Spooks is a series by The BBC revolving around the work of Section D of MI-5, the UK's Security Service. The show was renamed MI-5 in the USA due to racial connotations and possible confusion over the term "Spooks". The show is notable for its use of Split Screen as well as Not Quite Dead. It also does not have any credits at the beginning or end, to maintain a pretence of secrecy (the credits are available on the DVD release and its BBC3 "week in advance" airings).
It provoked some controversy over the first series' second episode where a woman was killed by having her head shoved into a deep fat fryer (the victim, played by Lisa Faulkner, was being set up as a major character) and also for one featuring suicide bombers.
The show ended in 2011 after ten seasons. In a show where Anyone Can Die and the one character who was considered to maybe have a plot shield has spent the last six weeks being put through the wringer, this made for a very tense finale.
For more information, go here (Non-UK spoilers) and here.
A Spin-Off with a Younger and Hipper cast called Spooks: Code 9, aired in 2008. Poor critical reception and ratings means it's not likely to be coming back.
Anyone Can Die, Killed Off for Real: all in reference to Lisa Faulkner's frying as well as dozens of other examples. Only one of the original characters remains in the show, although some ex-characters, like Tom, are still alive and kicking (and are brought back sometimes, like Ruth and Malcolm).
A quick rundown of the dead: Helen, Danny, Fiona, Colin, Zafar, Ben, Connie, Adam, Jo, Ros, Lucas, Tariq and Ruth. Most of their names (plus a few extras) are seen in the final episode on MI-5's memorial wall.
It's theorised that the one character who has been in it since the beginning (Harry) is still in it because the show would lose a lot of viewers if it did; the series seven finale, when he gets kidnapped byRussian Alan Davies, was... controversial (even though he was in danger in several season cliffhangers before). In the end, he survives the finale, albeit even more broken than ever before, and continues working at Thames House.
Of course, the previous season cliffhangers which put Harry in life-threatening danger had other characters in even more danger - as in, one character appeared to drown himself in the ocean, and another was left bleeding out on the street. (both survived) That and the fact that he wasn't as central to the show then as he was by series seven...
Apple of Discord: Adam tries to do this to a far-right political party in series 4.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Harry, Harry, HARRY. Strangling a Russian hitman half his age with his tie, interrogation technique that would put Revolver Ocelot to shame, outthinking Mossad, the CIA, the FSB and sometimes his own Government (sometimes all at the same time), threatening to shoot (and actually shooting) people who have threatened his Grid team...the list goes on.
Back for the Finale: Tom Quinn makes a cameo appearance in the final episode of Series 10, hired by Harry as an outside contractor.
Badass: Quite a few of the team, but Ros takes the cake.
Bittersweet Ending: It's fair that almost every episode will/has end like this or at least have a touch of it as no matter what victory is achieved by the team there some price to pay.
British Brevity: Sort of. Seasons range from 6-10 episodes in length, but each one is a full hour long (with no commercials) and the trope is averted in that the show ended up running for 10 seasons, making it one of the BBC's longest running dramas ever.
Adam Carter, his replacement, went almost as spectacularly off the deep end after the death of his wife.
And finally, Harry himself in the finale.
Bulletproof Human Shield: Subverted/shown correctly when Jo Portman manages to restrain a terrorist who is trying to blow himself and everyone else up. The only way to avert the explosion is for Ros to shoot the man, however (as both Jo and Ros realise) the bullet will go straight through him and kill Jo as well; which is what happens.
Clumsy Copyright Censorship: One episode was temporarily pulled because visible Apple logos on the back of the computers had to be digitally airbrushed out, advertising not being allowed on The BBC.
Combat Pragmatist: if you're a field agent in MI-5 you do not survive long if you don't adopt a "use anything at hand" ideology. However, strong contenders for a prize in this area go to: Adam (for using a set of empty metal shelves to beat up a terrorist), Zaf (for escaping from a cupboard using an opponent's own crowbar and then using it to beat him to a (deservedly) bloody pulp), and Ros (for using a car-jack to immobilise a Mossad assassin before he could call for back-up).
Continuity Nod: The following conversation, from series seven, episode one:
Lucas: How'd Tom Quinn work out? Harry: Took early retirement.
Crapsack World - Terrorists around every corner, corruption in every rank of the government, allied governments not giving a damn about Britain's survival, Russia openly slaughtering British agents in the street, and Anyone Can Die taken to Kill 'em All proportions (by this point it's safe to assume that basically all the current major characters will not survive). Oh, and if Code 9is still canon, the London will be destroyed sometime after the end of the series.
Subverted with Tom in the series two finale. After being forced to shoot Harry while trying to avoid capture, Tom wades into the ocean and lets himself slip below the surface. Partway through the series three premiere, he resurfaces while trying to track down Herman Joyce to prove his innocence in the assassination of the Chief of the Defence Staff.
