Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Spooks is a series by The BBC revolving around the work of Section D of MI-5, the UK's Security Service. The show was renamed MI-5 in the USA due to racial connotations and possible confusion over the term "Spooks". The show is notable for its use of Split Screen as well as Not Quite Dead. It also does not have any credits at the beginning or end, to maintain a pretense of secrecy (the credits are available on the DVD release and its BBC3 "week in advance" airings).

It provoked some controversy over an episode where a woman was killed by having her head shoved into a deep fat fryer (the victim, played by Lisa Faulkner, was being set up as a major character, and this was in the show's second episode) and also for one featuring suicide bombers.

The show ended in 2011 after ten seasons. In a show where Anyone Can Die and the one character who was considered to maybe have a plot shield has spent the last six weeks being put through the wringer, this made for a very tense finale.

The series continued with a film, Spooks: The Greater Good, which was released on 8 May 2015.

For more information, go here (Non-UK spoilers) and here.

A Spin-Off, Spooks: Code 9, aired in 2008. Poor critical reception and ratings means it's not likely to be coming back.

Tropes used in Spooks include:
  • And the Adventure Continues...: The show ends on a particularly bittersweet version of this.
  • Anyone Can Die, Killed Off for Real: All in reference to Lisa Faulkner's frying as well as dozens of other examples. Only one of the original characters remains in the show, although some ex-characters, like Tom, are still alive and kicking (and are brought back sometimes, like Ruth and Malcolm).
    • A quick rundown of the dead: Helen, Danny, Fiona, Colin, Zafar, Ben, Connie, Adam, Jo, Ros, Lucas, Tariq and Ruth. Most of their names (plus a few extras) are seen in the final episode on MI 5's memorial wall.
    • It's theorized that the one character who has been in it since the beginning (Harry) is still in it because the show would lose a lot of viewers if it did; the series seven finale, when he gets kidnapped by Russian Alan Davies, was... controversial (even though he was in danger in several season cliffhangers before). In the end, he survives the finale, albeit even more broken than ever before, and continues working at Thames House.
      • Of course, the previous season cliffhangers which put Harry in life-threatening danger had other characters in even more danger - as in, one character appeared to drown himself in the ocean, and another was left bleeding out on the street (both survived). That and the fact that he wasn't as central to the show then as he was by Series Seven...
  • Back for the Finale: Tom Quinn makes a cameo appearance in the final episode of Series 10, hired by Harry as an outside contractor.
  • Badass: Quite a few of the team, but Ros takes the cake.
  • Bittersweet Ending: It's fair that almost every episode will/has end like this or at least have a touch of it as no matter what victory is achieved by the team there some price to pay.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Christine Dale.
  • Bottle Episode: Notably, "I Spy Apocalypse" and "Diana", both based nearly entirely on the grid.
  • Break the Cutie: Oh, Jo. Poor, poor Jo.
  • Broken Ace: Tom Quinn. As described by Harry, "one of the best and the brightest." Relied upon by everyone. The team leader. Until, of course, his all-consuming job destroyed him emotionally and mentally, breaking down his ability to determine morality, and eventually made him a liability and he had to be decommissioned. Considering what he went through, the outcome isn't really very surprising. He reappears briefly in the finale, where it seems he's become an assassin, sent by Harry to take out the man behind Elena's plot.
    • Adam Carter, his replacement, went almost as spectacularly off the deep end after the death of his wife.
    • And finally, Harry himself in the finale.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Subverted/shown correctly when Jo Portman manages to restrain a terrorist who is trying to blow himself and everyone else up. The only way to avert the explosion is for Ros to shoot the man, however (as both Jo and Ros realize) the bullet will go straight through him and kill Jo as well; which is what happens.
  • Call Back: The following conversation, from the Series Seven Episode 1:

Lucas: How'd Tom Quinn work out?
Harry: Took early retirement.

