John Bateman: Error in judgement or classic Spooks?

Lucas North is one of the characters loved most by Richard Armitage fans. What’s not to love? He was the spy that remained loyal to Queen and Country throughout eight years of imprisonment and torture in a Russian prison. The man who thought of his wife the entire time he was away, only to return home and discover that she had moved on. Lucas immediately returned to the fold of MI-5 and continued on with the work he loved–even at the risk of personal injury and death. I understand the cries of betrayal that emanate from many an RA fan. How could TBTB do that to Lucas??? However, as a fan of not only RAbut a Spooks fan since season 1, I tend to be of the opinion that this was less an error in judgement on the part of the writers and more a classic Spooks story line. Don’t mistake me, there were absolutely flaws and gaps in the storyline. But, the plot–Lucas not really being Lucas at all–fits well into the list of those who betrayed their co-workers, MI-5, and country. So let’s take a look at those who came before John Bateman:

 

 

Let’s go all the way back to season 1 with Tessa Phillips. In the first season she was discovered to be running non-existent informants for financial gain. By the second season she was running her own private security fund–which she used to sabotage an MI-5 mission, resulting in the death of an asset.

 

 

 

 

Then there was Ruth Evershed. That’s right,when Ruth was placed in Section D, in season 2 it was for the purpose of spying for the GCHQ. While she did sort out her loyalties quickly, it doesn’t change the fact that for a brief time Ruth was a double agent.

 

 

 

 

We can’t forget about Ros Myers  who arrived on the scene as part of daddy’s plot to overthrow the government. There was also that whole Yalta debacle..aiding in a plot to bring down the United States of America’s defense satellites is a major problem. It wasn’t until season 7 that Ros really became a loyal member of the Section D team.

 

 

 

Then of course there was Connie James–I really love to hate her. A double agent for the Russians, Connie slit poor Ben’s throat in a bid to escape before being discovered. And betrayal of all betrayals (at least for RA fans)–it was Connie’s actions that landed Lucas in that Russian prison for eight years. At least she went out with a bang (pun intended).

 

It wasn’t only the spies who had wavering allegiances.

 

 

Remember Juliet Shaw? She was a former spy, friend and lover of Harry who was the National Security Coordinator. It turned out that she was the head of Yalta–she even attempted to kill Ros.

 

 

 

Home Secretary Nicholas Blake–who was always a friend to Harry and Section D–met his end thanks to Harry and some poisoned booze, after it was discovered that he was right at the heart of Nightingale.

 

 

So now we come to Lucas who isn’t really Lucas North at all, but John Bateman. Bombings, murder, identity theft…he really did turn out to be a bad egg. But boy did Richard Armitage do some fine acting with a less than stellar script. When he returned to Malcolm’s home with his gun drawn, I was on the edge of my seat. Abducting Ruth, aaahhh! If only there had been more time, and better scripts–this really could have been one of the best stories of betrayal in the entirety of the shows run.

 

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31 thoughts on “John Bateman: Error in judgement or classic Spooks?

  1. I really enjoy your analysis of Spooks 🙂
    I am perhaps in the minority who really liked season 9. True, it would have been nice to have been given clues to the plot twist in either season 7 or 8. Something you could go back to and think- Well yes, that pointed to something not quite right.
    Agatha Christie wouldn’t have made that mistake- the clues as to the murderer were there, if you knew what to look for.
    But as a fan of RA’s acting I found his last season thrilling. He really managed to flex his acting muscles and went above and beyond with what was given to him. Not many actors could do that.
    I felt RA was unravelling the threads of Lucas. I give two thumbs up!!!

    • The scripts for season 9 were seriously lacking, but the unraveling of Lucas was a really interesting direction to take things. I won’t lie, it didn’t hurt that so much of the focus was on RA’s character. 🙂 I like the Agatha Christie comparison. There should have been clues throughout his other two seasons, that there was something not quite right.

      • There probably would have been some clues if they had any inkling as to where the story was going well in advance.

