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Intelligence agents in the 21st century

In the summer series premiere of 'MI-5,' the team goes after an anti-abortionist with a murderous message.

July 22, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

When the British intelligence agency MI-5 was established nearly a century ago to protect England from internal threats, there was little thought given to the possibility that the United States would be interested in exporting trouble to its onetime mother country.

But in today's new realm of global politics and international terrorism, such a threat is made all too real in the premiere of "MI-5," a joint production from A&E and the BBC (the show is called "Spooks" on the BBC). This slickly entertaining summer series -- starring Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes and David Oyelowo as agents and Peter Firth as their unit leader -- airs tonight at 9 on A&E, repeating the debut episode, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," at 10.

Lisa Eichhorn ("Yanks") guest stars as Mary Kane, an American anti-abortion crusader whose husband is awaiting execution for the murder of an abortion doctor. The pair had been spearheading a campaign of terror against family-planning physicians in the States, posting on the Internet the identities of family-planning doctors as part of their "Name and Shame" agenda. When Mary is contacted by sympathizers in England about taking the fight across the pond, she's happy to oblige.

A remote-control car bomb in Liverpool that claims the life of a doctor and her young daughter introduces the MI-5 crew to Kane's deadly tactics, and then it's a race to nail her before she can use the remaining explosives in her cache.

The heavy British accents, language quirks and unfamiliar locales may leave some viewers a bit foggy about the story line's twists and turns, but Firth is a solid presence as the chief, and Hawes and Macfadyen have an appealing chemistry.

The latter's problems with keeping his spy-guy cover while getting a budding romance off the ground provide a nice balance to the action.

Eichhorn's Kane maintains her steely smile to the surprise finish, but it's "MI-5" that has the last laugh.

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