Monday, August 15, 2011

The Best Spooks Characters of All Time.

Sorry. I just can't help myself. The show is addicting and I have yet more to say about it. At some point I know I will move on in my tastes to something else, but right now it is all "Spooks" (that is "MI-5" for you less Anglophilic Americans). I'm sure that, in theory, there are other things worth doing. . . I know the iguana cage could use a cleaning. . . .  But right now that will have to wait.

Maybe it is irresponsible to keep trying to convince people to watch this show given that it gets into your brain like a worm and takes over?

. . . but I'm not ready to stop trying so I'll plunge forward with my list. There have been 9 complete seasons of this program, and I count 21 spooks who have graced the grid with their presence (so far). Check out the complete list here.  I am not including minor characters, recurring Americans or other bad guys (wink), or home secretaries, just the main team members who have worked to save the world.  And, when I say "best", I'm thinking of both: (1) the characters that enrich the program the most, without whom the show would suffer the greatest loss and (2) the ones that make the most skilled and useful spies - those you would definitely want on your side.
  1. Harry Pearce - His steadiness, consistency and surefootedness make him indispensable and I am so glad that he has never left or been killed off, though he's come close many times. Though he is usually seen indoors, my most memorable spy moments over the course of the show are when Harry gets out into the world and shows how calculating and on top of his game he really is (such as when he coolly takes off his tie and kills the bad guy tracking him or goes to the home of the former (and evil) home secretary and brazenly poisons him before removing the evidence and quietly leaving. He is equally competent with elected high-officials, walking political tightropes with ease and guts. I can't imagine Spooks without Harry, so he has to be #1. 
  2. Ruth Evershed - Ruth is the soul of the show. I like the show so much better when she is there.
    And this is in part because of Ruth herself, and in part because of how Harry becomes better and more interesting when she is around. She represents humanity. She reacts in horror when someone should react in horror. Although tough and battle-scarred she is absolutely touchable. Her strength is her analytical brilliance, paging through mountains of minutia to find some indispensable clue. It is so cool to see that valued! I wish like crazy I could find a job just like Ruth's -- only that didn't involve terror and death. (If anyone hears of anything. . . ) 
  3. Ros Myers - Of all the section chiefs, she is the best. Her motives and actions are
    unimpeachable. Solid and skilled, she is beyond tough and fearless. Despite what people say, she is not an ice queen. She cares deeply about her country and is willing to give everything she has to it without question. She is an untouchable. She is not perfect. Her judgement may sometimes fail, but her honor is unimpeachable. I don't need to be her friend, but I would always want her as my ally.
  4. Tom Quinn - It is really hard to choose between our three main men: Tom, Lucas and Adam. All three are equally tough and skilled spies with incredible energy and excitement generated around them. As people, they are all a bit screwed up, so they are on fairly equal footing. But, I'm giving the thinnest edge to Tom, because of his depth. He is introspective and serious. He is philosophical but still very real. He is in good touch with his own failings and knows he's walking on ice a lot of the time.  He approaches his work with great intellect. Although Lucas has a lot of these same qualities too, it turns out he has Voldemort growing out of the back of his head. . . .
  5. Lucas North. If Lucas hadn't turned out to be such a messed up example of humanity, I would
    probably have him a couple of notches further up on the scale. I adore his focus and his vague strangeness that makes him hard to know. It ideally suits a spy. But I don't like the back story that ended up tormenting his final episodes on the show. They proved little else than that Richard Armitage is a great actor and that even an amazing show like Spooks can have times when it's grasping at straws. But Lucas, in Seasons 7 through 9.6 is an amazing spy who would be giving Ros a run for her money at #3.
  6. Adam Carter. I really like his confidence and skill. He makes a great lead officer. He has a regular guy-ness about him which is very appealing. He also has a lot of emotional issues, but even through those, he manages to woo the women, catch the bad guys, strut around the office and give off a great air of "I'm in charge here." He is excellent at seeing another perspective and hunting out a less than obvious solution to a problem. I love Adam, but in the long run, its Tom and Lucas I miss.
  7. Zafar Younis. Zaf is extraordinarily skilled and confident. He somehow manages to be polite
    and kind to people and, unlike all those prima donna section chiefs, and is never pouty or irritable. Though he is less experienced, he acts with the confidence and skill of any senior officer. He is an incredible fighter with great energy and spirit and has to be one of the most fearless agents -- always getting sent undercover to the least appealing operations. Had he not died I would definitely have expected him to become section chief. I love his look, which for some strange reason reminds me of Ringo Starr, and which is open, guileless and friendly. He is not only good at what he does, he has great charm.
  8. Jo Portman. She is just freakin' adorable. (They haven't yet found a bad haircut for that girl; she rocks 'em all. Just sayin). In any case she is also a shockingly willing spy. For someone so young and relatively inexperienced, she goes into any situation under any circumstance and rises to the occasion. She also seems very human and appealing as a friend and confidant.
  9. Malcolm Wynn Jones. I love all the tech guys: Malcolm, Colin and Tariq. I'm giving the top spot to Malcolm only because, due to his experience and seniority, feels like more than just a techie. He is a more well-rounded presence on the grid. Plus its really cool to see someone his age get into all the gadgets.
  10. Colin Wells. A great open earnest lovely man. He manages to make computers funny.

Honorable Mentions: to Tariq Masood and Ben Kaplan. Really great appealing characters who just don't get the same opportunity to show their stuff as the 10 above do.

Honorable Mentions Class II: to Beth and Dimitri. Beth showed a lot of potential and by the end of Season 9, I really got to like her with Dimitri and them both with Lucas. Dimitri seems cut in the Zaf mode, so he has a lot of potential which I'm looking forward to seeing unfold. But there's just no way they can unseat any of the massive spooks on my top 10 list.

