10 June 2009

MI-5: Season 3

MI-5 Season 3 Unhindered by Cast Changes
By Kristin Battestella

It happens to every show eventually. After only sixteen episodes, the British spy series MI-5 shakes up its cast with comings and goings across the board. Such changes can make or break a program, but the heavy drama and gritty realism survive Season 3 unscathed. 

After shooting MI-5 Chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) to escape persecution for a crime he did not commit, Section Leader Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen) must prove his innocence. Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones) is transferred from MI-6 to help clear Tom’s name-but the task is not easy for Junior Agents Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes) and Danny Hunter (David Oyelowo). Zoe wants to marry her new beau, photographer Will North (Richard Harrington), but trust is always an issue off the grid. Intelligence Officer Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) is more accepting of Adam, but she struggles with dangerous missions that come too close to home. Things don’t get any easier when Adam’s wife Fiona (Olga Sosnovska) is also loaned to MI-5.

MI-5, Volume 3It is a little unusual to have all three of your lead players depart in one year, but the exits of Tom Quinn, Zoe Reynolds, and Danny Hunter are staggered throughout Season 3. After such heavy missions, bad relationships, and ethical dilemmas, the exit of Section Leader Tom Quinn is a little melodramatic. Despite the cliffhanger from last season and an opening resolution being prime opportunities for a dramatic departure, Tom merely leaves quietly in the second episode. It drags a touch, but it’s understandable nonetheless. Even in such a brief time, we’ve had a high riding dose with Tom, and the character has run its course. The episodes in between his and Zoe’s departures may seem like filler, but they’re also doing the critical job of establishing new folks. Sure it’s not as heavy, but we also don’t know these players as well. Keeley Hawes’ exit does seem too convenient, but it’s fitting and makes sense as well. David Oyelowo is the last to go and his exit in the finale is a whopper. All are fitting exits, and its nice to have an onscreen bow out rather than a reference later, but after such extreme circumstances, the departures are a bit of a wimper. In the spy business, people come and go. As much as I’ll miss the original leads, I’m curious about the new folks, too.

He’s a bit prettier than Matthew Macfadyen, bur Rupert Penry-Jones (The Four Feathers) swiftly takes the reins at Thames House. In America, a pretty blonde boy comes into a series when a young, hip vibe is needed, but Adam Carter isn’t all show. He’s suave and cool about his business, but is also dark and dangerous, reckless in his work. I thought his early references to a wife were part of a joke or cover, but filling the void left by Zoe is Olga Sosnovska (All My Children) as Fiona Carter. She looks a little older than Adam, and both seem to have ambiguous pasts at MI-6; but I like her. They are a pretty couple who seem to have things together far better than Tom or Zoe did. Both do what needs to be done-in fact, they sometimes have a tough time convincing the rest of MI-5 to go where they’d rather not.

Beyond the goings of critical players, MI-5 head Harry Pearce and tech agents Malcolm Wynn Jones (Hugh Simon) and Colin Wells (Rory MacGregor) keep things on the level. Peter Firth’s harsh boss is opening up more, and we’re seeing him battle with serious office politics more and more. At last, Season 3 also brings us the gentler side of Ruth. Her unlucky in love storylines juxtapose well with Danny’s first potential assassination mission. That sounds very strange to say, but oh bla dee, the professional and private lives on MI-5 still go round and round.

Yes, season 3 of MI-5 has the same heavy international intrigue and complex storylines that we’ve come to expect. Again issues that are too risqué across the pond come to the forefront here. Rogue agents, corrupt clashes with the CIA and Her Majesty’s Secret Service, true Islam versus terrorism- all these heady hijinks feel instant and real because the big picture from creator David Wolstencroft is always brought close to home. Vengeful family members and the potential for dead babies are great personal touches on MI-5. We are satisfied at the cast departures because our beloved agents have at last beat the system, but seeing the new folks in such peril keeps our feelings just as deep. I don’t like episodes that begin with the ending and then go back and show us how we got to such a dynamite conclusion, but there’s enough suspense and intrigue remaining for MI-5.

With such action and spy-oriented stories, MI-5 is going to have its fair share of revolving cast members. Fans might take less interest according to how their favorites come and go, but there’s enough foundation to keep the series fresh in Season 3. Rather than being disappointed, I’m ready for my next ten episodes. Looks for MI-5 at your favorite retailer or online rental service today.

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