  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: One episode was temporarily pulled because visible Apple logos on the back of the computers had to be digitally airbrushed out, advertising not being allowed on The BBC.
  • Combat Pragmatist: If you're a field agent in MI 5, you do not survive long if you don't adopt a "use anything at hand" ideology. However, strong contenders for a prize in this area go to: Adam (for using a set of empty metal shelves to beat up a terrorist), Zaf (for escaping from a cupboard using an opponent's own crowbar and then using it to beat him to a (deservedly) bloody pulp), and Ros (for using a car-jack to immobilize a Mossad assassin before he could call for back-up).
  • Compromising Memoirs: The Rose Bed Memoirs.
  • Crapsack World: Terrorists around every corner, corruption in every rank of the government, allied governments not giving a damn about Britain's survival, Russia openly slaughtering British agents in the street, and Anyone Can Die taken to Kill'Em All proportions (by this point it's safe to assume that basically all the current major characters will not survive). Oh, and if Code 9 is still canon, the London will be destroyed sometime after the end of the series.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Several.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Ros, to an extent in Series 8.
  • Did Not Do the Research: A lot, including one episode using the term "zero day attack" for turning a denial of service attack back on a Russian submarine.
    • A common example is to use terminology that was accurate at one point but is now outdated, perhaps due to issues with classified information. For example, the Alternative Seat of Government base under the Cotswolds is known as "TURNSTILE" in the series, that code name being one used some time in the past (and in any case the base has been decommissioned since 2004).
      • To be fair, the episode in which "TURNSTILE" is referenced (I Spy Apocalypse) aired in 2003, when the base was still active.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu? / Mugging the Monster: far too many politicians try to use Mossad for their own ends, usually via manipulation and misdirection One very highly placed lawyer managed to manipulate them into taking out an MI 5 op team. Let's just say that he did not live long.
  • Dirty Coward: How Adam describes a rival agent who was helping rogue Mossad agents to take hostage and kill Saudi officials for this when he kills himself rather than face the team.
  • Driven to Suicide: Lucas.
    • Subverted with Tom in the Series Two finale. After being forced to shoot Harry while trying to avoid capture, Tom wades into the ocean and lets himself slip below the surface. Partway through the series three premiere, he resurfaces while trying to track down Herman Joyce to prove his innocence in the assassination of the Chief of the Defense Staff.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Adam's death. One of the country's best spies has to drive a bomb-rigged car away from any danger. He first puts his seat-belt on to drive the car, and near the end, he does a useless handbrake turn which costs him precious seconds. Although the seat-belt sort of makes sense since, if you crash, you'd probably want to be injured as little as possible when the car's rigged with a bomb...
    • Also, to be fair, his goal was preventing civilian casualties; only after the car was stationary in middle of an empty square could he look to saving his own life. He didn't know exactly how long he had left, of if the trigger would be delayed for some reason. Had he jumped out of the side while it was moving, the car might have gone careering into the side of a building and caused civilian casualties.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The death of Ros, though YMMV. Even though she knew it was probably hopeless she stayed with the paralyzed Home Secretary, dragging him painstakingly down the corridor despite him insisting that he leave her. Brave, brave woman.
    • Connie. Motherfucking. JAMES. "I'm not scared of bombs."
  • Eagle Land: The US is generally portrayed as a somewhat corrupt country, with the CIA not being nice people. By Series 8 and the time of the Obama administration, this changes somewhat: a new CIA station chief announces "We're the good guys now" before a duplicitous agent tosses him over a balcony to his death.
  • Evil Plan: Frequently, but Angela Wells's master plan in "Diana" sort of sticks in the memory: holding the entire Grid hostage overnight with a fake bomb, solely for the purpose of getting access to Buckingham Palace security information, so that a lock-down would be ordered and the Royal Family would be rushed to a secure location which, after getting herself employed there as an electrician seven months earlier, she'd already rigged with plastic explosive INSIDE THE ELECTRICAL WIRING. And then there's a sniper rifle.
  • Face Heel Turn: Juliet Shaw in Series 6, in a Shocking Swerve.
    • Lucas in Series 9.
  • Faking the Dead: Ros, briefly, in Series 6 Episode 8. Unusual in that she didn't know the nerve toxin she was injected with wasn't going to be fatal...
  • False-Flag Operation: Several. A group of Mossad agents take over an embassy while pretending to be Al Qaeda, and Harry's kidnappers in the first episode of Series 8 pretend to be Islamic terrorists to throw MI5 off the scent.
    • In fact, the majority of the episodes of the fifth series involved these.
