So what happened?
Smack bang in the middle of the Arab Spring in Cairo in 2011, Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), the night manager of an upmarket hotel, finds himself embroiled in yet more drama when a beautiful guest, who goes by the name Sophie, asks him to make copies of the paperwork detailing the arms deal between her boyfriend Freddie Hamid, the son of a powerful, local crime family, and Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie), an English arms dealer who uses his company’s philanthropic projects as cover for his corrupt transactions. After imploring Pine to take the copy to his friend, Ogilvey, at the British Embassy, he duly does and the ambassador immediately recognises the gravity of what he’s been handed, swiftly sending it to London and the desk of Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), the much put-upon Head of an underfunded branch of the Secret Services, who’s made previous attempts to bring Roper to justice.
Burr’s investigations raise red flags, however, and Sophie is badly beaten by Hamid when the deal is called off by Roper as soon as he realises she must be the source of the leak. Sensing his guest is in grave danger, Pine initially moves her to another room just before her boyfriend comes looking for her again, feigning ignorance when he’s forced to open up her original room by the menacing criminal, and then moves her to the relative safety of a house outside the city made available to him by a friend. Once there, his frightened but resolute charge seduces him and they spend the night together, leading him to promise the following day that he’ll do what he can to get her out of the country and to England. Once more meeting with Ogilvey, he’s disappointed to discover that nobody would be willing to help her out because of Roper’s connections in high places, and that she’d be in no way safe from either the businessman’s henchmen or, indeed, those of her boyfriend. After he informs her of this, Sophie defiantly returns to the hotel, ignoring Pine’s apologies/offers of help and heads up to her room. Later he receives a desperate call from the London-based Burr who insists that he gets her out of there immediately, but by the time he makes his way up, it’s already too late. Demanding that the police arrest Hamid for his lover’s brutal murder, the officer has no interest in involving anyone from that particular family because of their notoriety, and immediately dismisses the attack as a burglary gone wrong.
We then jump forward five years after Sophie’s death, and Pine is now the night manager at an exclusive, secluded hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland and about to welcome a last minute booking that turns out to be Roper and his entourage, the very man who helped to set up her demise. After a tense scene where the older man seems to play mind games with his younger counterpart when he spots there’s an attraction between him and his none too shy girlfriend, Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), Pine calls Burr on the number she gave him years previously and salvages the sim cards from the group’s burner phones that were discarded in the rubbish, all the while trying to listen in on the details of a deal Roper’s negotiating and side-stepping the suspicious gaze of his cohort, Corcoran (Tom Hollander). As episode one draws to a close, Colman’s character travels out to meet Pine and after he gives her the sim cards, she quizzes him over what he’d be prepared to do to bring Laurie’s villain down.
Our Fezzy Score:
Danielle: Overall I was pretty impressed with this first instalment. Hiddleston particularly surprised me as he coaxed the tension out of every twist and turn and deftly ran with it, thus proving he’s much more than just a pretty face. In fact, the acting on the whole was top notch, and Olivia Colman also shone as the ultra Northern, straight-talking Burr, who’s determined to fight budget cuts, bureaucracy and her gentlemans’ club dwelling colleagues to bring down Roper. Where I did feel let down was in the set up for Sophie’s death. Pine’s swift willingness to comply with her request to get involved seemed all too convenient, and was perhaps the product of the plot driving the characters, rather than vice versa. Furthermore, there were moments where the dialogue jarred a little. I’m not sure if it was because David Farr sought to keep as much of le Carré’s original dialogue as possible, (I hold my hands up and admit I haven’t read the book), but there were instances where the conversations between characters seemed a little dated, possibly because they were a little too faithful to the novel which was originally published over twenty years ago. Neither of these things are deal breakers for me though. I’m still very much on board for next week.
Marieke: The first episode was entertaining and I will keep watching, but surely there could have been a better spy set up than this? Even the obligatory ‘female/love interest’ kill box could be checked! To clarify, I haven’t read the novel either ( I am just watching TV shows to save reading time), but the update seems to work when it deals with the political situations and implications as there are now, but the ‘spy part’ seems to stick firmly in the 90s, apart from changing Burr’s gender, which was a stroke of genius. Who doesn’t love Olivia Colman doing what she does best? She didn’t even have to cry! The rest of the series will show if the simple spy storyline was just the prelude to an exciting series. I very much like the clean cinematography of it all, the show just looked beautiful without having any glamour. The spy business isn’t all James Bond, you see. I agree with my Fezzy colleague that Hiddleston does his job well. There wasn’t any moment I hoped the Hulk would swoop in to beat the crap out of him, so I was definitely impressed with him as the lead. Besides Colman it was also Hugh Laurie who shone and showed another side of his acting abilities. We know he is supposed to be the bad guy and super evil, but we didn’t really feel it until he appeared in Switzerland. There he was threatening without actually making any threats, like he seems to know everything (I even had the idea for a moment that he knew Hiddleston was in Cairo when he said Tangier instead. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t.) He manipulates with a wink so you don’t know whether to take him seriously or not. This promises us an interesting ride. Nevertheless, The Night Manager has to step up its game and not be so spy cliché for me to stay interested.
So what did you think? Let us know in the comments…