The Night Manager, Episode 1
For those of us stateside, the miniseries adaptation of John le Carre’s The Night Manager premiered last night on AMC. Though le Carre’s novel was published in 1993, this adaptation of the thriller espionage story has been updated to reflect the current geopolitical climate. With Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston cast in the principal roles, the first installment of The Night Manager promises a pretty intense ride ahead. Better buckle up!
The episode opens by introducing us to Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), the philanthropist. Speaking at an event, Roper extols the virtues of his refugee program, exclaiming, “My good fortune means nothing, unless it also lifts up my fellow man.” It’s only 30 seconds, but—my!—it’s a pretty telling 30 seconds: Roper uses the right words, but seems to overshoot in his reach for a tone of humility, making it fairly plain that it is feigned. We cut away from Roper amid ovation and move right into Cairo, Egypt, in the middle of the January 2011 protests that characterized the Egyptian wave of The Arab Spring. We are introduced to Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) as he picks his way through throngs of protesters—hardly flinching while dodging the violent eruptions between the demonstrators and security forces—on his way to the Nefertiti Hotel, where he works as the titular night manager.
While arranging for safe passage out of Cairo for the hotel’s upscale and largely international clientele, Mr. Pine finds himself singled out by Sophie Alekan (Aure Atika), the mistress of the youngest son of the influential (and corrupt) Hamid family. Sophie, a rather commanding presence in her own right, induces Pine to make copies of confidential documents for her—documents, including precise invoices, that implicate her lover’s family’s involvement in a large arms purchase from none other than Richard Roper’s Iron Last corporation. Sophie bids Jonathan to lock the copies away in his safe and, should something happen to her, to take them to his acquaintance at the British Embassy.
Realizing the implications of such a large arms deal in the midst of a popular uprising, Pine turns the documents over to his contact at the Embassy without waiting for violent misfortune to befall Sophie. Clearly the intelligence community is not all of the same mind about Roper or this arms deal, as someone tips off Roper, who then backs out of the deal. The very violence against Sophie that Jonathan attempted to preempt does come to pass; though he kept hoping to find a way to get her to safety—falling for her in the process, he finds her murdered in her hotel room. It does not take long for Mr. Pine to find that there will be no justice for Sophie’s murder; he is implicitly threatened to be charged for the murder himself should he push for a fair investigation.
The episode cuts to four years later and we find Jonathan Pine now working as the night manager at a luxury hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland. It is here that Mr. Pine comes face to face with Richard Roper. Throughout the long initial interaction, Jonathan keeps his mask on, performing his duties with all the requisite professional cheer and hospitality, while quietly observing the man Sophie had dubbed “the worst man in the world” and his compatriots. Upon finally being discharged from their company, Pine rushes in retreat to a restroom where he retches up all the feelings he’d be forced to swallow since learning of Roper’s imminent arrival at the hotel.
He quickly regains his composure and begins working to gather information to pass to a member of the intelligence community, Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), who had attempted to help Jonathan save Sophie. Once he has in his possession the discarded SIM cards from Roper’s party’s cell phones, he calls and arranges a meeting with Burr. As he hands the SIM cards over to her, Jonathan tells Angela to do whatever she wants with them, but to leave him out of it: He does not want to be involved. Angela counters him, arguing that Sophie’s murder made him involved. Further, she argues, she knows that he cannot have forgiven Roper for Sophie’s murder and asks, “What are you prepared to do about it?” Aaaand roll credits. DUN DUN DUUUNN!
Though I have seen a few folks comment that the pacing of this first episode was too slow for them to get into, I enjoyed the time taken to introduce the audience to the time, place, and players in this story. I appreciated the incorporation of the Arab Spring into the adaptation; its inclusion anchors the story in time, but could also provide a realistic grounding for in-story conversations about the arms trade, corruption, and the refugee crisis (remember: we were introduced to Roper by way of his talk about his safe-haven program for refugees).
I really dig the casting. Before I get to the two principal characters, I have to say that I both enjoyed and was a little weirded out by Tom Hollander’s casting as Lance Corkoran (“Corky”). Every time he spoke, I could only hear Lord Cutler Beckett from Pirates of the Caribbean: “It’s just good business.” I also really like Olivia Colman as Angela Burr: She is headstrong, outspoken, and just the right amount of snarky. The principles, though, are pretty phenomenally cast, IMO. Hugh Laurie has a special gift for playing entitled jerks, though in the past—and I’m particularly thinking of Dr. House here—there’s always been some something that makes those entitled jerks just endearing enough to keep viewers from hating the ever-loving crap out of them. That is not the case, thus far, with Richard Roper: he is sleazy. Though he’s only onscreen for 20 or so minutes, Roper just oozes sleaze—wealthy, entitled sleaze. Tom Hiddleston does a great job bringing to life a former soldier who, under that professional and accommodating exterior, has seen some shit. From what I can tell, though it may change over the course of the series, Jonathan Pine definitely seems fall into—in the parlance of role-playing games—the “chaotic good” category.
This first episode introduces us to who these two men are, but not why they are who they are. I am very much looking forward to seeing if these characters are going to be fleshed out with more backstory. I am also very much anticipating finding out what, exactly, Jonathan Pine is prepared to do to stop Richard Roper. And I really hope I get to see more of Angela Burr’s snark; it makes me happy.
Oh, and—ummm—apparently, at some point, we’re supposed to be treated to more scenes of Tom Hiddleston shirtless. I mean, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing. *wink*