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 121.

    To those complaining, did you really think that Hunted was going to tell you everything? Because if you did, you've clearly spent too much time watching Grey's Anatomy. Real television takes work to watch. You don't just sit and twiddle your thumbs while images flash across the screen; you get engaged, you ask questions, and you see answers that aren't obviously there.

    A good show doesn't answer all your questions. They give you hint by hint, piecing it together so that you find some answers, but have to keep coming back. A lot of television these days, much like most things, has turned into spoon feedings of instant gratification. This is good TV, so you're not going to get that here.

    We did, however, discover lots throughout the series--about Sam, the people she worked with, and the people she was pretending to work with. And we know a whole lot more now than we did 8 weeks ago. Are there more questions? Sure. But why would I want the journey to end now? I don't want every question wrapped up because that would defeat the purpose.

    And be sure to read what Frank had to say because a lot of that was obvious, especially as you went on. All you have to do is pay attention to have seen that. Whose baby is it? Really? Come on guys. There were so many clues to the baby storyline! And that Deacon parallel at the end was brilliant. After all, we must come full circle to find the truth.

    I'm ready for next year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    REALLY enjoyed this series Hunted Amazing so tense so watchable got into all the characters and story line (s) bit violent though. havn't watched anything so good in a long while - feel bereft now?!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    You could probably get the second season onto Channel 5. It's something they'd go for. BBC1 prime time just wasn't the place for it. That way the British viewers who care about what happens will have some closure. Although you've said it will be a completely different story, so if that closure isn't offered, I doubt there is much point in another series appearing on British TV. The BBC must have had their reasons for axing it.

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    Comment number 124.

    please would someone explain who the guy without the finger was and I still dont know why her mother was killed and what the connection was - please will someone enlighten me?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    hi Frank just wanted to say thank you to you and everybody involved in Hunted for eight weeks great of television

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Hi Frank,

    LOVED Hunted and i totally agree with TrustNo1117

    there's nothing like going to a performance or watching something that leaves you with questions and really gets you're brain going.

    Maybe my love of this just comes to me naturally after studying Drama at college, but there was nothing we loved more than to create more than just something to watch. Something that the audience were actually affected/included by, not just a 'show'

    Hopefully we can expect to see the new spin off series soon! Love Hunted, Love Sam and can't wait for it all again.

    Kerry x

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    .... has anyone mentioned the fact that in the first episode part of Sam's training was to hold her breath under water for the time it took fro sand to run through an egg timer (hourgalss). Was it just a coincidence that this would save her life?
    I am so pleased that I found this blog because I thought it must be me,and thanks to Frank for explaining 'stuff '.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Thank you all for watching. Making this series with the BBC has been one of the great experiences of my career, and I appreciate all the feedback, both good and bad (especially the good!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    fantastic programme but shame it had to come to an end, even worse BBC wont be showing anymore. I so hope a second series is made as this one was pukka, also there are lots of loose ends to tie up and so much potential.
    I'm confused with quite a lot of it to be honest as not much was revealed. I know not everything is revealed straight away but we have been left with more than a cliff hanger we are missing half the story.
    What's aidans true identity?
    Is he more involved than we think or was he innocently just a mole and knows no more of sams kidnap as a child, her mother's murder and why she is wanted dead?
    What's in the locker?
    Who is the man with no name?
    Why has he been protecting sam?
    Why did he want sam at the end of the series?
    Is he good or bad and wants her dead?
    Who is the man with half a finger?
    What involvement has he with sam's kdnp and mother's murder?
    What is the man with half a finger, connection with polyhedrus?
    why is sam wanted dead?
    Was sam's, mums murder connected to the investigation polyhedrus set up?
    Why was her mum murdered?
    Who was the woman polyhedrus sent to kill sam?
    How did she know about sam?
    What happened to thw MI6 woman who was seeing aidan?
    Is she more involed than we think?
    Why give sam the key?
    Who else knows sam has a baby?
    Will aidan find out he's a dad?

    I understood about the baby and why deacon shot her but nothing else makes sense?
    i feel if this is to be a series that drags out over years people are going to forget the story line and it wont make sense unless it comes out as a box set and you can start from the beginning and watch it all.

    Fantastic storyline but i feel we could have been left with more understanding of the questions i stated above.

    hope a second series is made and these answers ive stated will be revealed and also pray that we british fans can still watch it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    I agree with many of the later comments. The ending was dramatic but with so many loose ends and unknowns that it makes a mockery of previous viewing time and viewer expectations. Utter nonsense and quite insulting unless there is a follow on series ...if so let us know soon. If there isnt..then it takes artistic licence and pretentiousness to a level I dont want to experience on BBC again. Get a grip!!! Love to all!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Hi Frank, thanks for clearing that up I was just going to say the same. And the training Sam put herself through to hold her breath or even train herself to stop breathing if required and return to life. It was a rather abrupt ending I thought it ran for about 12 episodes so thought we'd continue the story next week! However as not I am looking forward to the spin off and from where it ended, I did think it reminded me of the X files alot Sams character as Dana as I was watching it.
    I wondered from the beginning how big a part The Snow Maiden was going to be related to Sams life and the outcomes as it was drawn upon alot. As we saw Sam's retreat in Scotland as a parallel to her childhood with her mother as in the tale in the book, plus no mention of Sam's father as of yet. The place she was taken as a child was similar to the castle in the Snow Maiden and her retreat and meeting with Stephen and his son. Apart from the facts in plain sight on a deeper level it was as if she was at the moment of being traumatised as a child suspended her notion of self as a survival mechanism and went into the story in the book. She stayed with the story until it was time for her self to remember the events and get the clues to go after the men that took her and murdered her mother. Perhaps she realised this in reading it again to the son or it triggered something.
    Also I thought we are told she was 11 at being taken but from her DOB and the police file she was only 9. The man with the missing finger was he there to rescue her in stopping her screaming or quite the opposite?
    I thought it odd why if she hasnt told Aiden yet about the baby and they part on friendly terms, there are obviously very close, I hope to see in the next series how they met prior to Tangier and more about their relationship, even without her temporary full trust of Aiden she seems deeply connected to him. I would love to know more about Aiden and his background.

