07 August 2009

MI-5: Season 5

Still on the Edge of My Seat for MI-5 Season 5
By Kristin Battestella

Now that I’ve survived the fifth series of the British spy show MI-5, I can report that all the action, romance, and intrigue is perhaps better than ever.

MI-5, Vol. 5 (5 Discs)Section D Leader Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones) still can’t get over his wife’s death, but his boss, MI-5 Chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), finally takes the romantic leap with Intelligence Officer Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker). Things on the Grid aren’t easy for Tech Agent Malcom Winn-Jones (Hugh Simon), and new MI-6 transfer Rosalind Myers (Hermione Norris) isn’t making friends at Thames House.

After a pretty heavy Season 4 filled with death and political intrigue, MI-5 opens its fifth year with plenty of the same. Although the cliffhanger from last season is dismissed a little two quickly, the opening two-parter is one of the most extreme plots we’ve seen yet. There’s less of a focus on American relations and more tales of terrorism and global consequences. All this talk of British infrastructure and the delicate planet, and yet MI-5 still has time for the spy life and the roller coaster it represents. We’ve still got family issues, mistakes, and loss on the job-and now there’s a little more steam and naughty to go along with it.

He’s the team leader and supposedly the best of the best in the spy business, but Adam Carter is-as we Americans would say- off his rocker. We didn’t dig deep into Fiona Carter’s death last season, and the delayed grief makes Adam annoying and yet still likeable at the same time. It’s nice to see a spy crack amid all the personal and political strain; yet it’s irritating to see his slow collapse. We don’t like to see our heroes falter, and it’s almost too realistic to enjoy at times. Nevertheless, Penry-Jones pulls Adam together, and even nuts, he is still a damn fine spy.

In additional to all these head games, writer David Wolstencroft adds a little more romance to MI-5 this season. Adam takes on a good at the time but dead-end fling with his son Wes’ (James Dicker) babysitter Jenny (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Doctor Who). Some of its certainly juicy, but the relationship is another step backwards from the perfect, happily married Adam we used to know. Likewise, a big personal shift takes place when Harry Pearce finally asks Ruth Evershed out on a date. It’s seems like such a simple step, but Peter Firth and Nicola Walker have wonderful chemistry. They sell every silent yearn and bumbling conversation. For two people so put together in the workplace, being alone together isn’t so easy. Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect serious cast movements on MI-5, and this year marks the departure of Nicola Walker. Sometimes I wish there wasn’t always some heavy tour de force exit for the characters, though each cast change has been perfectly drastic. Just for once, can’t somebody merely quit, retire, or leave of his or her own volition? Which is more realistic-someone simply walking away or being screwed by the corrupt system? Season 5 constantly reminds us that Thames House is always fighting a losing, uphill battle inside and out.

Sometimes overlooked as nothing more than a talented gadget man, Hugh Simon excels this season. He brings depth and charm to Malcolm in whatever time he is given. Whether it’s a serious technical part of a case or a subtle quip, Simon keeps Malcolm’s gear and wit essential. Colin Wells (Rory MacGregor) also makes the most of the audience’s emotion with his exit from the series. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for junior agents Jo Portman (Miranda Raison) and Zaf Younis (Raza Jaffrey). Instead of building on Jo’s intelligent and quirky debut last season, she’s been dumbed down to a desk agent with big, woeful eyes. I don’t understand why the writers seem to push her and Zaf together, for Jo’s best scenes are giggling and gossiping with Adam. Zaf also has next to nothing to do. He’s a secondary body to put at a two- fold scene. We don’t know much else about him, and it’s a dang shame. There’s so much potential for personal angst with Islam, xenophobia, and terrorism.

Now, what is one to make of the new girl on the block, Ros Myers? There’s no doubt she’s cold, slick, and a great spy, but she’s a little unlikable at the same time. Norris (Kingdom, Cold Feet) looks bleached, chiseled, and hard-and this Spartan style works. The only thing that seems to touch Ros is her family-particularly a corrupt Father featured in the opening two parter- but it’s obvious the love-hate relationship between her and Adam is where the juice is at. They don’t get along, but know how to charm each other and work in sync. Ros also has an intriguing relationship with Harry. Are they going to be each other’s surrogate family member? She’s rough around the edges now, but I’m looking forward to more.

As usual, MI-5 has plenty of split screen action to go along with its intense missions. There’s more out of the office action and violence, too, with bigger situations and extreme scenarios. As much as I enjoyed the instantaneous viewing of Netflix’s Instant Watch, the DVDs are a lot of fun. The Grid styled interface looks good, and two episodes per disc is just enough to satisfy. There were only a few features spread across the discs; and the trailers, quick interviews, and commentaries on the finale don’t seem to be enough. I need more!

Season 5 is probably not the best place for a new viewer to start enjoying MI-5. Too much has taken place at this point for the uninitiated to catch up. Despite all the cast changes, the intense, international storylines are still going strong. Fifty solid episodes and there’s no shark in sight! Fall in love with the heavy, exceptional MI-5 today.

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