RECAP & REVIEW: The Night Manager – Episode 2

So what happened?

When Jed finally finishes getting herself ready after trying on various undergarments, fielding a call from a Mother, who only seems interested in inquiring about the money she sends to her/calling her daughter a whore, and popping numerous pills, she finally heads off on a speedboat from their Mallorcan fortress to a local restaurant with her arms dealer boyfriend, his young son, Daniel, and the rest of Roper’s inner circle along with their families. Once there, the meal appears to be going spectacularly well with much merriment and even dancing, until their soiree is interrupted by armed robbers, who, unsatisfied with the money and jewellery the patrons offer up to them, attempt to kidnap Roper Jr. Mysteriously, however, their crime is being witnessed by Pine from behind the restaurant’s kitchen door.

The Night Manager
Noah Jupe as Daniel Roper shortly before the attempted kidnapping.

Cue a time jump back six months to Zermatt, and Burr expertly trying to recruit Hiddleston’s character to bring down Roper by playing on his guilt over Sophie’s death and his need to honour his deceased father, and in no time at all he’s meeting her in a hotel in London, agreeing to unleash his inner psychopath and signing forms to say he jumped and wasn’t pushed into his clandestine new role. All of this after stealing a large sum of money from his previous employers in Switzerland: the first part of his handler’s plan to give him the sort of criminal background that wouldn’t seem out of place amongst Roper’s inner circle. With one of her colleagues, the Police and her American intelligence officer friend, Steadman (David Harewood), on side, she sets about deepening his credentials by deploying him to Devon. Once there Pine sets himself up in an abandoned cottage, forcibly inserts himself at the top of the chain in a local drugs ring by assaulting a dealer and informing him he’ll be buying his drugs from him now, and then openly has a fight in the pub with an associate (actually an agent who’s in on it) who he’s later supposed to have murdered back at the cottage. He even finds the time to seduce the local shopkeeper/his landlady, who he not only gives a false name to, but steals the identity of her former partner to make a fake passport and then allows her to stumble into the blood-soaked scene of the faux murder so everything seems all the more legit.

With his backstory now in place, we return to that Mallorcan restaurant and the kidnapping of Roper’s son. As it turns out the whole thing has also been a set-up, and after Pine manages to wrestle Daniel from his assailants whilst posing as a member of the kitchen staff, his fight with the two agents/kidnappers to make things look real becomes all too grounded in reality when he breaks one man’s arms in three places and the remaining ‘robber’ decides to give him the beating of his life for extra authenticity and revenge. Left broken, bloody and bruised for Roper to find and begging for the Police to not be involved, the young boy explains that Pine was the one who saved him and on recognising his son’s saviour as the night manager from the Swiss hotel he stayed at months earlier, the arms dealer arranges for him to be treated at a private hospital. By tapping Corcoran’s phone when he makes enquiries about the ‘hero of the hour’, Burr and Steadman learn that Pine both survived the attack and was now on the inside of Roper’s operation, and so arrange for international warrants to be put out for his arrest in all his guises so that the henchman will discover that he’s wanted for theft and murder. To further protect their man on the inside’s identity, they take a trip to MI6 headquarters and pointedly ask for their help in bringing down Roper, knowing full well they’ll draw a blank when they lie about having little to go on other than a lead on a possible arms deal that may be taking place at some point in the future and having nobody in the ultra-rich criminal’s inner sanctum.

The Night Manager
Roper (Hugh Laurie) tucking in his ‘house guest’, Pine (Tom Hiddleston)

After the newly christened spy has been operated on and is starting to heal, he’s transported via ambulance to Roper’s mansion for bed rest and to wait for his host’s return from a business trip. There he’s thanked copiously for his bravery by Jed and Daniel, but gets a much frostier reception from Corcoran, who sees that he’s watched over by his boss’ thugs at all times and then confronts him about his nefarious past that he’s managed to dig up through his contacts, issuing a strongly worded threat if he finds out that the new arrival is somehow stringing them along. When Roper finally returns, he checks in on Pine, who pretends to be asleep, and vows to find out exactly what he’s about.

The Verdict?

Our Fezzy Score: rsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_tiny_fez

Danielle: This second episode was a very mixed bag for me. Watching Olivia Colman attempt to force-feed Tom Hiddleston biscuits whilst imploring him to tap into his inner psychopath is not something I thought I’d ever see on TV. In spite of the fact it wouldn’t have seemed out of place in an episode of the The League of Gentleman, I’m glad I did. It added some much needed light relief to a show that not only showcases grim subject matter, but also insists on taking itself completely seriously, unlike its tongue-in-cheek cousin, the Bond franchise, which often winks at the audience and gesticulates knowingly when the villains are arch, the women impossibly beautiful and compliant, and the plotlines increasingly implausible. In contrast, The Night Manager seems to double down when the realms of believability are left behind and attempts to drag the audience along with the sheer pace of the ride, with uneven success. The convenience of Roper even entertaining the possibility that Pine would have turned up just at the right time to save his son is particularly, well, silly but we’ll see how that’s explained away in the coming weeks.

