Hunted: Our fascination with spies

Thursday 4 October 2012, 11:00

Frank Spotnitz Frank Spotnitz Writer

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My career has been most closely associated with science fiction, which is no surprise given the years I spent writing and producing The X-Files TV series and feature films.

But for Hunted, the new series I created for the BBC, I've moved away from science fiction to the spy genre, which is my favourite in all of film and television.

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Hunted trailer: 'Think about the chaos you've unleashed'

There are some obvious reasons for this.

Spy stories provide plenty of opportunities for action and suspense - things motion pictures can deliver with unique effectiveness.

But I think the real appeal of the spy genre is much deeper.

By definition spies are duplicitous. They appear to be one type of person when they are actually someone else altogether.

They pursue one agenda while pretending to serve another. A spy simply cannot be trusted.

To varying degrees the same can be said of all of us, spies or not.

We all present a face to the world that is not exactly the person we are inside. Because part of us always remains hidden, none of us is truly knowable - not our parents, siblings, spouse or friends.

It's not surprising we all yearn to be surrounded by people we can trust. And fear betrayal.

Sam Hunter (Melissa George) on the set

Melissa George as Sam Hunter during filming

That for me is what spy stories do so well. Spies live in a world of deceit and distrust. Their stories externalise our deepest fears.

By design Hunted plays on these fears in the most intimate way I could imagine.

Sam Hunter suspects that she has been betrayed by the man she loves. She must expose herself to mortal danger, knowing she can't trust him or anyone else.

Of course Sam is more than an embodiment of our collective fears. Brilliantly realised by Melissa George, she is a unique, complex, contradictory character with a dark and troubled past.

I am neither a spy nor a woman and yet I find it very easy to identify with Sam. I suspect many audiences will too.

Complicating Sam's situation is the brave new world in which she we now live.

Over the past few decades espionage has become increasingly privatised. Sam doesn't work for MI5 or MI6 - she works for Byzantium, a private security firm dedicated not to defence of the realm but to serving the interests of its clients.

These clients' identities are not revealed to operatives like Sam which makes identifying who might want her dead - and why - even more difficult.

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Sam runs for her life through the alleyways of Tangier

Researching this world proved less difficult than you might imagine.

Business is booming - there are now thousands of private security firms operating all over the globe.

And while they keep secret their client lists they were very happy to talk (with names withheld) about the work they do.

I collaborated with a team of talented writers for six months on the stories for Hunted.

We devised a complicated web of deception with lots of action, suspense, and plot twists and turns.

But at the heart of it all we tried to never lose sight of the character of Sam, who anchors this dangerous world in a deeper emotional truth.

Frank Spotnitz is the executive producer and lead writer of Hunted.

Hunted begins on Thursday, 4 October at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

More on Hunted
Watch Frank Spotnitz talk to BBC Writersroom and BBC Media Centre.
Melissa George and Adam Rayner interviewed on BBC Breakfast.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Please explain the last episode...the baby, her mother, the corporation, who is she? Was I not paying attention? Or are you saving it for the next series. Btw yes please

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    Comment number 102.

    I've just spent 8 hours of my life watching Hunted -which I loved- there HAS to be a second series otherwise, frankly, what was the point?? The questions need answering and I'm more than happy to sit through another series to get them I can't believe that the BBC won't recommission it, it's not as if there's a plethora of amazing tv drama out there. US series', which get you hooked and then disappear from sight are annoying enough, why follow them BBC? Please please bring it back.

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    Comment number 103.

    This episode was amazing! Didn't expect it at all. So many questions still, there MUST be another series!

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    Comment number 104.

    they axed a following season guys, and decided some kind of spin off.
    Hugely frustrated with the final episode, you need closure in a spy thriller, and i am left with so many questions.
    Who exactly was the eye jabber?
    Who was Aiden, and wat was in the locker?
    Who was the fingerless person?
    Did sam hide her baby/did she die?
    I feel totally let down by wat was shaping up to be a quite brilliant series, with great storyline, writing and acting.
    this needs a second series, and needs closure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Frank, you're an amazing writer, and I totally get that you want an element of the cliff hanger for your spin off series.....BUT what on earth???? The ending answered nothing, none of the questions that have kept your audience eagerly watching......

    SOMEone please explain what was the final episode all about. I echo all the questions above , plus a few more!!!!

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    Comment number 106.

    I am livid at this moment in time. I have watched this series faithfully each week and enjoyed it. I expected this last episode to tie up all the plot lines and it didn't. Now that is ok if there is another series, but the bloody BBC have decided not to pick up the next series. That is just what I pay my licence fee for, to be led up the garden path with a series that I invest time in that now makes absolutely no sense and that we in the UK are unlikely to be able to get. This is ridiculous and just puts the icing on the cake of a series of bad decisions and major screwups by the Beeb lately. Please can someone put us out of our misery and explain who the blank faced man was and what he was to Sam as he was obviously trying to save her (he did on at least 3 separate occasions). What did she know and who was the man with half a finger missing. Unbelievably irritating. I don't think I will bother committing to any new BBC drama's or series in future as I don't know when the Beeb will shaft us next...