        • I think a good writer could probably have at least attempted to pull something from previous seasons (even if they were slightly out of context) and tried to tie everything together.

          I’m also think I read that season 9 had a different team of writers. Maybe they just said to hell with what’s come before. Who knows…

  2. Now I know why I never liked Spooks! 😀 I’m not sure about those other storylines, but with Lucas they completely fabricated a background with no regard to previous seasons of the show. That seems like sloppy storytelling. I didn’t care though because Lucas was beautiful to look at. 😉

    • I didn’t have a problem with the other storylines, bccmee. But then, an entire season wasn’t developed around any of those other characters, like we saw done with Lucas. I’m attributing the fabrication of his background to a new team of writers (I believe that was the case).

  3. Thank you for this wonderful overview, jasrangoon. I loved Spooks and was not unhappy with Lucas being not who we thought he was, though Lucas North is one of my favourite roles of Richard Armitage.
    Lucas North an interesting spy gone bad – what an intriguing thought. But I was very disappointed by the gaps in the story and so the whole story failed to convince me, though I adore the way RA played the part. Lucas North thinking of his former wife all the time in Russian imprisonment and then having a love of his life before that who he just conveniently totally forgot, till she was needed to destroy him.

    • @CDoart I’m glad you enjoyed my overview. I think that most people who hated the Lucas/John Bateman storyline had only watched seasons 7-9 and did not really have a full grasp of the twists the show was willing to take.

      I found the premise of Lucas being someone else really intriguing. I just wish they had executed the storytelling better. The gaps, along with everything about the Maya love story was problematic for me. RA really did a phenomenal job with what he was given to work with.

      • Jane

        The Maya story could easily have been adjusted. Just don’t make her “the love of his life”, former girlfriend would have been enough. It seems likely that Lucas met Elizabeta in his mid or late twenties and had a serious relationship before. Most people don’t marry their first love and we were never told that he and Elizbeta met at school or something. I can easily believe that meeting an ex-partner again can profoundly affect people and that old feelings can be revived quickly. I would have preferred it had he met Maya by chance (surely he could have visited someone in her hospital? Dimitri even got injured in the first episode!) and Vaughn coming into play later, without that cheesy suitcase. And I don’t think it is odd that she was never mentioned before – most people don’t talk about the partners they were with fifteen years ago and haven’t seen since with their co-workers, why would they, they don’t affect their day to day life. And if they do, why show it in a TV show if it has nothing to do with the plot? For me it is just natural that he probably had a girlfriend before he married. I never felt the “I don’t buy it” reflex the moment I learned about Maya.

        • Jane, you make some really valid points about how the Maya storyline could have worked better. “The love of his life” aspect of it was problematic for me, because it seemed to take away from the relationship he had with Elizaveta-and the deep love that Lucas clearly had for her, when he came back from Russia. That doesn’t mean I think it unlikely the character would have had previous relationships. When I say the storyline didn’t work for me at all, I’m largely talking about the lack of chemistry between Lucas and Maya. Naturally, there can be all kinds of long buried emotions that surface when faced with a former love. I haven’t seen Laila Rouass in anything else, so I can’t speak to her acting ability in general. But in Spooks, she was just kind of a tepid, cardboard cut out. That could very well be due to the script, or the direction and have little to do with Ms. Rouass herself. With the exception of that one kiss, when she shows up at Lucas/John’s home, there was never any chemistry between them, in my opinion. Nothing at all that made me think, okay, I understand why he would be willing to risk absolutely everything to be with this woman. The “I don’t buy it” for me wasn’t at the moment when she first appeared on the show. But was a result of the way the plot played out.

