Spooks series 8 (why… Sarah Caulfield?)

Lucas tells Sarah that she disgusts him. My gif from DVD

Several months ago, during a very serious fangirling crisis (I can say as an excuse that it was spring, and we say in Spain that “la primavera la sangre altera”) I made a very cheesy fanart of Mr. A. Nevertheless I still had a minimum of pride and shame that prevented me to publish it anywhere. In a second thought I wondered if maybe it was not as awful as I suspected, and I sent it by wasap to a couple of friends. My dear friend Tanja replied with a single word “why?”. I understood suddenly the message, it was indeed as awful as I suspected and it was better to make it disappear.

I have watched yesterday the last chapter of the eighth season of Spooks and I have thought also: “why?”, adding to the adverb a name: “why Sarah Caulfield?”.

You may have realised that I love proverbs; it is known that “squadra vincente non si tocca” (the winning team must remain unchanged). In my humble opinion, Lucas North and Elizabeta were a winning team. Richard Armitage and Paloma Baeza had chemistry in the screen, a lot. My heart shrank every time they met and felt sympathy with the cruel fate that separated Beta from Lucas who made the ultimate sacrifice; it was impossible for her sake and safety to be together. I have never seen a thumb caressing with such a tenderness a picture as Lucas did before tearing apart theirs.

Gif from Spooks Season 7. My edit

Summarising: Lucas and Beta were credible. As are were credible the best working pals ever: Lucas North and Ros Myers, another example of exploding chemistry in the screen. Maybe not the sexual type (although the bankers’ chapter was a clear hint that those two may have blown the screen); the lines and puns between Ros and Lucas were simply awesome as this sentence that tells Ros to Lucas on the phone about Sarah:

Ros Myers, saying out loud what I would have liked to do.

Unfortunately plans for season 8 were different and Elizabeta had to disappear for real, no second chances, re-thoughts or coming-backs. Someone thought, maybe after stuyding the fans reactions after season 7, that they could take advantage of Mr. A’s attractive as well as acting skills, conceding the viewer unwarranted exhibitions of his beautiful body, including also physical activity under the sheets not only to punch a pillow. Let’s be honest, I’m not an hypocrite and the fan-girl in me who makes cheesy fanarts has appreciated the view, but the scene in which he undresses before meeting his torturer is ridiculous as it lacks a subtle detail to make it reliable: he had to throw away his clothes if the Russian wanted to be sure that he was not wired.

Neverheless, the worst idea of the whole series 8 had a name and a surname: Sarah Caulfield. Why Sarah Caulfield? Lucas and Sarah together were, using Cole Porter’s lyrics “as cold as yesterday mashed potatoes” and my impression when they first kiss under Tower Bridge is that Lucas was seriously thinking about the idea of swimming in the Thames rather than sharing a hotel room with her. I don’t know which was the real problem behind that absolute lack of empathy and chemistry between Richard Armitage and Genevieve O’Reilly. Maybe she felt uncomfortable with her fake American accent (I’ve read that it was a complete disaster, something like someone speaking Spanish mixing catalonian and andalusian accent), maybe they two did not get along well… The fact is that Lucas and Sarah were not reliable as a couple, the only scenes together that worked are those in which Lucas clearly despises Sarah after knowing her treason.

It can be argued by an un-biased viewer that maybe RA is not such a very good actor as I claim he to be, if, after Sarah’s death, he is supposed to feel “distraught” (as Ruth tells Harry) and I just can see him “relieved”. I can only reply with the famous final line in “Some Like it Hot”, nobody’s perfect, and that includes Richard. In some moments, anyway, I’ve felt he had broken that barrier between him and Genevieve, as here, in which he gives her one of his famous iceberg melting love glances.


Nevertheless, albeit the above, the scenes together in which feelings different from disappointment or disgust had to be displayed were a total failure. Moreover, Sarah Caulfield’s character was a total failure, not reliable as lover but neither as a spy: cold, flat, irrelevant.

10 thoughts on “Spooks series 8 (why… Sarah Caulfield?)

  1. It always looked to me like he was trying to make things work from his end (the look you posted above) but nothing was coming from the other side. She was completely unconvincing as a character – I haven’t seen any of her other work so I can’t judge her acting in general, but this was no good. Truth be told, Maya wasn’t much better. I just couldn’t see that they were once madly in love – although that may be in part due to the Bateman debacle… Lucas and Ros, on the other hand, totally worked. And we know he produced magic with Daniela Danby Ashe in N&S, he had great interaction with Dawn French, and we’ve heard that Proctor and Elisabeth reduced audience to sobbing mess. As for Lucas and Sarah, it’s a shame because we could have learned a lot about Lucas that couldn’t be shown otherwise. Here’s hoping for some great female co-stars in the future…

    1. I agree totally with what you’ve said; who knows, maybe that character would have worked with another actress (that’s what casting is for, two persons can be good actors but not being able to create magic together) and as for Richard I guess is like Fernando Alonso driving these last years’ Ferrari: he does his best with what he has. 🙂

  2. Wow, so great to see a Spooks blog post! 😀 Bad casting decision, I think. Not saying Genevieve O’Reilly is not a good actor, I don’t know her work, but she was not the right choice for Sarah Caulfield. Waste of good work by RA, in my opinion. Oh well. Can only hope the best is yet to come. Would love to see him in a complex role with a co-star that has lots of chemistry! 😀

    1. Thank you for your comment and welcome to the blog!
      Well, I have a considerable delay regarding Richard’s works so I guess my posts will be useful to “refresh” memories to many of you.
      The best is always yet to come, TC has been a proof of it (I just can’t wait to see it!!!!)

