SPECTRE Explained: A Guide To James Bond’s Latest Adventure

Daniel Craig’s 007 is back… and this time he’s bringing a ton of plot threads with him.

SPECTRE opens this weekend and is set to follow up on Skyfall‘s massive popularity. Still, the film very much expects you to be familiar with Bond’s previous outings. While we created a handy guide for watching all the relevant Bond films, you may not have the time to go through 50 years of espionage.

Well, not to worry. If you’re wondering what SPECTRE is and why they’ve chosen to wear octopus rings, we’ve got you covered.

Except maybe the thing about the octopus rings.

*SPECTRE SPOILERS BELOW*

Alright, who is this James Bond guy?

Bond

He’s an orphan who was conscripted into the world of British espionage after his parents died in a climbing accident. But there was a period of time after his parents died and before he became a spy that he was taken in by the Oberhauser family. He became a surrogate brother to Franz Oberhauser, who may have a few sociopathic tendencies (which, you guessed it, will totally come back later).

Anyway, Bond was promoted to the elite spy rank of 00 Agent in Casino Royale, and his first mission ended in the death of his true love Vesper Lynd. That pretty much sealed his fate as a misogynistic, nationalistic, martini drinking bad ass.

So, this film takes place after that?

Yes. Casino Royale is the first film. The second, Quantum of Solace, features Bond getting revenge for Vesper and uncovering a vast criminal organization called Quantum. The third, Skyfall, is a more personal film that follows Bond protecting his mentor M (Judi Dench) from a rogue MI6 agent, Mr. Silva, obsessed with killing her.

At the end of Skyfall, Bond and M make a stand against Silva at Bond’s parent’s old estate. The estate is destroyed and Silva is killed, but unfortunately M dies in Bond’s arms.

So, how long after Skyfall does SPECTRE take place?

A few weeks at most.

What’s Bond been up to since Skyfall?

Hunting, apparently. It seems after M’s death, she sent Bond a video message in the mail (in a cameo we kinda sorta called) telling him to track down a man named Marco Sciarra and kill him.

bond dead

Well, Bond has found him in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration. So, in an unsanctioned operation, Bond attacks Sciarra as he’s arranging to blow up a stadium. Bond eventually chases him to a helicopter where he steals an octopus ring from his finger before throwing him to his death.

An octopus ring?

Like we said, we’re not really in a position to judge villain fashion. But it’s definitely a clue Bond needs to follow up on.

So, how does MI6 feel about Bond’s after school activities?

Well, they’re pretty darn pissed. The new M (Ralph Fiennes) indefinitely suspends Bond from field duty. It seems M has been having some trouble lately, as MI6 and MI5 have been consolidated in preparation to join an international joint intelligence service. That means M is going to have a much harder time keeping Bond’s off books adventures secret when the rest of the world is breathing down his neck.

M

What’s the deal with this new intelligence service?

Well, it’s a privately funded (never a good sign) program that would meld nine country’s intelligence services into one program. It’s supposedly  nice because everyone would be able to freely share intel and resources.

The problem is, this new intelligence initiative is run by a guy Bond not-so-lovingly refers to as C (we’ll let you imagine what that one stands for). C thinks field agents, including those in the 00 program, are obsolete. He wants to replace them with drones and eliminate the human element of espionage entirely.

So, Bond’s been fired and it looks like he can never get his job back. What does he do?

Well, Judi Dench didn’t just want Bond to kill Sciarra. She wanted him to attend the funeral too. So, Bond’s off to Rome… but not before getting an explosive watch from Q.

Oh, yeah, and Bond also steals 009’s gadget filled Aston Martin DB10.

DB10

Why?

Because Bond’s a glorious, unapologetic asshole.

Poor 009.

We’re sure he’ll get over it.

So, what happens at this funeral?

Bond meets the newly widowed Mrs. Lucia Sciarra, who tells Bond about the criminal organization her husband belonged to in exchange for protection and a tumble in the sheets.