  • Fictional Political Party: The British Way Party, a Fictional Counterpart to the Real Life British National Party.
  • Groin Attack: Ros takes the phrase "put the squeeze on him" VERY literally.
  • The Hero Dies: At least two season finales. One of them twists it by having the character survive the end-of-season cliffhanger, carry on a few episodes into the new season, and then have nervous breakdown and leave the series.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Several.
  • Heroic BSOD: Several agents have issues with maintaining a stable reality. This does not end well.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Done with three different actresses in three consecutive seasons:
    • Olga Sosnovska (Fiona) in Series Four.
    • Nicola Walker (Ruth) in Series Five.
    • Hermione Norris (Ros) in Series Six.
    • In each case, the actress' pregnancy forced her into maternity leave before the end of the respective season - although only one ultimately chose to PERMANENTLY exit the show.
  • High Heel Face Turn: Guess which one of the people in this (incorrectly labeled) shot ends up joining the good guys. Go on, guess.
  • Idiot Ball: This may come very very close to Too Dumb to Live, but Danny sleeping with Harry's DAUGHTER was so not smart. Really really not smart.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Perhaps not literally, but the sniper in Series 9 Episode 5 must come pretty close. His shot is from 1.67 miles away (beating the previous record as specified by Dimitri at 1.5 miles by a sniper in Afganistan), goes directly through a building after he takes the trouble to blow out the windows, and manages to calculate the trajectory of the bullet accurately enough to come with millimeters of his target's head (and even then, he hits him in the shoulder). Unfortunately, directly afterwards, Lucas comes up behind him and shoots him dead.
  • Interservice Rivalry: With MI 6, who the more serious-minded MI 5 officers view as dilettante James Bond wannabes.
  • Kill the Cutie: Done very cruelly with introverted Playful Hacker Colin, the most benign member of the crew. It even has an edge of Shoot the Shaggy Dog when two MI 6 field agents find Colin, drive him out into the woods, where he momentarily escapes in a desperate chase scene before they catch him, give him his smashed glasses, and then hang him while he is begging them not to. Everyone is pretty shocked by this development. And then of course, the expected happens.
    • What makes it even more awful is that Colin, expecting to be shot in the head, relatively calmly told the rogue officers to get it over with. He only starts begging when they take the noose out and he realizes that his death isn't going to be quite as quick as he expected.
  • Lady Drunk: Connie has elements of the type. Turns poignantly hilarious in her last episode when she demands a bottle of gin as part of her bomb-disarming kit.
  • Lady of War: Ros. This can manifest in Hidden Depths as when you're first introduced to her, she looks and acts too refined and upper class to have any of the Badass fighting skills that the rest of MI 5 are trained in. A couple of beaten-up Mossad agents later and you're immediately dissuaded from that idea.
  • Left Hanging: Series 7 ended with the entire British Government riddled with Russian moles. This is never mentioned again, not even with a Hand Wave that it's being handled by another department, like the Series 2 premiere. Also, the fact that the Kremlin gave the order to set off a suitcase nuke in the heart of London has zero diplomatic consequences, and the two countries are back to working together like nothing happened several episodes later.
  • Location Doubling: The exterior of Thames House in Embankment is played by Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Whole episodes have taken place in a locked-down grid, most notably "I Spy Apocalypse" and "Diana".
  • The Lost Lenore: Fiona, to Adam.
  • Mad Dictator's Beautiful Daughter: Ros's introduction more or less fits the trope, although her Heel Face Turn has less to do with falling for the hero (it takes her several episodes even to like any of her new colleagues) and more to do with realizing that her father and his cronies are selfish, murderous, and being bankrolled by the Russian mob, and she's far more badass in her own right than the category would tend to suggest.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: Series 7.
  • The Mole Various Americans and MI6 agents throughout the series, plus Connie in Series 7.
  • Moment Killer: Dammit, Ruth! Harry is trying so hard!
  • Moral Dissonance: Lampshaded by Danny when he has to assassinate a scientist planning to sell weaponized plague to terrorists, who references a line spoken by Tom in the very first episode that stated killing in the name of life is still wrong.
  • More Expendable Than You: An interesting variant is Series 8. The British Home Secretary and Pakistani President have been left paralyzed in a room rigged to explode. When Ros and Lucas show up for the rescue, Lucas is heart-breakingly forced to leave Ros and the Home Secretary behind. If the President dies, there could be nuclear war, and Lucas is the only one strong enough to carry him.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Adam Carter and Lucas North.
  • Murder.Com: In Series 8, a group of eco-terrorists kidnapped a load of Corrupt Corporate Executives to host a live trail and execution on the internet if the businesses were unethical (and of course, they were). The Jury was an internet vote.