Adam's death. One of the country's best spies has to drive a bomb-rigged car away from any danger. He first puts his seatbelt on to drive the car, and near the end, he does a useless handbrake turn which costs him precious seconds. Although the seatbelt sort of makes sense since, if you crash, you'd probably want to be injured as little as possible when the car's rigged with a bomb. Also, to be fair, his goal was preventing civilian casualties; only after the car was stationary in middle of an empty square could he look to saving his own life. He didn't know exactly how long he had left, of if the trigger would be delayed for some reason. Had he jumped out of the side while it was moving, the car might have gone careering into the side of a building and caused civilian casualties.
Zaf, who gets tortured to death off-screen. A lot of fans were expecting him to show up again in Series 6 since the show rarely ever has the main characters Killed Off Screen (and whenever a hero appears to be in peril, but isn't confirmed dead, they usually pull through). So when it was revealed that Zaf had died after being tortured for days while crying for his mother, it felt pretty anticlimactic.
Adam. The man sacrifices his own life to drive a car bomb away from a crowd of people, only to die by himself before he has time to run away from the car.
Ben, who bleeds to death in a lonely computer room after his throat was lacerated by Connie.
Subverted with Tariq. After he is poisoned and gets out of the taxi he's riding, he collapses to the ground in the middle of nowhere, seconds away from death. Suddenly, Calum shows up, and then he dies.
Dying Moment of Awesome: The death of Ros, though YMMV. Even though she knew it was probably hopeless she stayed with the paralysed Home Secretary, dragging him painstakingly down the corridor despite him insisting that he leave her. Brave, brave woman.
Connie. Motherfucking. JAMES. "I'm not scared of bombs."
Eagleland - the US is generally portrayed as a somewhat corrupt country, with the CIA not being nice people. By series 8 and the time of the Obama administration, this changes somewhat: a new CIA station chief announces "We're the good guys now" before a duplicitious agent tosses him over a balcony to his death.
Evil Plan: Frequently, but Angela Wells's masterplan in "Diana" sort of sticks in the memory: holding the entire Grid hostage overnight with a fake bomb, solely for the purpose of getting access to Buckingham Palace security information, so that a lockdown would be ordered and the Royal Family would be rushed to a secure location which, after getting herself employed there as an electrician seven months earlier, she'd already rigged with plastic explosive INSIDE THE ELECTRICAL WIRING. And then there's a sniper rifle.
Faking the Dead: Ros, briefly, in 6.08. Unusual in that she didn't know the nerve toxin she was injected with wasn't going to be fatal...
False Flag Operation: Several. A group of Mossad agents take over an embassy while pretending to be Al Qaeda, and Harry's kidnappers in the first episode of season 8 pretend to be Islamic terorists to throw MI5 off the scent.
In fact, the majority of the episodes of the fifth series involved these.
In each case, the actress' pregnancy forced her into maternity leave before the end of the respective season - although only one ultimately chose to PERMANENTLY exit the show.
Idiot Ball: this may come very very close to Too Dumb to Live, but Danny sleeping with Harry's DAUGHTER was so not smart. Really really not smart.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Perhaps not literally, but the sniper in Series 9 Episode 5 must come pretty close. His shot is from 1.67 miles away (beating the previous record as specified by Dimitri at 1.5 miles by a sniper in Afganistan), goes directly through a building after he takes the trouble to blow out the windows, and manages to calculate the trajectory of the bullet accurately enough to come with millimetres of his target's head (and even then, he hits him in the shoulder). Unfortunatly, directly afterwards, Lucas comes up behind him and shoots him dead.
What makes it even more awful is that Colin, expecting to be shot in the head, relatively calmly told the rogue officers to get it over with. He only starts begging when they take the noose out and he realizes that his death isn't going to be quite as quick as he expected.
Lady Drunk: Connie has elements of the type. Turns poignantly hilarious in her last episode when she demands a bottle of gin as part of her bomb-disarming kit.
Location Doubling (the exterior of Thames House in Embankment is played by Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden)
Locked in a Freezer: Whole episodes have taken place in a locked-down grid, most notably "I Spy Apocalypse" and "Diana".
Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The series went through a very large number of cast changes in its run. Only one character, Harry Pearce, appears in all ten seasons and every other position in Section D had at least three different occupants over the show's run.
Mad Dictator's Beautiful Daughter: Ros's introduction more or less fits the trope, although her Heel-Face Turn has less to do with falling for the hero (it takes her several episodes even to like any of her new colleagues) and more to do with realizing that her father and his cronies are selfish, murderous, and being bankrolled by the Russian mob, and she's far more badass in her own right than the category would tend to suggest.