And, it so happens that organization is having a meeting that night.

Bond’s gonna crash a party, isn’t he?

Does Bond know how to do anything else at a party?

Good point.

Indeed. So, Bond wears that octopus ring and manages to get in to a secret meeting. It turns out this organization has been upping terrorist attacks, including the one that was going to take place in Mexico City.

SPECTRE meeting 2

That’s when Bond’s surrogate brother Franz Oberhauser shows up. Turns out he’s at the very top of this organization… and he’s none too happy about Bond interfering with Mexico City.

What does he do?

He has his henchmen Mr. Hinx stab a guy’s eyes out with his thumbs.

That’s disgusting.

Don’t worry. Mr. Hinx cleans up with a hanky. He’s proper like that.

What happens next?

Well, Bond overhears the organization talking about some guy named “The Pale King,” but that’s the last bit of info he gets.

Why is that?

Because Oberhauser recognizes Bond and calls him out.

Oh snap.

Yeah, Bond is pretty surprised by that one.

So, Bond runs his ass off, yeah?

car chase

Right into the sweet embrace of 009’s DB10. Unfortunately, Mr. Hinx is right behind him in a Janguar X-X75 sports car. So, Bond decides to break out the gadgets… only there’s a problem.

What’s that?

Most of the gadgets don’t work. Bond stole the car before they could be installed properly.

Unfortunate.

Understatement of the year.

What does he do?

Bond calls Moneypenny and has her search for The Pale King. It turns out that’s an alias for Mr. White, head of the Quantum organization Bond went after in Quantum of Solace. It seems Quantum was just a small branch of this bigger organization.

He has time to do research during the car chase? That doesn’t sound like he’s in a lot of danger. 

To be fair, the car’s bulletproof.

*sigh* Alright, how does Bond escape Mr. Hinx?

Bond discovers the car’s ejector seat works just fine, so he triggers that and makes a clean(ish) gettaway.

So, Bond goes to find Mr. White?

white

Yup. He finds him hiding in Austria dying of Thallium poising. It seems Mr. White’s old friends didn’t want him leaving after he decided he didn’t want any part of their new edict which involved hurting women and children.

Wait a second, wasn’t Mr. White directly involved in the extortion and murder of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale because he was trying to get millions of dollars to an African warlord who was shown to have child soldiers?

Um… yes. Maybe he turned over a new leaf?

… right. Anything else? 

Mr. White has been hiding his daughter, Madeline Swann, from his old friends. White agrees to give Bond a new clue if he’ll protect his daughter. Bond agrees, then gives White his gun to commit suicide with rather than die slowly.

Does Mr. White do it?

Yup.

What’s the new clue?

He tells Bond to go to L’Americain, but doesn’t specify who or what it is.

Bummer. What does Bond do next?

He finds Dr. Swann in a medical facility in the Austrian Alps. It turns out she hates her dad and really doesn’t want to go with Bond.

Can’t he try to charm her or something?

Swann

She is impervious.

So, what does Bond do?

He goes to the bar, of course. That’s where Q meets up with him.

Wait, Q? Wasn’t it stated in Skyfall that he hates to fly?

Well, Bond has put his career in jeopardy (again), and Q’s so pissed he’s willing to brave the friendly skies to convince Bond to give up the chase and come home.

That doesn’t work, does it.

Nope. Bond gives Q the octopus ring to analyze, then heads after Dr. Swann who’s been taken by Mr. Hinx.

How did Mr. Hinx find her?

This organization has tapped into the computers of MI6 (among other agencies). Anything they look up, the bad guys know about. Moneypenny looked up Mr. White’s location… so Mr. Hinx found him and stole his camera tapes to watch his conversation with Bond.

Oops. Does Bond get her back?

plane

It takes a crashed plane and a few totaled cars, but yup. He gets her back and convinces her to help him. She tells Bond and Q the organization after them is called SPECTRE and they’re super evil and stuff.