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I have just seen last episode on i-player - greatly awaited but I am so disappointed! No closure, no explanation of many characters, why did that woman get shot in the head in episode 3? What happened to her Mum, when she was in the oast houses as a kid, is she alive/ dead/ mother/ imagining things/ all the tension of 8 programs to feel confused and bewildered at the end. I hope there is another series otherwise you have wasted your time writing it and my time watching it.

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    Comment number 108.

    In the link that Cblack62 posts, it says that Frank Spotnitz is happy with episode 8 and it provides satisfactory closure?????
    We don't know why Sam's mother was killed
    We don't know how young Sam escaped from the kidnappers!!!
    We don't know what she knows that neccessitated her killing
    We don't know who Aidan really is.
    We don't know who the Baby is.
    The program now has so many holes it makes a sieve look waterproof. Does Frank not care about how fans of his work feel? It is ok to have cliff hangers if more is to follow, but when the main threads of the series which have been pulling us back each week to find out more end up further apart than when the story began you have to ask did he just run out of ideas?? The ending doesn't seem mysterious, it now just feels lame and I feel that I have wasted 8 weeks of viewing and to cap it all we put it on hold to make tea and now have missed the last episode of Hebburn on BBC 2!!! Mind you they will probably cancell that too and spend the money on some sh@@e reality program about Celebrities learning to crochet whilst receiving great fat pay checks...

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    Comment number 109.

    Great series please make another one as soon as possible, this is the sort of programme that makes our licence worth it.

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    Comment number 110.

    Frank if you read this please comment, a lot of unhappy devoted viewers here, loved the series, incredibly well written, but now i feel as tho i have read a book with the last page missing. Can you say if the proposed spin off in planning will have the answers people are looking for, which in my opinion we shudn't have to wait for anyway.
    I know it can add something to leave a cliff hanger, but there was more questions than answers in the last epi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I was mighty confused at the end as well but after a couple of minutes of mulling it over I decided that her team must have set it up to look like she was dead in order to save her from those who wanted to kill her. What confused me was that the baby looked too young to have been the child she was expecting when she was shot the first time. There were so many unanswered questions. Does that mean there will be a second series or was that it?
    I agree that Hunted was rather unrealistic in the way Sam managed to take out men who were much bigger than her in no time at all and with such little trouble and little sign of injury afterwards. However, I love this genre (I was a big fan of Alias, which also featured Melissa George and a great female lead) and I loved Hunted. Shame it's over.
    P.S. If that was the definitive end, please could we have some answers?!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Watched all 8 episodes only to be ruined in the last 10 mins! WHAT HAPPENED! Left more questions than answers like watching the lottery results,ticket in hand,and they only draw 4 balls! Perhaps a new director general can help us out.

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    Comment number 113.

    I actually felt so angry about this that I sent an email to Frank's (the writer) address on his big light web page. He probably won't read it , but I feel a bit calmer now. Still want some answers, but I guess I'll just have to go and eat a bar of chocolate to make up for the disappointment. Should know better than to trust the Beeb. They are turning into a cheap imitation of ITV propped up by our licence fee. I would rather have adverts and quality TV than pay the licence fee to have the Beeb treat us like mushrooms and feed us sh@@e. Rant over now for a chill pill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Ok, every Thursday night I looked forward to this show. Tonight was the last episode and all I can say is huh?????? Do I understand ANYTHING that happened in the last 5 minutes of the show? Sam said SHE remembered, but didn't say what happened. A cryptic fingerless hand. A shot to the chest with blood in the water. Then she appears "one month later" with a baby somewhere unknown. You bring in some poetic fluff from the fairy tale and make it sound like you've resolved it all. What in the world happened? It's as if your screenplay writer dropped off the face of the earth before finishing this. If you think you resolved this story, or that anyone in your audience 'got it', think again. How the heck did the exec producer approve this? Hourglass? Sam's mother? Goebel (or rather, the non-Goebel)? Baby? Huh?????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Very disappointed in the last ten minutes. Could somebody please explain it! Even if there was another series we wouldn't bother watching. 7 hours 50 minutes of enjoyment dumped in the rubbish bin. Never posted a comment before but feel so let down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Always be sceptical of a series pre-start write-up. I personally thought "Hunted" was two episodes too long and ending the series as happened was a real cop-out, it seems as though the writers went home an hour or two early on the final day or finished it in the pub. The way the 6th, 7th & 8th epsiodes played out seemed to indicate that there would be a big showdown between Sam and those out to get her but all we got was essentially a rehash of "The Bourne Ultimatum" ending and a poor one at that.