      • @Jane I think you hit my point of critique exactly, why I don’t buy the storyline of Spooks 9 and Maya. They could have so easily adjusted the storyline to really work.
        They also spread such a lot of lovely and wonderful hints – and my fantasy really went wild during Spooks 9 with all the open possibilities – but they did not use any of their wonderful hints, but really came to the minimal consensus in the end. What a waste of wonderful ideas they laid out along the way.
        They could have made so much more out of it. That is my real criticism. (But I must stop or I must start at the beginning of my blog all over again ;o) )

      • Jane

        I suppose lack of charisma or chemistry doesn’t bother me as much as others or I’m not the kind of person who is very sensitive towards such things. I think the fact that JB did not separate from Maya because his feelings cooled down but because circumstances forced him, made it even more likely that meeting her again had a profound effect on him. He foced himself to forget her because he had to. I also think, apart from a lack of charisma there was nothing wrong with her at all. She was the nice girl next door, apparently an ambitious student, later successful in her job, not at all involved in the illegal things JB did. She was a person worthy of love, much more than Sarah Caulfield. And that young John Bateman loved her shows that he wasn’t totally rotten but capable of decent feelings. But I guess I’m the only person who sees it that way.

        • Your description of JB and Maya’s relationship is how I think the writers probably intended for the relationship to come across to viewers. The chemistry issue is a big deal for me as a viewer. There was never anything in their relationship on screen that made me think, “wow, these people really do love each other.” But that is an issue of personal taste, and if chemistry and charisma isn’t an issue for a viewer, I can see where the relationship would work okay. I agree that apart from a lack of charisma there was nothing wrong with Maya. She seemed like a decent person, but I just didn’t really care about her at all. Maya was certainly a vast improvement over Sarah Caulfield. There was absolutely nothing redeeming about that character.

          Thanks for sharing your opinion, Jane. I imagine that there are others out there who probably see this as you do. They just aren’t as willing voice their views.

          • I think it might have helped at least some of the viewers if we had seen some flashbacks of Lucas and Maya together and then actually witnessed some more insightful conversations between them in the present to help us see and understand their feelings for one another. Because i felt the same way, Jas–Maya was just “meh” to me. Not a nasty bit of goods like Caulfield, no man deserves two of her in his life; but just–I’ve said it before–a lump.
            I don’t know, maybe John Bateman was into lumps. You know I disavow the 9th series, anyway. 😉

      • Jane

        @fedoralady: I agree, some flashbacks of them during their university days would have been good, as would a happy “morning after” after their first night have been. Some kind of intimacy that doesn’t have to do with sex. The situations we see John and Maya (or Lucas and Sarah) in are usually overshadowed by some conflict, they are arguing or in danger or whatever, we never see the normal, happy, enthusiastic couple interaction. But Spooks rarely does that well, that sort of connection only has a chance to develop between colleagues. Love interests are just plot devices wheras I assume for an RA fan who comes from N&S or writes fanfic the plot is just the backdrop to allow the love story to develop(?). Or at least plot and love story are equally important.

        • You’re right, Jane, we don’t see a lot of that interaction between the spies and their love interests that isn’t fraught with danger or duplicity or something quite serious.I guess I was hoping for something that it would have always been unlikely in this particular show.
          I think what brought it into my mind again–the idea of the flashbacks to happier times or conversations in the present to help us understand the relationship–was watching Casablanca for the umpteenth time.

          We see Rick Blaine as the cynical tough guy who “sticks my neck out for nobody” in the first part of the movie. We know when Ingrid Bergman’s character shows up he is seriously shook up, but why?

          Then we get a flashback to their days together in Paris and see how different he was then–happy, light-hearted, a man clearly in love. A man who ends up left at a train station with nothing but a note saying she can’t go with him or see him again. Now we understand his bitterness. The tough guy has a vulnerable heart and Elsa had skewered it with her actions.

          My husband sometimes accuses me of being too fond of films and television series in which “people talk each other to death,” 😉 which is an exaggeration, of course. 😉
          Anyway, I suspect RA and Spooks Fans will be debating Spooks 9 for a long time to come.

  4. Even as good an actor as Richard obviously is, there were times–very small moments, to be sure–where the whole Bateman storyline appeared not to work for him, either. I saw signs of strain in his eyes and I hadn’t seen that in his other performances. As if for a few seconds here and there Richard was thinking, “Oh, hell. Is anyone buying this?”