Q also discovers DNA from every recent Bond villain on the ring, which includes Le Chiffre (Casino Royale), Dominic Greene (Quantum of Solace), and Raoul Silva (Skyfall).

Wait a second… they all wore that ring?

Yes.

How’s that possible?

Presumably, they all wore it at one point or another.

Quantum of Solace took place directly after Casino Royale. How’d they get the ring to Mr. Greene right after Le Chiffre died? For that matter, did they even wear rings in those movies?

le chiffre

Um…

Isn’t it a little convenient that in this massive organization the three exact guys who have taken on Bond all wore the same ring?

Yes, but fan service must be paid.

At the expense of logic?

It’s a burden we all have to bear.

Alright, what happens next?

Swann takes Bond to L’Americain, which is actually a hotel in Morocco Mr. White visited every year. There, they find a secret room full of SPECTRE records… including a video of an interrogation of Vesper Lynd.

Does Bond watch it?

No. He gets distracted by map coordinates in the African desert. It looks like there’s a secret base there. So, they take a train there. As they’re having dinner, Mr. Hinx attacks them.

train fight

How’d he find them?

Because we need an action scene right now.

Fine. Do they kill him?

Yes, they throw him out of the speeding train.

Do they say “No ticket” afterward?

bond swann kiss

Nope. They engage in adrenaline fueled fornication.

So much for her being impervious.

Indeed.

Just out of curiosity… is anything happening back in England?

Yup. M, his assistant Tanner, Q, and Moneypenny all know something is up with SPECTRE, but C doesn’t care. The new joint intelligence program will go live in 72 hours, which means the end of the 00 section. M tells the rest they can’t help Bond, since it’s clear SPECTRE can track everything they do.

It’s all in Bond’s hands.

What happens with him?

train station

He and Dr. Swann get off their train, then are taken by chauffeur to SPECTRE’s compound in the middle of a crater.

Wait, SPECTRE just transports them over in style?

Yup.

If that’s the case, why did they have Mr. Hinx just try to murder them on their way over?

Um. Because we needed an action scene? It’s possible Mr. Hinx hadn’t had any new contact with SPECTRE was just following his original orders.

… Fine. What happens next?

Oberhauser meets them, and reveals to Bond he’s pretty pissed that Papa Oberhauser liked him so much, which is why he killed his own dad. Apparently, Oberhauser faked his death and changed his name to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, because Franz Oberhauser wasn’t complicated enough to pronounce.

oberhauser

He tells Bond that the joint intelligence program is actually funded by SPECTRE (told you) and C is their operative. They’ve been increasing terrorist attacks to convince countries to join in, but this new program will actually just give all the information they collect straight to SPECTRE, which will be all powerful.

Wait a second. Can’t SPECTRE already tap into almost every camera ever and view the movements of everyone anyway?

Um, yes.

So why do they need this plan?

Um… well… you can never have too much information we suppose.

Uh… huh.

In our defense, they’re totally evil. We know this because they torture Bond.

How do they torture him?

They strap him into a chair that allows you to perform selective lobotomies. Apparently, Blofeld heard that Bond is impervious to having his testicles slapped with a rope.

So, Bond gets… lobotomized?

Well, Blofeld targets his memory center and drills a hole in it. But, it seems that doesn’t take away his memory at all.

Um… why not?

Because he’s impervious.

You keep using that word…

How about… because he’s James Bond?

We’re just throwing science out the window, aren’t we?

bond

Speaking of throwing, Bond has Dr. Swann chuck his explosive watch which allows them to escape. Bond shoots a few guys, then shoots a gas line which blows up the entire facility.

Wait, the entire facility? With one bullet?

Yeah, SPECTRE kinda went discount with their gas lines. Perhaps they hired the same guy who keeps designing villain lairs in movies that don’t have any guardrails.

Does Bond have any trouble escaping at all?

Nope. He kills like eight guys, blows up the facility, and escapes in a helicopter in about two minutes flat.

That’s gotta be a record.