    All the 'major' drama's I've watched on the BBC recently have all copped-out with unsatisfactory open-ended finales. It leaves me wondering why these series get commissioned in the first place. I think I'll be sticking to the US drama's and those from the other 3 channels from now on (blasphemous I know) and will only watch BBC programmes that can't be beaten - documentaies and comedy panel shows.

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    Comment number 117.

    Excellent watched it from the start and couldnt wait for the next, please tell me thats not it? There is not many tv series i actually watch but this was the exception nice one Frank.

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    Comment number 118.

    Well, Frank - I didn't get the ending either.
    I enjoyed the series, despite swearing to give it up several times as it just didn't seem to fit anything other than a Super-Hero Comic. However, I needed a better ending with either everything wrapped up, or some obvious leads to a follow-up series. This just conjures up a healthy woman, ONLY ONE MONTH after seemingly being shot, even if it was a fake round or she wore protection she still vanished and didn't appear to be pregnant at the time!! Far too many ??????????

    Who is the shadowy figure with the short finger?
    Is Sam dead or alive?
    Is it Sam's baby?
    How old is it?
    Who is the woman in the Land Rover?
    Why was her mother killed?
    Where did the Son and Grandson go?
    Did Peter kill the Hoody Bro'?
    Who finally walked away - the fake Horst or the lanky tart?
    I can't figure it out at all from the meagre bits we were shown and I'm annoyed about it - after all it's a pointless end to a story .........unless there is a follow up series, and what the Heck would that entail, another dimension????

    I don't feel at all comfortable about having spent all this time watching 8 episodes, only to be left without what I deem to be "an ending" (even if a temporary one).

    John, 67 years old, York, UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Thank you for the questions. While I can’t answer all of them, let me address the most pressing – the question of Sam’s survival after the bridge shooting and the baby in Scotland.
    A balance always has to be struck between how much you show viewers and how much you withhold in order to keep them from anticipating a surprise.
    In this case, there were viewers who surmised as early as Episode 1 that Sam didn’t lose her baby. I’m pleased if you were not among those viewers – I certainly didn’t want people to figure it out that quickly!
    If you reflect carefully on the episodes you’ve seen, I think you’ll realise that the clues leading to this revelation were there all along, hidden in plain sight:
    -- In Episode 1, when we first see Sam in Scotland after the shooting in Tangier, an entire year has passed. Why has she been gone such a long time? And why is she still in physical training?
    -- After Sam gets her coffee and newspapers in the village, she stops on the pavement. She leans down to greet a child minder with a baby in a buggy.
    -- When Aidan asks Sam whether she lost the baby, she doesn’t answer him. She simply shows him the scar from her shooting and says, “That answer your question?”
    -- In Episode 4, Aidan asks Sam about the sex of the baby he believes they’ve lost. Sam hesitates before answering, “A girl.”
    -- In Episode 7, Keel tells Sam he located her medical records from a hospital in Istanbul (the city where we first met the Blank-Faced Man in Episode 1). Sam freezes with fear when Keel tells her, “I know.”
    -- In Episode 8, Sam is seemingly assassinated by Deacon Crane with a sniper rifle – just as she seemed to be assassinated by Crane’s sniper rifle in Tangier in Episode 1. But wasn’t.
    -- Crane “kills” Sam after he’s turned in his letter of resignation, refusing to accept any further moral compromises. And after we’ve seen Keel facing his own mortality, staring at the image of a fatal brain tumour.
    -- Finally, when we see Sam return from running in Scotland a month later, she meets the same baby and child minder she greeted on the pavement in Episode 1.
    This was no dream. But it should make you reconsider everything that’s come before it.
    It turns out this was not a series about a woman seeking revenge for the loss of her child – it was a series about a woman trying to protect her child, to ensure her daughter doesn’t live to see her mother murdered, just as Sam did.
    Sam’s “victory” in the final episode was in being able to recover a memory from her kidnapping – a man she saw with part of a finger missing -- that she could use to begin to fight back against the men who would see her dead.
    It is true that many other questions about who wants to kill Sam were not answered in these episodes, but that was by design. This was always intended to be a long-running series, with the Hourglass mystery stretching over the course of years.
    It’s interesting how few posts talk about how many revelations there were in this episode – about the contents of the case, the reason Jack Turner was bidding for the dam, the “suicide” of Stephen’s wife, Stephen and Jack’s true relationship to Tyrone, and the identity of the girl in the window.
    But of course we wanted to leave you wanting more. If you as a viewer are frustrated that the series is not continuing, imagine how we as writers and producers feel after spending years developing it.
    The BBC’s decision not to proceed has brought an end to this series, but there is some good news. The American broadcaster Cinemax is proceeding with a spinoff focusing on Sam Hunter’s character. I would hope that series would find a broadcaster in the U.K. as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Thanks Frank for some clarification, whilst its not everything it does help, a little.. The frustration is clear from your side too.

    A wicked well written story, well done. I am just sorry the BBC couldn't have dealt with this a little more professionally instead of leaving their viewers in the lurch..


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