    I felt Kudos’ reach exceeded their grasp–they did not have the luxury of time to develop a cohesive,plausible, believable storyline for Lucas’s downfall and so they ultimately gave us soap opera.

    For me, they jumped the shark. It reached the point where I was laughing–a groaning laugh, to be sure–at some of the scenes. They tried to do too much, cram too much into the series with too little time and budget. Champagne tastes on a beer budget, you might say. I thought things started going downhill in S8 with the Nightingale arc and really came apart in S9.

    I can think of many ways Lucas could have turned out to have a very dark side to his past without this ridiculous Bateman storyline. My knowledge of psychology–normal and abnormal–caused me to smell a big ol’ rat. I do know with TV shows and with films one has to suspend disbelief at times and no one ever said Spooks was gritty realism 😉 any more than that Robin Hood was accurate medieval history.

    But good grief! Too much is too much.

    It’s not that Lucas had to be the perfect hero –he was always flawed and we know he had to be damaged after his eight years in that Russian hellhole–but ultimately the writers screwed up big time in their handling of his story within the time and budget constraints placed upon them. They wasted so much of what had already been established about the character. And as for the casting people, come on. You can’t find decent actresses with whom someone like Richard Armitage might have a flicker of chemistry? Oh, RA tried, he really did. But both Sarah and Maya were major fails for me. I won’t even get started on Sarah’s accent.

    As a writer myself–fiction and nonfiction, the latter of which earned me a paycheck–I would have felt as if I had not played fair with the character if I had followed their template. I have seen the earlier series of Spooks but confess there is a chunk of the middle of the show I have not seen, as they were never aired over here and our PBS has only broadcast those earlier ones. So, perhaps I would feel differently if I had seen them all and been a huge Spooks fan from the beginning. I don’t know.

    .Yes, Richard did an amazing job with what he was given, but he always does anyway. It’s a shame the Beeb and Kudos could not have provided him with something better to work with. But then again, he has often exceeded what he was given to work with. Which is a big reason for me to want to see him move into a new phase in his career. I pray he gets good scripts, good directors, strong fellow cast members as he so richly deserves.

    And now let me re-start my computer, as it has taken me an agonizingly long time to get this written. Keyboard is as slow and sticky as molasses.

    Great overview, my girl, but there is always some crank who refuses to yield her position. 😉

    • Angie, I figured you would eventually comment about this, having seen your comments on this season elsewhere (and reading your Guy/Lucas fic). I don’t have any argument with you about the quality of the scripts. The overall storytelling was rubbish for season 9. Season 8 was stretching it a bit too. My main argument is that having Lucas turn out to be someone completely different wasn’t too far a stretch for Spooks–when taking into consideration past characters. Clearly, the writers didn’t handle this storyline well.

      As far as the romances: with Sarah, there really was absolutely no chemistry. How is that possible!? This is RA we’re talking about. I think that if the scripts had been better there could have been some chemistry with Maya (if that kiss in ep 4 was any indication). Although, I don’t think I could ever have bought into the “Maya’s the love of my life” plot. What was Elizaveta, chopped meat?

      I’m glad you posted your opinion. The world would be a boring place if we all agreed about everything. 🙂

      • I’ve been asleep (the insomniac has to catch her ZZZs when she can) so I am just getting caught up with the blogs including my own. 😉 So the Mouth of the South is back. 😀

        Yeah, I felt like it was a kick in the teeth re Elizaveta and her place in Lucas’s life to say Maya was the love of his life (that he had conveniently completely forgotten for 15 years? Yeah, right). We all saw it clearly established in S7–Lucas still had deep feelings for his former wife that he had to work through in order to move on. And there was some actual chemistry with Paloma.

        Re Maya, yes, I had real hopes from that kiss. (Does anybody kiss better than Richard onscreen? *swoon*) Still, I just couldn’t buy this great passion.