Moral Dissonance: Lampshaded by Danny when he has to assassinate a scientist planning to sell weaponized plague to terrorists, who references a line spoken by Tom in the very first episode that stated killing in the name of life is still wrong.
More Expendable Than You: An interesting variant is season 8. The British Home Secretary and Pakistani President have been left paralysed in a room rigged to explode. When Ros and Lucas show up for the rescue, Lucas is heartbreakingly forced to leave Ros and the Home Secretary behind. If the President dies there could be nuclear war, and Lucas is the only one strong enough to carry him.
Murder.com: In Season 8 a group of eco-terrorists kidnapped a load of Corrupt Corporate Executives to host a live trail and execution on the internet if the businesses were unethical (and of course, they were). The Jury was an internet vote.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: To the point where someone could play the Drinking Game every time one of the heroes screws something up. Even Malcolm, of all people, had the audacity to place a bomb on a plane and instruct Ros to set it off, which led to the death of a CIA agent.
Oh Crap: Final Episode of Series 7. Three words. Portable. Nuclear. Bombs.
Overt Rendezvous: In seasons one and two, the characters frequently have meetings on the benches across from the Houses of Parliament.
Psycho Psychologist: Miranda from season 2 interviews the entire staff and pits them against each other with the express purpose of finding the weakest link. Portrayed realistically in that she doesn't see anything wrong with this.
Put on a Bus: Tessa, Tom, Zoe, Sam, Ruth (though she returned in the first episode of season 8) and Malcolm.
The only one this really applies to is Sam, as at the end of Season 3 it's stated that she's upset due to Danny's death and then come Season 4 she's just never mentioned again. For the others, their reason for leaving the show is explicitly stated.
At the start of Season 10, Harry observes that Beth has been fired in his absence.
Even though he'd been captured and tortured gruesomely by a number of rival intelligence agencies, Adam Carter was able to remain optimistic about his work until his wife was shot dead by her ex-husband, a Syrian agent, which pushed him into an Heroic BSOD that he never really got over.
Shoe Phone. Subverted in "Nest of Angels". An Algerian agent listens politely when he's shown a number of disguised communication/bugging devices for his mission to infiltrate a radical Islamic group. The next scene shows him dumping this highly compromising equipment into a canal.
Spell My Name with an S: In the series 4 premiere, Adam has to disarm a bomb by typing in a codeword he heard over his earpiece. He types in 'Kronos', and it works on the first try, despite the numerous different Greek transliterations such as Cronos, Chronus, Khronos, et cetera.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Twice, team members with UST get together only to have one of them have to fake their death and leave. With Harry and Ruth, Ruth gets framed for treason; the team fakes her death and she goes into hiding. Adam and Ros end up the same way.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Many. Generally, after a character leaves they get one of these. At times the new character is introduced before there's been a cast change, not-so subtly hinting that a certain established character might be in trouble.
One example is Lucas, the handsome and charismatic former section chief returning from an eight-year stint in a Russian prison. Guess what happens to handsome and charismatic section chief Adam in the very same episode.
Sweater Girl: In episode "Spiders", Zoe needs to get close to a particular target who happens to be male.
Tom: The kids' lives are in danger. (beat) So, wear a tight sweater tomorrow.
Tom: I've been watching him all day. He obviously fancies you. We need to build up on that connection.
Zoe: (sarcastically) Any particular sweater in mind?
The Troubles: Harry was active in Northern Ireland during these, and rogue IRA agents appear frequently in the early seasons.
The Hero Dies: At least two season finales. One of them twists it by having the character survive the end-of-season cliffhanger, carry on a few episodes into the new season, and then have nervous breakdown and leave the series.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Ruth and Harry. Also, done in a very cute way with Ros and Adam Lawrence (the new Home Secretary at the end of Series 8).
Well Intentioned Extremists: In addition to several Villians of the Week from the earlier series (most memorably, Collingwood and his cohorts from "Gas and Oil"), at least two season arcs from the later years (six and eight) are built around massive conspiracies consisting of such individuals.
Western Terrorists: This trope is fully justified, as MI-5 is (or at least, it was when the show started) concerned with domestic security akin to the American FBI, and not exclusively terrorism. The first series was written prior to 9/11 (although some cursory references were inserted after the fact) when Irish splinter groups, xenophobic race-baiting, and economic rioting were the prime sources of potential turmoil.
And to be fair, some of these would be justified post-9/11 as well, given a quick glance at Real Life.
And to be even fairer, the show did deliberately go out of it's way to show as many different threats as possible. The IRA, White Power groups, "totally not the BNP", eco-terrorists, a wide variety of ex-Soviet spies/assassins/moles, corrupt banks, all were shown as legitimate threats. It even becomes a plot point in at least one episode, where they're trying to work out which of the 10 groups they had flagged launched a chemical attack on London.