  3. G O’Neill played an American in the series Episodes and her accent was much better. I always find the relationship between Lucas and Sarah inconsistent. At times, I agree, it’s a convenient thing to be close to the CIA if you’re MI5- and that’s what was projected, at other times, especially in Episode 8.4 and the one where he confirms that she killed her boss ( forgot the number, now), I thought he was more emotionally invested. But I completely agree that he didn’t seem distraught at all after Sarah’s assassination – though he was very emotional at the time he found the killer.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Indeed there were moments in which he was more involved and other less. His acting is always very solid, these ups and downs are awkward. Almost as awkward as what I call the “moka scene”, in Lucas’ flat. I will surely be wrong, but I have the sensation that when acting with Genevieve he made more reliable the negative feelings (for instance when he searches in her purse for the wire and then shouts at her) than the positive ones; with some remarkable exceptions as that look that I have posted.

  4. Ahoy the minority viewpoint; I don’t think Genevieve O’Reilly is all that bad in this series in the chemistry department or that Lucas and Sarah lacked chemistry. If you watch the interviews / commentaries on the series 8 episodes, iirc, the commentators assert that they were not asking O’Reilly to show chemistry. She was supposed to be playing “crazy.” His interviews about the show assert something similar — that it starts off as a game and each of them think they’re on top at various points and there are points at which each of them are more / less emotionally involved. IMO they thus weren’t really supposed to be demonstrating chemistry in the conventional sense in which we mean that word. A lot of what they are asserting against each other in the first half of the show are dominance games — which wouldn’t give them the same kind of relationship as Lucas had with Elizaveta; Lucas was trying to put together his past, and Elizaveta had already (mostly) moved on. Lucas may have been on top politically in that relatinship but she was always on top romantically — she could withhold something he wanted badly. That was never the case with Sarah Caulfield, b/c it’s not clear for most of the series that he wanted her so much as he wanted to best her. There are also some suggestions in the commentaries on the series 7 episodes iirc (it’s been a long time since I’ve watched Spooks 7) that Lucas and Elizaveta’s relationship was somewhat larger in the original scripts and that they got closer to each other (or else I’ve read it in interviews) — if that’s true, it would make sense that we see the remnants of a more tender relationship between the two because the script would have had to push them in that direction for it to be plausible.

    1. This is a minority friendly blog, so welcome! 🙂

      The great thing of all forms of art is that every single piece has as many interpretations as viewers, I have not seen Lucas-Sarah interaction the way you say but I will have it in mind for future views.

      As far as comments and interviews are concerned, the ones released together with the DVD are made much later than the show has been broadcasted and once they know what the audience think of such or such character or scene; for instance, in the last chapter one of the commentators (producer – director) asks the other: “how have Spooks fans welcomed Sarah’s character” and the other replies with a chuckle “oh, well. Most of all given how the character ends” .

      Therefore should (and I strongly underline the conditional) the creators of the series realise that something went amiss they won’t admit it in the DVD comments.

      1. Dunno. I went into Spooks 8 as a very very new fan, having read none of the publicity, and had no assumptions about the nature of their attraction. For me, that explanation squared with what I saw on screen before I heard it (watched a pirated version on YT before I gave in and bought the DVDs and a new region-free DVD player to watch them). It particularly explains his behavior in that strange first kiss which is about asserting power, due to his need to put himself on top after the electricity scare, not about intense or any kind of emotional attraction. To me that kiss betrays that he doesn’t especially like her and her behavior in that scene suggests that she’s baiting him. (shrugs). For me that sets the tone for the remainder of their sexual / romantic encounters. At various times each character gets a little more or less emotionally involved but never at the same time; one of them at least is always playing a game.

  5. Just one, perhaps unrelated observation. Its interesting to note how kind and soft, almost gentle, Lucas’ face looked in the old pic of him with Elizabeta, which was presumably taken before his imprisonment in Russia.

    In the course of Season 7- 8 he becomes progressively harder, more distant, detached and ruthless. This is often reflected in his face, and how he shows emotion less and less frequently. I think in Season 7 Elizabeta even called him “cold inside”.

    That’s why I really think a much better ending for him would have been to show a gradual descent and decline into darkness. To show Lucas as kind and noble hearted person who was slowly corrupted and broken by the work that he did.
    Rather than this nonsense we got about him being “bad” from the outset, all the courageous acts and times when he saved his country being a mere pretense.

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