        May seemed so–passive, this indecisive lump much of the time. Perhaps that is due at least in part to how LR was directed, rather than her acting ability or a lack of chemistry. If I can forgive Joanna Froggatt for the hideous abberation that was Kate I can give LR the benefit of the doubt. 😉

        I still find myself wondering–could GOR have had relatives at Kudos or incriminating info on someone? Because she was a miserable choice for that role. And it wasn’t just the implausible, irritating accent, either. I never bought that Lucas could be so head over heels for this woman. Richard did his best to manufacture chemistry, bless him–but it’s a two-way street.

        Again, the problem with a short season is that much of their early relationship was just assumed–we jumped from the kiss on the bridge to sleepovers and Lucas all moony-eyed over her and I asked myself “why? WTF?”

        Granted, they didn’t do her any favors by how GOR was dressed and styled for the role. The obvious roots, the makeup and outfits–they just didn’t WORK. It’s a shame. We know that Richard can sizzle onscreen with the right partner. Instead we got fizzle. 😦

        And yes, it would be a boring world if we all saw things exactly the same way. 😀

    • Jane

      I have the same typing problems and feel they may have to do with the blog software?

  5. I agree with your opinions and to be clear I am an RA admirer.

    I’m glad I stumbled across this blog as I’m also a Spooks lover from the beginning. A third year of Lucas loser in love I was not looking forward to. Episode one had a brilliant ending, wondering who is John and why is Lucas looking so upset. Had me intrigued and I could not wait for the next episode to air and that feeling continued all the way to the end. I’ve not been that engrossed in a Spooks series since S1.

    To me this plot line was classic Spooks, a point I’ve tried to get across to RA fans before. A Spook lies and deceives all the time. In a different scenario I could easily see the “service’ recruiting JB to work for them.

    Although I must admit the writers didn’t quite make it work. I could go along with the bombing happening the way ‘Lucas’ told his tale to Harry as that was a Lucas moment I could see happening. It did leave a bitter taste in the mouth when Vaughn revealed the truth before he died.

    Although JB didn’t exist for S7&8 when watching a year later, I did have a rethink over a particular scene. Sarah had a gun to Lucas’ head and he was begging Sarah to take him with her. When I initially watched that scene I always assumed he was stalling for time and saying what he had to, to save his life. Now I’m convinced he meant it.

    I think my favourite scene is when Daniella the American hacker died in his arms. Giving her comfort as she’s slowly bleeding to death. I can’t decide if letting her die relatively peacefully was a decent action or the one of the creepiest/coldest scenes I’ve ever watched. Lucas could’ve walked away and let her die in a panic but he didn’t. A spark of compassion or making sure she doesn’t manage to stem the blood flow before help arrives?

    When he’s with Maya he’s JB but I still think of him as Lucas right up till the rest of the grid discover the truth.

    It’s interesting to note that Harry was a lot more forgiving of Ros and her betrayals, yet Lucas was hung out to dry. Seems 8 years in a Russian prison counted for nothing.

    In short…Classic Spooks 🙂

    • @byng867 I’m glad you stubbled across this blog too! I could be wrong, but I get the impression there aren’t many of us RA fans who were actually okay with Lucas being someone else. I mentioned in another comment, I think (and I could be wrong) that most RA fans only watched his seasons as opposed to the entire show and didn’t know how Spooks had handled many character arcs. Episode 1 had me so excited for things to come, and I did stay thoroughly engaged throughout the season. I do understand the complaints about the script and gaps in the story, the writers just didn’t manage to pull the story off–maybe if they had more than 8 episodes. In regards to the Daniella storyline, that was when I really thought, okay, he’s not Lucas anymore. I’ve had similar thoughts about the difference in Harry’s handling of Ros and Lucas-I attribute it to the fact that Lucas’ betrayal was from the very beginning of their relationship and Harry saw it as personal. Yup, classic Spooks.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Pingback: Legenda 17: Stuff worth reading « Me + Richard Armitage

