Warning, there will be season 10 spoilers, tears, and flailing. You have been warned.
It’s been a while since I saw the very last episode of MI-5 and it’s taken me this long to come to terms with it. Who am I kidding? I haven’t come to terms! This is a rant!
I began MI-5 earlier this year hoping it would be a pleasant procedural I could watch in the background as I worked and waited for Richard Armitage to arrive. I did not expect to get hooked season 1 and then proceed to gorge myself (dragging my significant other along with me into the mire) on the next many seasons. All 10 seasons in a mere couple of months.
I became obsessed, long before the anticipated Lucas North came onto the scene. My love for the characters was a slow burn and then suddenly they all mattered so much. I’m not sure which episode started that; probably when Tom started questioning things, or when Ruth arrived—
Yeah, who am I kidding. Ruth. It all comes down to Ruth.
She’s the type of character that as an actress I’d love to be cast into; the quirky, odd, dresses a bit different, quietly pining heroine type who secretly holds up the entire operation. The entire series. The unassuming, charming, unexpectedly lovely, unabashedly genius character that made me care about everyone because I so keenly cared about her. Because of Ruth, I could see Harry, the true Harry, the best Harry, the awesomeness that is Harry—and I grew to love him too.
Yes, the writing was good and got better, the plots grew more intense, no one seemed safe from being killed off and that was terrifying, the acting was spectacular and Harry became a badass. And Ruth remained quietly brilliant and my favorite person of all time. (Nicola Walker should be in everything. She’s the most underrated TV actress ever. MI-5 brings out all my superlatives.)
So, as you can imagine, when Ruth left for the first time, I was beside myself. You’d think someone real in my life had died. (This is the problem with actresses and authors, since I’m both, I’ve a disturbingly tenuous grip on reality and fictional characters ARE REAL.)
I knew characters came and went, Tom taught us that right off. I grieved the deaths along the way and prepared myself for more. I studiously avoided any spoilers and refused to ask my friends who had seen the seasons ahead of me anything. Anything except one yearning question (demand): “Tell me Ruth comes back?!”
Much like the show’s slow burn, for me the axis upon which the show turned had become Ruth and Harry. So maybe I’m a hopeless romantic. These two fit my favorite romance trope: the brilliant career individuals who haven’t made time for love or meaningful connections but quietly pine for one another. I mean, no one can resist two amazing characters being stubborn and perfect for each other and ridiculous and OH MY GOD JUST HOLD HER FOR GOD’S SAKE . . . It’s so delicious.
And I’d like to think Ruth came back because the show needed that heart, that ache, that waiting-the-whole-episode yearning just to see Ruth touch Harry’s hand. *swoon* It was so Victorian and chaste and maddening and wonderful. As Harry lay back on the shrink’s couch, alluding that something—someone—was missing, I of course shout at the television that he just needs Ruth. *Expletive* It was so classic.
Then the triumphant, heart-wrenching, epic return of Ruth. Both of them held hostage, literally and figuratively. Harry asks the worst thing possible—he really did have wonderfully terrible timing—and yet the thing that was on all of our minds: “Did you love him?” Her awkward denial had me cheering amidst her terrible conflict so beautifully acted. It was horrible and amazing. Kind of like the marriage proposal.
I loved how the show did and didn’t do what we wanted along the way, you weren’t really sure which way it would go, what victories or losses. And yet as we approached season 10, a pit of dread grew in my stomach. You can do anything, MI-5. Anything except kill her. Not her.
As the unrequited romance between Harry and Ruth became more and more of a centerpiece of the final season I rejoiced at its centrality and yet my fear blossomed. Because I was afraid that they just wouldn’t allow us what we (well, at least I) wanted. And I resented that.
Because in the end, this is an exaggerated view of what MI-5 would actually be like. Harry and Ruth would mostly be office workers. They were terrifically clever of course, I loved it when they were in the field, and they were kick-ass when they had to be (dude, when Harry choked a man with his tie, I freaked out with the best of them), but those were extraordinary days. Essentially they were genius office workers.
There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a house in Suffolk.
But in the end, as Ruth lay dying in Harry’s arms due to a trivial stab wound that frankly didn’t seem very motivated or justified other than punching us viewers in the face and gut for wanting something nice, cozy, and adorable, it was all about Harry’s pain. The show’s conclusion proves Harry the suffering, tragic, melancholy prince of an office; the only place for him in the world. There is nothing else for him but work. Grief and work. Death and taxes. Bulls**t.
There’s no reason Harry and Ruth couldn’t have been together except the writers or producers or whoever didn’t want anyone to have a happy ending. Oh, wait. Zoe had a happy ending. But she was young and blonde. No happy endings for older people. No happy ending for the two characters that are the only reason I’m watching the show because Lucas North jumped off a ledge and frankly I didn’t care about anything else, I just WANTED RUTH TO SAY YES FOR THE LOVE OF GOD and I wanted that bloody house in Suffolk! *weeping* *flailing*
Please no one tell me this is an American versus British thing. I’m the biggest Anglophile of them all. I was in love with Doctor Who from the age of 7, way before it was “cool”, ok. I’ve spent a lot of time across the pond and the BBC has wrought the most gorgeous happy endings of all time. (Hello, North and South, the whole reason MI-5 was ever on my radar, Mr. Armitage).
It wasn’t more “realistic” and less romanticized to kill Ruth. Instead of love it’s violence that’s romanticized. I’m all for Shakespearean tragedy, but only if the deaths are truly earned. Most of the deaths in MI-5 were earned one way or another. But the final message was all about a patriarch, his sacrifices, the martyrs around him and his solitary pain. But “Harry’s lonely pain” as emblematic send-off is not enough to really do the many rich colors and fascinating aspects of the show justice. Not for me. You should have retired, Harry, and Ruth should have damn well said yes.
My mind has rewritten that final episode, and that lovely house in Suffolk has two quiet, smiling, genius people sitting in it as they age gracefully, listening to Mozart, a world of secrecy all behind them; two of my favorite television characters of all time having earned their much deserved peace.
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress and the award-winning, nationally best-selling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens such as Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul. Her passion for this particular subject matter has compelled her to put echoes of these characters into a new series, in which the ending is exactly how she wants it. Visit her on Twitter or at her website.
Read all posts by Leanna Renee Hieber for Criminal Element.