    One part in the last episode re: the girl opposite, this seemed very unlikely a neighbour being brave enough to do this. Just after the bomb with security on full alert before lockdown, how did they not check a hand delivered letter and what she wanted. This is nice to see then luck that the letter slipped through and that she was brave enough to finally try to warn Stephen.
    Tyrone being the son of Jack was a good move it was easy to spot in hindsight, his over confidence even someone of his "rank" in the shady underworld pecking. Well acted. And Jacks utter trust and reliance on him, unlike Bellinger who seemed an Eton henchman just to undertake Jack's underdealings for some class reason rather through loyalty.
    All in all it was very good but very condensed in the last episode. Also the woman who wanted to kill Sam looked like she had escaped from daytime Loose Women, so that was rather distracting!
    Has Sam retired if shes training again and a minder is still present? Hopefully if she's going to continue her search for answers and working for Byzantium she will slow down or find a more efficient way of killing rather than getting into situations she has to recover from or it could become non believable, even for someone in top condition. Or her team would have to come up to scratch more to prevent this, perhaps Deacon could ensure this and ask her to come back if so?
    To end it is so far rather primitive the intel and way of working much like most spy stories, couldnt Byzantuim or this team in Byzantuim if there are ohers? Perhaps become one step ahead to others before but in a subtle way so no-one can tell, is that what Hourglass was supposed to be in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Disappointed that the BBC decided they weren't going with further series to help with the loose ends, but what else can you expect from a corporation that has, over the weeks this series has been shown, shown itself to be an inept, crumbling old boys network, now terrified that the skeletons are coming out of the closet. Frank, thank you for the series. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Hunted has been a great series - totally preposterous but very watchable nonetheless - we loved it. But....... so many pieces left unresolved - why did Hourglass want Sam disposed of? Whose baby (if hers, why so young)? Who is Aidan really? Why aren't the BBC going to partner on series 2 - spoilsports! We saw the same thing happen with Zen which was excellent, then they dropped it for no good reason and keep going with rubbish instead. Come on BBC, you can do better with good fun drama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    hi everyone, not sure how you do this first time blogging!!! I loved this series however i was a little confused by ending, hoping she'd end up with aiden. never mind i assume stephen father of baby then! i do hope there's another series. I have to say i love reading peoples comments! i Liked the fact that she kicked arse on a few men but thats just me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    hi everyone, i'm new to this blogging lark. i loved this series i hope they make another series. I do love reading other peoples posts as they make me lol. i liked the fact that sam wasn't worried by beating up a few men in her way.also take it the baby s stephens then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    @PeteMK did you read anything Frank said? He explained it all. That baby was not a newborn. That was the baby she was pregnant with at the start of the series. This isn't *that* complicated lol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Some answers ... Where did Aidan go? Back to (or probably just to) acting school with Stephen and most of the others. Why didn't Sam find out who Aidan really was? Ostensibly because he was the dad of her baby and she didn't want to find out, but actually so they can spin it out to episode 2 along with the identity of the 'is he a saint or a sinner' fake Goebel character. Who was the woman in the Land Rover? Who cares, the child minder but probably a character they planned to weave into a 2nd series.

    Getting bored of these screenwriters who build in to the plot things they only intend to answer in a subsequent series (which, in their arrogance, they assume will be commissioned). It's patronising of the audience who don't find out they won't get closure until they've invested 8 hours of watching.

    It's not surprising the BBC pulled series 2. S1 wasn't any good. Ultra lightweight acting, embarrassing character stereotyping and overcomplicated by trying to be too clever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    I found the whole series gripping and watched it all, even though it was totally unrealistic and completely amoral. The ending was extremely frustrating and disappointing. Thank you to to the writer for giving the explanations above, but it should not have been necessary. The answers given above could easily have been included within the 8 episodes. It was just a cynical ploy to commission another series to keep the same storyline going. It would have been much better to complete this story, then develop another related one for another series, which seems to be what is happening.
    Disappointed with the ending -it reminds me of those american series that started off so well, then dragged on and on with no resolution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    (Stamping her feet....) I want to know who Aiden was in relation to Sam's past and not just as her ex! That was what frustrated me the most. Apart from that I enjoyed this series. Seen Melissa in The Slap screened here last year and I liked her in that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Thanks Frank for responding to the comments, decent of you. I agree lots of "Turner" revelations, I guessed a few of them before they were confirmed as the series progressed but I think it was apparent throughout that the Turner part of the story would be concluded by the end and then it would turn to and finish the Sam-and-her-past storyline, but there again I'd assumed that this was a one-off series.


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