Good characters elevate this twisty spy thriller.
Netflix's The Night Agent is the kind of old-fashioned chase thriller you don't see much any more, reminiscent of the Bourne series or 24.
The show follows FBI agent Peter Sutherland (Gabriel Basso), whose heroism during a metro train bombing earns him a position in the top-secret agency called "Night Action." His job is to analyze intel and man the emergency hotline that "never rings", a drab assignment he hopes will be a stepping stone to becoming a full Night Agent.
Enter Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan), a cybersecurity entrepreneur whose aunt and uncle are—unbeknownst to her—working for Night Action. When assassins come after them, Rose's aunt and uncle give her the codes for Peter's hotline and send her off to get help. Peter arrives too late to save her family, but takes Rose under the agency's protection.
Together they become embroiled in a wide-reaching conspiracy that involves the mission Rose's aunt and uncle were killed for, the metro bombing, an assassination plot, and enough twists and turns that neither the characters nor the audience can be sure who to trust.
The characters are what make the show interesting. Peter comes off stiff at first, a typical stoic action hero with a chip on his shoulder over his disgraced agent father. As the series goes on, he warms up and gains more interesting depth. And although she's being hunted by assassins, Rose's intelligent resourcefulness keeps her from ever feeling like a mere damsel in distress. She's determined to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and avenge her family. They're both relatable underdogs.
A fistful of great supporting characters round out the cast, including a pair of secret service agents protecting the vice president's daughter, and a smooth-talking White House chief of staff whose loyalties are murky. A surprising number of the characters were badass women, including the president, chief of staff, and the lead secret service agent.
Hong Chau, who plays the chief of staff, told The Nerds of Color that the show, "wanted to explore the different dynamics between men and women in a professional setting." There are some interesting interactions here. Rose bristles at being second fiddle to Peter, but he (rightly) points out that he's the one with the training and experience. The two secret service agents butt heads over their different styles (a mix of both gendered and generational conflicts), but ultimately have to work together to protect their charge. I don't think there's a lot of deep insight here, but they at least tried something different.
The series does drag a bit in the middle, sagging under the weight of too many parallel plotlines and misdirections. But stick with it, because it kicks into high gear in the last third of the season. They seem to be leaving it open for a continuation, and I'd certainly be happy to see another season with Peter and the agency.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
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