Is it possible to do the right thing when everyone appeared to be taking short cuts that led to dire consequences? Can someone try to put a stop to it or die trying? That’s part of the premise behind AMC’s mini-series “The Night Manager,” which had one man determined to stop a powerfully untouchable individual by any means necessary. Will he like himself once it’s all over? Well, that remains to be seen, but the journey has so far been interesting.
“The Night Manager” followed Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) who was once a British soldier that left it behind after some tragic happened to him. He plunged into a world of quiet existence as a night manager at various hotels around the world. At one particular hotel, he crossed paths with a beautiful woman who happened to be the mistress of a well connected man. She gave him some information that mentioned the sale of various military type weapons that could start and end a war at the same time. Pine turned the information over to a government official friend of his, but he didn’t fully realize the depth of his actions when the woman ended up getting killed over the information she gave him. Before her death, Pine had a brief relationship with her that tormented his dreams ever since. He realized that the papers she gave him revealed that billionaire philanthropist Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) was truly an arms dealer under the guise of charity with a ruthlessness that made him untouchable from anyone looking to go after him. After some significant time passed, Pine was on a new assignment in Switzerland and he crossed paths with Roper and his girlfriend Jed Marshall (Elizabeth Debicki). Roper’s presence angered Pine so much that he contacted the only other person who wanted him to pay for his crimes: Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), a government official at a modest agency, who made it her life’s mission to destroy him. In each other, Angela and Jonathan found an ally as they created a plan to get Pine into Roper’s inner circle. This included making into a criminal ruthless enough to be Roper’s equal, so that no one would suspect Pine’s true motives. Sadly, they didn’t take into account Roper’s trusted advisor Major Lance Corkoran (Tom Hollander). Corkoran was skeptical of Pine’s convenient presence in Spain after Roper’s son was kidnapped and how Pine managed to rescue the boy. He also was suspicious of Pine’s suddenly altered background that made him the lethal weapon that he needed to be to get into Roper’s good graces. Will Roper allow him access or kill him before he gets the chance to enter?
In terms of questions, “The Night Manager” posed quite a few of them, but the biggest involved whether man would come out on top: Pine or Roper. That remained to be seen. If Pine won, he would have to deal with all of the horrible things he did to become victorious. Will he be able to justify his actions to himself and to others? The first two episodes tested the concept of whether it’s reasonable to dirty someone’s moral code in order to destroy a greater evil? Is it okay to compromise everything you believe in just to come out on top? Hiddleston’s Pine made for an interesting dilemma because he was a character who had his own code to live by that he sacrificed in order to catch a major villain. The mini-series was based on the John Le Carre book that followed a similar formula to the writer’s other novels about the struggle to balance morality and sense of duty, which were not often meant to go together in the world of international intrigue. Le Carre’s book blended reality and the ideals of being a spy in complex times that didn’t always involve a rosy conclusion. The show demonstrated that in order to fight the ultimate battle it took plenty of preparation and deception to get there. It also helped that Laurie and Hiddleston both played their characters to oily perfection. Viewers still haven’t been able to determine which one to root for after two episodes, even though it’s fairly obvious from the start. Both actors gave their characters lovable and loathsome qualities in equal measure. They also showcased a rapport that could prove interesting by the end of the series. The supporting cast could use a little improvement, even though Hollander’s Corkoran proved to express a lot without having to say too much. Colman’s Angela was the usual wise cracking government agent with a mission above all else. The show’s real enigma was Debicki’s Jed who was the femme fatale that could destroy two men if she wanted to, but the first two episodes haven’t yet demonstrated what was underneath the glossy exterior of her beautiful clothes. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Hiddleston and Laurie led the pack as their characters proved to be walking very thin moral, and legal, tightropes to get their individual end games. Hiddleston has proven to be an actor worth watching in recent years as he gone beyond the role of Loki from the Marvel universe. Sure, he still made a wonderful villain, but this time around he was able to play the ultimate anti-hero as someone who did bad things for the right reasons. Hiddleston’s Pine became someone tormented by his demons to the point where he retreated from the world. The one time that he decided to take a chance and it cost him someone he cared about, even though the relationship didn’t really get too far of the ground. He also gave Pine the right amount of bad boy danger that made him irresistible to women no matter what he did or didn’t do. Hiddleston’s strongest scene came when he first met Colman’s Angela as he explained his motives for contacting her. Pine’s first encounter with Roper pushed him into taking action and allowed him to go to extreme measures, such as going off the agency’s script to gain Roper’s trust. He knew what he needed to be done. Hiddleston also had an easy rapport with both Colman and Laurie that showcased both Pine’s moral and immoral sides to his personality. One brought out the good in him, while the other made him want to submit to his baser impulses in order to survive. Laurie, on the other side, had the more challenging task of going beyond the anti-hero he played on “House” to being an outright villain with no true code. He showcased that despite under Roper’s posh world was a dark undercurrent that threatened to swallow his loved ones whole if they weren’t too careful. Laurie often expressed Roper’s quiet malice with sometimes a mere look or a one liner that would send shivers down anyone’s spine. He played Roper as a calm villain who didn’t have to be flashy to cut a powerful figure over the world, which would make his inevitable downfall all the more interesting by the time episode 6 comes on.
“The Night Manager” premiered on April 19th and airs Tuesdays at 10:00 pm on AMC.
Verdict: Hiddleston and Laurie both demonstrated that they could played characters with questionable morals, but it was still fascinating to watch them descend into their own mutually self made destruction.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)