For whatever reason, A & E gave little attention to the fourth season of the British import Spooks, choosing to show the majority of the episodes in a Friday night marathon; so kudos go to the Kudos company for seeing fit to release an expensive DVD set of all 10 episodes, once again unedited sans for the American only title MI-5. (The American market required a change in the title of this British spy drama, due to the racial connotations of the word "Spooks." No, that's not a joke.)
The first three seasons of MI-5 made for excellent television, even when the who's-dating-who aspect of the show came to far into the forefront, MI-5's willingness to adhere to spy-thriller logic (anybody can die, and eventually, everyone will be replaced) was one that got it a ton of viewers in Britain while at the same time receiving a massive amount of complaints. Much like America's Law & Order, a show that has stuck to it's formula as it's base instead of building a foundation of main characters, the fourth season of MI-5 opens with only one of the first seasons actors still left: the grizzled Harry Pearce, serving still as the boss of this ragtag organization. Every other major role is played by characters who were only introduced a scant season ago, and some of them aren't long for the role already. Still, killing people can only be interesting as far as one is able to care about them, so getting down to the meat of the show is the main requirement.
Excepting the first two hours of the season, a mildly upsetting two-parter regarding bombs in London, each episode of the fourth season stands as a herculean exercise in television-as-film, with each hour (and yes, like HBO, the Brits give us a full hour) focuses on labyrinthine plots, told in such drastic scope that MI-5 seems, like The Wire, to be the type of entertainment that requires the viewer to pay such strict attention that it really becomes entertainment in name only. Whether it's the heartbreaking sense of loss that haunts the character of Adam Carter, a man too good at his job to get to truly enjoy his wife and young son, or the quiet Zef, a man who's most comfortable socializing while undercover amongst enemies, the show is exceptional at placing as much importance on the humanity of it's cast as it is about the nuts and bolts of a spy thriller.
While the final episode seems to be built on too small a foundation (Princess Diana? Please.), it still steals some brilliance with it's blood-soaked final minute, once again placing it's heroes in a situation that can have no possible happy outcome. Hopefully, Kudos will make enough money to release the (already completed) fifth season--otherwise, Bittorrent may need to get a workout.
-Tucker Stone, 2007