Spooks is a very popular series. On paper, I should like it a lot. It ticks my boxes. People are surprised that I’m not a fan. Here is an explanation.
In this sort of multi-series drama, both plot and character are key to enjoyment. The plots of individual episodes or shortish sequences of episodes keep short-term interest, and the characters sustain long-term interest over many series. From what I’ve seen of Spooks (about 12 episodes), the plots are generally reasonable to excellent. Series 2 episode 5 was one of the greatest pieces of TV I’ve ever seen.
I started watching Spooks at the start of series two, as my Dad and sister recommended it to me, rightly saying that I would like it. I did like it, a lot. But after series 3, I lost interest. During the second series, the plots of individual episodes held my week-by-week attention, but the characters held my long-term attention. Three characters in particular – Tom, Zoe and Danny. They were engaging, I got to know them, and I wanted to see more of them.
Then swiftly, all three were gone – Tom at the end of series two and Zoe and Danny during series three. I have no objection to killing off characters as a concept, but all three so quickly was too much. In a long, many-series, drama, characters are what holds my interest, because while the plots are good, they generally form short, one or two series stories. The stories of the characters are what sustains my interest over a series or several series. When the three characters I cared about were all cut, I lost the interest I had. The small, one or two series stories were not consistently excellent enough for me to watch without the appeal of the longer, character-based story arc.
In contrast, the recent HBO series Game of Thrones has a plot that is not episode-based. Individual episodes do not have their own plot, as they often do in Spooks. Game of Thrones is seven series long, and the single, continuous plot holds my interest as well as the stories of the individual characters. And they don’t kill all my favourite characters at once.