With the original team of Tom, Zoe and Danny now a memory (fired, forced out and killed respectively), year four of this hugely enjoyable spy show now nestled comfortably between Le Carré and 007 introduces new faces to join lead Rupert Penry-Jones in combating domestic threats, most ripped from the headlines. Notably, the opening two-parter appears startlingly prescient, dealing with a terrorist attack on London (originally airing mere weeks after 7/7), and is ample proof that Spooks can occasionally be more gripping than most movies.
Elsewhere, topicality abounds, with plotlines covering holding terror suspects without charge, extreme right-wing politics and embittered ex-spies airing their dirty secrets. The supremely tense finale is conspiracy-buff heaven, hooked on the supposed assassination of Princess Diana, positing an uncomfortably plausible method and ending with a stunning cliffhanger. While the new team look perhaps a little too sexy (Penry-Jones and Raza Jaffrey are GQ cover material; Miranda Raisons character appears to have been recruited for being gorgeous and flirty), the show still possesses an impressive fearlessness, happily bumping off lead characters and putting others through the emotional wringer.
Spooks foremost asset, however, remains Peter Firths ever-compelling turn as the grizzled, unshakeable spy boss Harry Pearce, brilliantly underlining that spying, for all the gadgets and bursts of action, is at its core a nightmare of bureaucracy, argument and impossibly difficult decisions.