The BBC is back again with another big budget thriller to whet the appetite, this time in the form of spy thriller the Night Manager, with oddly hunky Tom Hiddleston as our hero battling up against Hugh Laurie of all people.
I haven’t read the book so won’t be able to make any comparisons other than very basic things, so I approached this series with a totally blank slate.
There shall be spoilers throughout for the series, if you’re wondering if it’s worth watching then the answer is yes, it’s only six episodes after all and is well worth the small commitment you would have to make.
In the spoiler warning I ironically sort of spoiled what I thought of the show, it was good. To be fair when you build a cast which contains Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman (who has become the go to woman of England) and Tom Hollander you’re already off to a flier before the first scene has even been filmed.
The acting generally was excellent throughout, everyone played their role pretty fantastically. Tom Hollander as Corky was an absolute delight and truly stole the show for me, every scene he was in he stole which when you consider his acting counterparts is quite a feat. If I was looking for a slight complaint I didn’t think that Colman’s (Angela Burr) accent was quite right and it felt at times it seemed to waver, I also find it odd that they felt the need to change the role from a male to female part, ultimately it made no difference but why bother?
Speaking of changes I did like how they adapted the story to fit in with current day events. I’m not sure exactly where the book centres around, but seeing as it was written in the early nineties it certainly wouldn’t have dealt with the Arab spring and the Syrian refugee crisis/civil war. The change is very clever because by making it a modern day issue it hits home more to the audience, who can relate more to something which is very much happening now rather than something which happened over twenty years ago.
Spy espionage types of shows are natural for TV because there is always a natural tension with whether the person who is undercover will be caught. It’s very similar to a whodunit, you know the person is going to be discovered in the end, it’s a question of when and where. The problem with this type of show is that you know that Pine isn’t going to be discovered before the fifth episode as otherwise there isn’t really a story to tell. So those tense scenes where Pine is sneaking into Roper’s office aren’t quite as effective the early in the series they are, but by the end they become incredibly tense because you know he will eventually be caught.
Probably the stand out scene of the series was the arms exhibition which Roper puts on for his Arab arms purchaser in the Syrian/Turkish desert. Such a beautifully executed set piece which must have cost a ton of money and translated amazingly for TV. The whole series was shot in a very masterful manner and the sceneries used were spectacular, making the show feel as glamorous as it should, it’s about incredibly wealthy people after all.
Pine was a good leading man, someone who you wanted to support but seemingly emotionless enough that you began to wonder at one point whether he had in fact turned, a perfect protagonist for a spy story. A lot of people have been pushing strongly for Hiddleston to get James Bond after this and oddly enough this was sort of like a James Bond light (much less drinking and gadgets).
Roper is your classic despicable bad guy, easily dislikeable because of how smug he is but charismatic enough that you can’t help but at times feel endeared towards him. Angela Burr was instantly likeable with her northern no nonsense attitude and waddling march. The fact that she goes up against the corrupt system (hits a little bit too close to home, with the way that those involved in the British political class go on) is enough to make you support her, but her determination to get her man is incredibly admirable.
The one main character I really couldn’t take to was Jed, she just wasn’t very likeable. The problem being that she is essentially totty and has very little else to offer to the story. I felt it was way to forced that her and Pine fell for each other so quickly and over barely anything (especially after his five seconds of heaven). The fact that she abandoned her child and was living with a man she didn’t actually like because she enjoyed the lifestyle, these are deplorable traits and it reflected on the character.
I’ve mentioned a lot of things to do with the Night Manager and pretty much everything has been good; good acting, good cast, good scenery and good characters, however the one thing which was average was the actual plot. The general story is fine if basic, the problem is that there are massive plot holes or unrealistic moments which really hurt the show in my opinion.
The whole Pine being let into Roper’s inner circle thing seemed incredibly stupid. Some random guy who you know is a thief but he saved your son so lets let him into our business dealings, despite knowing nothing about him. You can’t paint Roper as this incredibly astute and intellectual man and then have him do something as stupid as letting some random guy hold such a massive part of his business.
This is then followed by the whole Corky knowing that Pine is having a fling with Jed but doesn’t let on to anyone else. It doesn’t make sense, especially when he doesn’t like Pine. Are we really to believe that Corky is willing to let his penis decide things for him, when again he is painted as ruthless and intelligent, just in case Pine decides he might actually be a homosexual? It’s made all the worse by Corky seeing Pine sneak outside the compound only to wait for him outside the fence to confront him, when he could easily have done so from the other side of the fence, what did he actually think was going to happen? That Pine would hold his hands up and go ‘you’ve got me old chum’ and gladly hand himself in to Roper? Ridiculous.
We also have the situation where Pine kills Freddie Hamid, a bad guy who is the reason that caused Pine to be here in the first place. The thing being that as much of a dick as Hamid was, the apparent good guy Pine killed him for no particular reason other than because his ex-bit on the side was killed by Roper, how does that make him any better than Hamid or Roper? Also are you honestly telling me that Hamid can remember some random hotel manager from five years ago after a little bit of do you remember me? Highly unlikely, do you remember that random receptionist who you seen once on holiday five years ago? No.
The final major area which was plain ridiculous was the final scene where Roper is being arrested, it was actually almost a great scene (they didn’t arrest Frisky…probably still bleeding out…), Roper cocky and arrogant proclaiming that he will be out tomorrow because the system is so corrupt. Perfect finish, only for it to be ruined by the Arab gentlemen who they had made the arms deal with commandeering the vehicles and taking Roper away to god knows where. That however is not the problem; the problem is the fact that Burr is so happy about it. Surely someone who has put all this effort in to getting Roper would want to see him tried and jailed for his crimes, surely that is what a law enforcement individual would want to see, and yet she couldn’t be any happier to see him taken off by some random Arab guys to god knows where, it makes no sense.
I read that the ending of the book goes along the lines of Pine gives up getting Roper and his cronies so as to save the life of Jed and Roper goes about his business as usual as if nothing ever happened (or something like this). This is a much better ending than the good guys win and the bad guys lose and everyone goes home happy. There was no loss whatsoever, there was no pain in the end, all of the good guys lived happily ever after and the bad guys probably ended up in shallow graves, it’s incredibly unoriginal and seems odd that they totally changed the ending to their source material.
That is the thing about the Night Manager, it is so close to being an exceptional piece of television but it ultimately falls flat because the story just isn’t that good. There are so many plot holes it is ridiculous, things which are used to push the tension up which in reality aren’t at all realistic. The whole premise of how Pine got into Roper’s inner circle is ludicrous and it never really recovers from there.
I did enjoy the Night Manager generally, however I find the amount of amazing reviews it is getting to be simply odd. It’s a good piece of television but nothing people will be remembering in five year’s time (unless they have Freddie Hamid level memory skills). If you ignore the odd plot strands and holes then it is a gripping spy thriller with engaging characters. The thing being that for this type of show to work you need an airtight plot and the Night Manager couldn’t plug enough of its holes and suffered because of it.
So what did you think of the Night Manager? Do you think that I’m too harsh on the plot? Is Tom Hiddleston really that dreamy? Would he make a good Bond? Who really cares? Might as well leave a comment and share those thoughts of yours.