What's On: Hunted vs Spooks

Photography courtesy of the BBC


Josh Taylor catches up with Kudos’ latest television offering to see if Hunted can keep the BBC’s spy legacy alive.

With the anticipated return of James Bond in Skyfall, the release of Channel Four’s award winning Homeland, and the BBC’s new private-security drama, Hunted, spy season has officially crept upon us. A year after the dramatic loss of Spooks, we thought high-octane spy dramas had scarpered from BBC television indefinitely, but Hunted is most certainly set to put espionage drama back on the radar.

Plotted by X-Files mastermind, Frank Spotnitz, and executed by the Spooks team itself, which is, of course, fronted by alumni Jane Featherstone, Hunted explores the dark depths of private security, centring on sophisticated operative Sam Hunter, who survives an attempt on her life orchestrated by one of her own team and sets out to discover who to trust and who to kill.

Sam Hunter is played by Australian actress Melissa George (Charmed, Home And Away) who not only looks flawless in graphic combat but works for private-intelligence firm Byzantium, a firm Superman might even steer clear of.

Working alongside ‘the British A-team’, Hunter and her associates power through London and Morocco, hinting at the global-setting producers want the show to have if success allows another series. It does seem unlikely that England’s ‘best female operative’ will be retiring from the world of cold blooded murder any time soon.

And so to Spooks: Featherstone told the Leeds Student that she worried comparison between Hunted and Spooks would be rife, despite the difference between their make-up. It does seem inevitable.

First airing six months after 9/11, but filmed before the atrocity of the terrorist-attacks took place, Spooks devised a mixture of actual events with beautiful, well-structured fiction; sending viewers’ heads spinning in a nervous but enticing concoction of genuine possibility. For ten seasons Spooks captivated audiences with events that were almost too-close to the grain: kidnappings, terrorist-plots: somebody’s neck was always on the line. The series turned television drama into a placebo for real concern. It was contemporary viewing at its finest, and it happened almost by accident.

Hunted on the other hand is a raw take on private security. Compared to MI5, Byzantium is a private firm set up by former MI5 and MI6 agents who recruit discretely within the secret state; allowing focus on the mercenaries of secret intelligence, to which anything goes and all rules have been tossed out of the window.

Compared to its sleek brother series, Spooks, Hunted may prove to be a forceful and raw approach to espionage drama. So far they’ve got all guns blazing but it seems the detail and sophistication of storylines in Spooks may have been driven out in the Hollywood approach to the new series. They’ve given us a watchable start; let’s hope they give us an unmissable ending.

Hunted is on Thursday night’s at 9pm on BBC1.

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