Best Drama Series of the year by BAFTA, the British Academy of Films and Television Awards, winning twice. Rupert Penry- Jones and Hermione Norris, my favorite duo of officers, won the British Crime Thriller Award in 2008 for Best Actor and Best Actress. Other now well-known actors that appeared in the series include Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Miranda Raison, Gemma Jones and Richard Armitage. David Oyelowo, who was Junior Case Officer Danny Hunter in Series 3, was recently nominated for a 2014 Golden Globe for portraying Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film "Selma."

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2015 9:30:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 11, 2015 9:39:11 AM PST
Hikari says:
My MI-5 viewing has been a bit unorthodox. A couple of years ago, or maybe just last year, things do tend to run together in my Netflix Red Envelope World, based on rave reviews for "Spooks" from the likes of you and Mr. Stith and other viewers, AND cognizant of the fact that some of the best (and best-looking) acting talents in Britain had participated in this show, I rented the first disc of S1, featuring an incredibly skinny Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Quinn. Matthew was the chief draw at the time because I was suffering through "Ripper Street" withdrawal and wanted more MM on my plate, stat. I knew that MI-5 had been his breakout role, leading to such films as "Pride & Prejudice" (2005), which had been my first exposure to the very tall and anguished-looking Mr. Macfadyen. Just saying his name is fun, after I learned how to spell it. Well, I gritted through those first 2 episodes of MI-5 and was spectacularly unimpressed. Found it hard to believe that the BBC had commissioned a series order based on that first outing, in fact. Perhaps it's an American foible to list 'easily recognizable plot and characters identified by name' as an expectation for a program. If desiring clarity and exposition in my dramas is a weakness, then I will put my hand up to being 'guilty'. I have gotten used to the breathless, anonymous, 'en media res' style of MI-5 now, but it was very jarring in the first couple of episodes. Harry Pearce, the overseer of this whole enterprise, was just a short, bald vaguely sinister man lurking in the office for almost the entirety of Ep. 1 & 2. He was not identified by name, much less as 'The Boss' until at least midway through the second episode. And I really felt that I was supposed to care about the horrific death of the blonde administrative agent via deep-fat fryer . . and I would have cared, had I had any clue whatsoever what her name was or her function, or frankly, been able to tell what was going on there. I only know what I know because it was explained to me later in the bonus features. On the whole, I prefer to be able to discern what is going on in a scene for myself and usually can, being quite savvy on a good day--MI-5 foiled me, and I conceded defeat and sent that disc back without ordering any further ones.

Then, earlier this year, I got hooked on "Robin Hood", and in particular, Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne, and became very keen to see what else Richard had done for our entertainment. Hence, I purchased for my very own, Richard's seasons, 7, 8 & 9, and have not regretted a single penny. My introduction to Adam Carter was very brief (about 15 minutes) before he got blown sky-high by a car bomb. My acquaintance with 'Roz' was 2 whole seasons longer. After my exposure to the "Lucas North years", I could see that the quality of the storytelling had improved exponentially since those early days and decided to go back and fill in my gaps of Spooks knowledge. I have made peace with the format and realized that I get what I get with this show. I'll say that the second season betters the rather rough first one by leaps and bounds, and perhaps each subsequent season gets better. By S7, the show was firing at a very high octane level. To be honest with you, I think the weakest link in the Spook chain is the very lovely but supremely wooden Keeley Hawes. I'm sorry, but I just can't buy this rather limp, vague and weepy woman as a secret agent. Now, Roz, I can totally buy as a natural at this job. I'm surprised to read that Hermione Norris is one of your favorite officers . .seems like the last time we were chatting about this, you reviled her as a cold monster or something along those lines. Roz is cold . . that's why she's so good at her job. Spooks cannot afford too many impulses to the soft, warm and cuddly if they are to survive . . .look at limp biscuit Zoe Reynolds and see where feeling too much gets you as a spy. Ms. Hawes is probably more zesty and intelligent than Zoe comes across (notwithstanding that Keeley was by far the least articulate cast member in her bonus feature interviews . .we were just supposed to enjoy looking at her drowsy green eyes and perfect bone structure, I suppose. Goodness knows, Matthew Macfadyen enjoyed looking at her and decided to take her home on a permanent basis. I mark MM as an intelligent actor, and also a bit of an undercover wit. That one is neither slow nor languid. Perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting, but I don't peg MM for being content with a dumb bunny for a wife. However cogent Ms. Hawes may be at cocktail parties, Zoe Reynolds strikes me as being in the dumb bunny school . . a very tall, very svelte bunny. In one episode Zoe went undercover, not terribly convincingly as a comprehensive school English teacher. Good thing it was an acting job, 'cause if it were a real case scenario, those kids would have eaten her alive.

I was in the tank for Hermione already from her role as DCI Carol Jordan in Wire in the Blood . . a much more empathetic woman, but fairly hard-bitten, too, as a senior homicide unit police officer.

At this juncture (S2), Harry is not yet 'Sir Harry' or they aren't calling him that, at any rate.

David Oyelowo is 100% better-looking than Dr. King was, may he rest in peace.
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