  • Never Mess with Granny: And never, ever be alone in a locked room with Connie.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Noticeable for subverting this rather harshly. There is a very good chance in this show that if it looks like the hero is dead, they probably are. And if they manage to escape a near-death experience, expect the emotional trauma to manifest in their behavior.
  • Overt Rendezvous: In Series One and Two, the characters frequently have meetings on the benches across from the Houses of Parliament.
  • Power Walk
  • Psycho Psychologist: Miranda from Series 2 interviews the entire staff and pits them against each other with the express purpose of finding the weakest link. Portrayed realistically in that she doesn't see anything wrong with this.
  • Put on a Bus: Tessa, Tom, Zoe, Sam, Ruth (though she returned in the first episode of Series 8) and Malcolm.
    • The only one this really applies to is Sam, as at the end of Series 3, it's stated that she's upset due to Danny's death and then come Series 4, she's just never mentioned again. For the others, their reason for leaving the show is explicitly stated.
    • At the start of Series 10, Harry observes that Beth has been fired in his absence.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Harry and the Home Secretary (most of the time).
  • Redemption Equals Death: Connie, who redeems herself with a Heroic Sacrifice to stop London being destroyed.
    • However, this is then Averted at the end of Series 10, when a memorial garden with the names of the operatives KIA across the series is shown. Connie's name is not there, and neither is Lucas North's.
  • Refuge in Audacity: At the beginning of Series 5, Collingwood and his group of Well Intentioned Extremists try to rewrite the face of British democracy. They believe that Democracy Is Bad and that The Evils of Free Will and The War on Terror will destroy England, and hence they must head the new government with stringent new security measures and detention centers to house people who disagree with them. The entire scheme is so ridiculously blatant (including staging Acts Of Terror), so deeply steeped in a corrupt Propaganda Machine (backed by malicious representatives of England's Security Services), and so heavily relies on Orwellian Editing of the facts at hand that no one had prepared for it. In fact, the entire thing is so outrageous that no one believes MI5 when they first expose it.
  • Revolving Door Casting
  • Running Gag: "KGB". "FSB".
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Lisa.
    • And Helen, of course.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Either Danny or Fiona, depending on your point of view.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lucas North, who spent many years being tortured in Russia.
    • Even though he'd been captured and tortured gruesomely by a number of rival intelligence agencies, Adam Carter was able to remain optimistic about his work until his wife was shot dead by her ex-husband, a Syrian agent, which pushed him into an Heroic BSOD that he never really got over.
  • Shoe Phone. Subverted in "Nest of Angels". An Algerian agent listens politely when he's shown a number of disguised communication/bugging devices for his mission to infiltrate a radical Islamic group. The next scene shows him dumping this highly compromising equipment into a canal.
  • Shout-Out: Connie's name is arguably a call out to Connie Sachs from the works of John Le Carre.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Bugs.
  • Split Screen
  • Spy Satellites
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Many. Generally, after a character leaves they get one of these.
  • That Man Is Dead: Lucas, after his true identity is revealed.
  • There Are No Girls on the Internet: Subverted in Episode 1 of Series 9, in which an undercover al-Qaeda master hacker is traced to west London and assumed to be the father of a Muslim household. It's actually his 17-year-old daughter.
  • Training Accident
  • The Troubles: Harry was active in Northern Ireland during these, and rogue IRA agents appear frequently in the early seasons.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Ruth and Harry. Also, done in a very cute way with Ros and Adam Lawrence (the new Home Secretary at the end of Series 8).
  • Villain Protagonist: Lucas.
  • The War on Terror: First British series to feature it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremists: In addition to several Villains of the Week from the earlier series (most memorably, Collingwood and his cohorts from "Gas and Oil"), at least two season arcs from the later years (Six and Eight) are built around massive conspiracies consisting of such individuals.
  • Western Terrorists: This trope is fully justified, as MI 5 is (or at least, it was when the show started) concerned with domestic security akin to the American FBI, and not exclusively terrorism. The first series was written prior to 9/11 (although some cursory references were inserted after the fact) when Irish splinter groups, xenophobic race-baiting, and economic rioting were the prime sources of potential turmoil.
    • And to be fair, some of these would be justified post-9/11 as well, given a quick glance at Real Life.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Ruth and Harry.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Jo, in particular, seems to get roughed up a lot.