I’m one of those people who happily travels solo. In the course of doing so, I often strike up conversations in the evening with the people who work in the hotels where I stay, so the baseline idea behind The Night Manager was intriguing to me. A spy drama series based on the novel by the same name (but updated from the Gulf War) by John le Carré, it follows a quiet, unassuming young man into a life of spycraft after he gets too close to one of his guests.
The action begins at the start of the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo as Englishman Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), a hotelier at an upscale boutique hotel, arrives early for his overnight shift to help calm and evacuate his guests. Quite good at what he does, he’s anonymous, efficient, and fairly unruffle-able. One guest in particular, Sophie (Aure Atika), also isn’t rattled at all by the world crashing down outside the hotel.
Instead, she entices Pine to take a break with her. He does, and then she asks him to copy documents for safekeeping. A casual glance at the papers in front of him sets him off on a terrifying and dangerous new path when he sees that a well-known British businessman parading as a great humanitarian, Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), is anything but. Instead of looking the other way, he follows his normal impulse to do something, anything and it has grave consequences.
The six-hour mini-series will follow Pine down a rabbit hole of British intelligence and arms dealing while he tries to hang onto his soul. The first episode is mix of fury and silence, beginning in Cairo and ending in Switzerland, where Pine retreats after things go very badly in Egypt, until opportunity knocks.
I really liked the meandering nature of it, as we get to know Pine, a former soldier who survived two tours in Iraq before making a life as an expat. He’s a watchful, waiting sort of fellow, who Sophie rightly sizes up as wearing many faces. That’s exactly what will make him the perfect weapon.
I know of Hiddleston and am aware of his popularity, but I haven’t actively sought him out. I think I was better served by that — going in cold and just watching him act. He’s very, very good here as a man who tries to do the honorable thing and is devastated when it backfires. I’ll be looking for him in things now.
Laurie, of course, has done shades of awful, terrible men before. We don’t get to know much about him in the first episode. The fact that he’s here, and that he and Hiddleston are also executive producers, bodes well for the quality we’re going to get. Susanne Bier (Serena) directed and David Farr (MI-5 and the upcoming The Ones Below) wrote all six episodes.
Look for Broadchurch‘s Olivia Colman as British Intelligence officer Angela Burr, Penny Dreadful‘s Douglas Hodge as her boss, Rex, Tom Hollander (Doctor Thorne) as Roper’s right-hand man, Corky, and Elizabeth Debicki as Roper’s girlfriend, Jed. I have to give a shout out, too, to the very cool title credits, which morph objects associated with wealth into weapons, a neat play on Roper’s lifestyle.
Note: this has already aired in the UK, so mind your Googling if you do not want to be spoiled.
The Night Manager airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on AMC in the U.S. and Canada. If you missed the first episode, it’s available online and will repeat all week. Here are a couple of vignettes about last night’s premiere, for after you’ve watched.
Photos Courtesy of Des Willie /The Ink Factory/AMC; Videos Courtesy of AMC.