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Elizabeth Debicki’s character, Jed, is proving just as problematic as Sophie was in the first episode.

My biggest problem, however, is that there appears to be an issue with the female characters at the heart of this adaptation, an issue that probably has its roots in the original novel. Burr aside, (who let’s not forget was transformed into a female secret service chief from the male character in the book), the feminine presence in the show has so far solely included beautiful, but dependent and apparently expendable women who need to be saved by the handsome protagonist. In the first episode, Sophie was described as her boyfriend’s whore, promptly seduced Pine and then murdered to move the plot along, and it looks like Jed’s probably going to take a similar trajectory as we saw here that she’s deeply unhappy with her situation as Roper’s arm candy and ripe to be scooped up from her unhappy existence by a heroic suitor. Even the hotelier-turned-spy’s brief fling with the Devon shopkeeper came out of a lack of agency on her part, and the need for her to be feckless enough to automatically fall for a devilishly handsome rogue so his criminal alter ego could be given more credence. Furthermore, this problem was compounded when Bier, a prominent female director, sought to fetishize Debicki’s character in an opening scene that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a Hitchcock movie, even if there were obvious attempts to redress the balance by focusing on Hiddleston’s chiselled torso on other occasions. It’s both baffling and frustrating in its outdatedness.

In the acting stakes, Colman continues to be the best thing about the show, with her Rev co-star, Tom Hollander, coming a close second as Roper’s suspicion-laden second-in-command with a thinly-veiled Napoleon complex. Likewise, Hiddleston is also proving himself a very safe air of hands for the enigmatic Pine. Where the slight niggles come in are with a couple of the accents. I have the same reservations about David Harewood’s American accent as I did when he was on Homeland, and Laurie’s cut glass dialect has become so ridiculously plummy that his character comes across as if he could be seen wandering out of 1922 committee meeting any minute with living, political anachronism, Jacob Rees-Mogg. It’s a shame really, as otherwise he’s giving a good account of himself in the limited screen time that we actually see the ultra-villainous Roper. On the whole though, I don’t hate the show. Far from it. It’s an entertaining enough, visually pleasing way to spend an hour. Nevertheless it’s brought very little that’s new to the spy genre up to now. We’ll just have to see how things develop.

Marieke: The second episode gave me the odd feeling that it was even more of a set up episode than the first one. There has not been a lot of progression, even though Pine/ Quince/Linden/chef/night manager is within the enemy walls now. With the bare minimum of training he has become a spy who’s pretending to be on the same despicable level as Roper. Imagine M training 007 by yelling at him and telling him he should only think about himself. Seriously, imagine Dame Judi Dench yelling at Daniel Craig like Burr did before handing him his license to kill. It is as unlikely as it is amusing. I’m not sure where to put this show. It takes itself very seriously even though it is just plain ridiculous at times. From the beginning of this episode, all I thought was that Roper met Pine, how are they going to deal with that? A little stealing and an undercover second and third names establishing mission is all it takes to get on Roper’s level? We don’t know Roper well yet, but he comes across as a super villain who is so good he never gets caught. Because he is that smart supposedly. Burr and her American colleague were even surprised when their newest recruit went off-plan for the sake of authenticity. Well, duh! He never went through the obligatory training montage to reassure us about him possibly being ill-equipped to face ‘The Worst Man in the World’. Hollander playing the henchman of all henchmen clearly does not buy it either and is willing to torture Pine. He probably will be able to withstand that after  Burr’s advanced spy training. I mean, she is pregnant and she was yelling.

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Yet again, David Harewood’s American accent didn’t impress us.

At the end we still do not know how the Pine/Quince situation is dealt with, which makes it a waste of time to me. Chapters like these work in novels, but not as stand alone episodes. The format of the episode itself, with the flashback, also seemed too clever for its own good. The visuals are still stunning and each country looks like it features in a promo video for a travel company, but it only adds to the slowness of the story which just has not progressed as I hoped it would. The audience is pretty ‘Jon Snow’ in this, as we know nothing. The acting is still good, although because of the accent I cannot shake the feeling a Homeland character passed to the world of the living again. All in all, I found this episode a bit boring and maybe they should have not dragged out the Sophie storyline, and somehow made one episode out of the first two. I agree with my Fezzy colleague on the womens’ roles. Although often criticised, and rightly so, it seems we are not even going to get a woman measuring up with a kick-ass Bond girl. Only M-like Burr it is then, quite like Skyfall actually. Oh and I do think Pine will be fine. After all, he saved Roper’s son and as far as spy clichés go, saving a child trumps all lack of experience. Next time we will see if I should have put money on that statement.

So what did you think? Let us know in the comments…

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