Least Favorites
  • Zoe & 
  • Danny. Both have too much angst and wishy-washiness. They seem so hesitant, afraid of their jobs and responsibility. There are times both become distinctly likable -- but those are few and far between. Though, in Danny's last episode he stepped up his game and definitely redeemed himself.
  • Fiona just irritates me. I feel like she's playing a part and too self-aware.
  • Tessa is another one that is just irritating. She's supposed to be all bad and corrupt, but she just comes off as totally forgettable. You want bad and corrupt, try Connie James. That's what I'm talking about.
  • Sam Buxton - the Scottish gal. Great voice.

Most medium (!)
All I have left is Helen and Connie. Connie is a played by the wonderful actress Gemma Jones. You love Connie and then you hate her. She is an interesting and thought-provoking person. Her final appearance in "Rain From Heaven" is an amazing part of the coolest episode ever. But I just can't say she is a "favorite" spook, so she gets stuck down here.

Helen. The main thing she is known for is her horrific death, setting the tone for this ruthless tv series early on, so, in that sense, she is important. I can't say she is particularly memorable; she was just beginning and the show was just beginning when she got removed from the squad in this terrible way. Don't hate her, don't love her; don't have much to say about her.

I have also compiled a list of all the Spy Teams that have been on the show (and picked my favorites). You can see that here:  Ultimate Spooks'-Lovers Guide to Spy Teams


  1. Danny , Zoe were definitely the worse spy in the serie , they were indeed affraid of their jobs , only Tom was nice .
    For me , the two best characters are Ros and Lucas , they are the best team ever made in Spooks , both very competant spies .
    Sadly , you know that in Spooks , everyone dies soon or later ...

  2. Thanks for your comment Sasha! So glad when people agree : ) Yeah, Ros and Lucas were incredible. Love them. I know that lots of people are fans of Danny and Zoe... I was thinking that it might be because I "knew" Lucas and Ros first, that it was so hard to accept the earlier agents' tentativeness. Wonder how I'd feel if I'd watched the program in proper order?

  3. Just found this and don't know if you are still taking comments. I agree: Spooks is addicting just like 24 was addicting and I avoiding that show for years as it struck me as jingoism posing as security interests. But Jack Bauer is unforgettable, and I hope they make a film combining Spooks and 24--alas, another Michael Bay will prevail.

    I'm watching season 9 so I cannot give as complete an analysis yet. Harry and Ruth as number 1 and 2, no doubt. I have to put Roz and Quinn as a tie: Quinn in many ways brought the most human element to the spy world without sacrificing the skill. And I loved his intervew with the Right to Life suspect--his admitted boredom with the Christian rhetoric that sickens him. That alone, along with his attempts to have real relationships made him memorable.
    I also loved Rox, a strong woman character who did her job well, didn't do stupid things like sleep around with potental comprising agents (see Lucas North) and just was a total badass! God, I loved her. It is so hard to find good femaile characters who are compelling without being wack jobs, women characters who are strong and secure in their beliefs. I rejoiced in Roz and regretted her leaving, but at the same time, it worked plotwise.

    Agreed about Malcolm. I too think Tariq had potential--the new wave of hackers. I also liked Jo, and wished they could have worked with Lucas as they did with her--she was damaged and hurt, made bad choiceds and showed such pathos.

    I'll save my comments on Lucas and Adam for later. I hope Lucas redeems himself in season 9 as I found his relationship witht the CIA agent to be a poor plot device. The actor deserved better. It hurt his character and made him less believable. A damaged soul like Lucas would have sought solace with a different kind of person, possibly equally dishonest, but not such a shallow twit.

    I wished Adam had stayed, as the best team may have been Adam, Rox and Lucas, with Adam cleaning up Lucas's messes and visa versa. They would have been a fine team. But Roz still needed to be in charge of both of them

    Thanks for this.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Susan! We have a lot of our favorites in common. I like your comments about Tom Quinn - definitely an unusual level of depth. And Ros! Oh my gosh, I wish more women characters could be so competent and so complete. The show has had its share of fantastic actors and fantastic characters.

      I never got in to 24 -- though I have a friend who keeps telling me to watch it. And I keep telling her to watch Spooks -- and so far neither of us has done it. haha

  4. I did finish watching season 9 and I was appaulled at what the writers did to Lucas--plot holes galore and way too much angst, not to mention a lot of time wasted, but at the same time, I can't get it out of my head. Even though it didn't work, it still did on some level. Maybe it is because the actor was so good or maybe it was because there was something very sadly believable about a man who lost track of who he was (no spoilers here.) It's a bit like what that very forgettable character said to Lucas about him: "When he told me, it all made sense." (She was a waste of time.) Anyway, I'm on episode 3 of season 10, just started it. I like the season a lot better than 9 as it is plot driven without any sacrifice to character. 9 needed more of that. Lucas North is the Macbeth of all spooks, I suppose.

    1. So glad to hear your thoughts on Lucas North match mine! I even wrote a post where I ranted about what they did to him and all the plot holes, in case you're interested:

      That one's safe from any season 10 spoilers, but please be careful elsewhere my blog for season 10 spoilers. I think I have them all well marked. I will be very interested to hear your thoughts on that, ultimately, when you finish

  5. I've watched the whole series three times. It had plenty of depth and intrigue, sustained by superlative acting and a brilliant script. For me the weakest character was that of Sasha, He never cracks a hint of a smile, let alone laugh, and always blames everyone else for everything. That makes for a dull and unbelievable character and degraded season ten itself to some extent I would add more, don't want to risk spoilers.