We wouldn’t be surprised.

So Bond goes back to England?

Yup. He meets with M’s gang and tells them SPECTRE’s plan. They set out to stop it, but Dr. Swann decides to leave because she doesn’t want to be part of Bond’s lifestyle despite the fact she now loves him.

Bummer.

It’s even more of a bummer because she and Bond get kidnapped. Bond is taken to the old MI6 building Silva blew up in Skyfall while M’s gang heads off to stop C.

Do they stop him?

Yes. Q stops the program from coming online at the last second. M and C fight, which results in C slipping to his death.

He… slips to his death?

Yes. In his defense there was totally broken glass on the ground.

Alright, plotline resolved. What about Bond?

MI6 2

Bond finds Blofeld in the MI6 building, though he’s now sporting the classic Blofeld scar from the Connery films thanks to that miraculous explosion Bond set off:

Blofeld

He taunts Bond with pictures of Vesper, Judi Dench’s M, and his past villains. He then tells Bond Dr. Swann is in the building, which is rigged to blow in three minutes. He can either escape and live in pain, or try to rescue her and probably die.

Does he try to rescue her?

Yup. He finds her tied up in M’s old office. They escape just in the nick of time on a boat and chase after Blofeld’s helicopter, which Bond brings down with his pistol.

Bond’s bullets are incredibly powerful and accurate in this movie.

Bond boat

Yeah, especially considering Bond has a bum shoulder and totally botched his marksmanship test in Skyfall, which took place just a few weeks ago.

So, the helicopter crashes?

Yup, onto the Westminster Bridge. But, this being a Bond film Blofeld survives. Bond catches up to him, as does M’s gang.

Does Bond kill Blofeld?

Well, Blofeld certainly tries to taunt Bond into doing so, but Bond is —

 — don’t say impervious.

But he is!

We don’t care. Don’t say it.

Okay. Bond tells Blofeld he has better things to do and leaves him to be arrested by M.

Why?

Because that’s what a mainstream action hero does. After killing everyone who works for the bad guy, you repeatedly try and fail to kill the bad guy. Then, when you finally have him at your mercy, you let him live to appease mainstream moral values.

Seriously?

skyfall car

Yup, then Bond drives off with Dr. Swann in his newly repaired Aston Martin DB5 from Skyfall.

So, he’s given up his spy life?

It seems that way.

Will we ever see him back in action?

Well, if the franchise has taught us anything… it’s that somehow… someway… James Bond will return.

Also, impervious.

Dammit.

6 Comments

  1. The report that they all had the ring in common was a toxicology report, presumably from their blood. So rather than one piece they all wore, I got the impression it was a unique alloy that showed traces in all of the wearers’ blood. It was a shorter leap than the Brotherhood of the Traveling Jewelry…

  2. Thanks for this – I enjoyed the films but didn’t remember anything about any of them. All this time barely pieced together that they were related.

  3. Great and funny article at the same time, but more importantly it is highlighting few main plot holes of the film. I personally think that Spectre could be a much better movie, but Mendes was certainly out of ideas. Being someone who is not a big fan of Daniel Craig’s Bond, I must say that he has done a fabolous job and finally looking good after three movies to take the character of 007 back to classic Connery era. I also really loved few exceptional causal pieces Craig wore during the whole but especially the John Varvatos Suede Racer Jacket he wore in the finale!

  4. Another hypothesis of how the DNA of several villains was on the ring is that Marco Sciarra was so awestruck when he first met his peers that he never washed his hands after shaking all of theirs.

  5. Loved that article, watched the movie yesterday and have to say that it is my second 007 film after Casino Royale. I think Daniel Craig has improved a lot, he looks as gorgeous as Connery in Spectre, its a good idea to putt on white dinner suit to pay homepage to the classic 007 movies but I still believe that Casino Royale tuxedo was certainly the best one in all Craig’s outings. Although the movie has some plot holes but its still a pleasurable experience seeing Blofeld back with fantastic henchman

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