  7. Jane

    Thanks for that piece, as I completely agree. I am fan of both RA and Spooks before RA and always enjoyed the twists and turns and betrayals from the inside. No doubt the JB storyline had it’s flaws and could have been handled better but I have always been baffled by the white hot hatred direct towards those that were responsible for the storyline. It did not pain me that Lucas turned out to be someone else and bad and got killed of, and if it did, in a good way, because it made a suspenseful and exciting story and gave him lots of opportunities to stretch his acting wings. We had unbelievable storylines that don’t stand scrutiny before, we had characters turned upside down before and we had inconsistencies before, resulting from the fact that different writers and producers were responsible for the different series and episodes and did not care much what happened before. Someone should give writers a tight outline for the overall storyarc and the development of the characters, within a series, but also regarding different series, or the writers themselves should bother to watch previous series carefully. That IS the big flaw of Spooks and many other shows but knowing that, I can accept the result. I am pretty sure had the result not been that they turned a beloved character bad or had it concerned a different character, the fan reaction wouldn’t have been half as harsh.

    • Jane, thanks for commenting. Inconstancy has been the overarching problem with Spooks in general, I completely agree with you there. It does seem that the writers should have at least watched the previous seasons, maybe they just decided to try and make their own mark-who knows what went through their heads. To a certain degree I understand the anger of RA fans with how Lucas’ story went. For people who only started watching the show when RA joined the cast, they were probably unaware of all of the twists and betrayals that came before. As an RA fan there was part of me that was a little frustrated with his character turning out the way he did. As a Spooks fan I got over that frustration quickly and went along for the ride. I will confess to having a moment where I thought, “Not again, hasn’t he played enough characters that die!” But overall, I thought he got a great chance to stretch his acting ability. And really, fans should be thrilled that so much of season 9 was devoted to his character’s storyline and that he gave an amazing performance, weak script and all.

      • Jane

        I think unfortunately the aspects RA fans are most interested in a show, the character development and the development of human relationships are the weakest side of Spooks, has always been. Writers think to please the female fans it is enough to give him any love interest and make him take his shirt off occasionally but that is far from being enough. It was bound to clash.

        I completely agree that it was an honour that so much of the series was dedicated to his exit, I don’t think at all it was revenge because he wanted to leave, it was the opposite.

  8. fitzg

    That was a super summary, Jas. As a Spooks fan, as well as of Armitage, I could have “bought” the Bateman scenario, had it been better crafted. Perhaps one reason that fans were so aghast at S9, is that Lucas/Bateman actually turned out to be such a basically – shabby – character, too. Not exactly an idealist… one can almost forgive the traitor who does what he/she does for an ideal (Connie).

    • Thanks fitzg. I think for Spooks fans the poor execution of the story is what hurt more than the Bateman storyline in general. I think your correct about fans disliking the scenario, at least in part, because Bateman was just a bad guy. He didn’t even have some kind of twisted moral code he was trying to live up to. I think the presence of some kind of rational is why Ros’ betrayals were forgiven. She thought she was a part of something that was for the greater good in both instances. I’m impressed you can even almost forgive Connie! I really hated her character by the end-kudos to Gemma Jones for that performance.

  9. Oh you beat me to writing this post! I had drafted one titled ‘Spooks and its long history of betrayal’

    I agree. The path of Lucas was a classic Spooks story. Connie’s betrayal was pretty spectacular and hard to top – they took it to the next level with Lucas/John.

    • I would be interested to read your post, Skully! Connie’s betrayal was so horrible, that they really did have to go all out with the Lucas storyline. They could have executed season 9 better, but like you, I think his betrayal was classic Spooks.

      • My draft post is actually very similar to yours. Just a list of the characters and a short paragraph about their betrayal. I think it’s important appreciate the John/Lucas story in the wider context of Spooks history. I may tweak my post a bit now, no point in repeating what you’ve already said 🙂

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