Episode One: Written by David Farr
We begin in Egypt, at the beginning of the Arab Spring, with a character establishing walk being taken by Jonathan, the eponymous manager, as he goes through the protesters and gunfire to get to work. It’s a smart, short way to tell you everything you need to know about our protagonist: he’s fearless, charming and not afraid of gunfire.
Which is why, when he learns that British billionaire and philanthropist Richard Roper is selling biological, physical and chemical weapons to one of the most powerful families in Egypt, he immediately does his best to warn The Circus.
Adapted from the John le Carre novel of the same name this first episode gives us a lush teleplay with gorgeous scenery, amazing clothes and striking shots. It sets up the international players and politics well, giving us a stark view of the uphill battle to do the right thing when those you’re fighting against literally have billions of dollars to spend and hundreds of contacts all over the world.
However, all the beautifully shot and lovely scenery in the world would mean nothing without a good cast and The Night Manager has this in spades. From Olivia Colman‘s no-nonsense Angela to Aure Atika‘s Sophie, who (despite every reason not to) does the right thing, you’re immediately drawn into their world.
This is especially true for Jonathan. The series hangs on Tom Hiddleston’s infinite charm and well known kindness and Hiddleston, as always, brings his A-game. Jonathan, a former soldier who has withdrawn from the world even before the events of the episode, has seen a lot of terrible things. It’s clear he uses his job to maintain both his humanity and his distance from those around him. As the night manager he gets to have it both ways until he makes the mistake of letting his basic decency overrule his need for exile.
Hiddleston is ably matched by Hugh Laurie, bringing an overbearing charm of his own to Roper. We don’t get much of him this episode beyond what we learn from others but what we do get is subtly terrifying: I spent the entire time watching Roper’s first interactions with Jonathan waiting for other shoe to drop and praying that he makes it out of the room alive.
Another to watch out for is Tom Hollander‘s Corky, Roper’s right hand. He’s smarmy, intelligent, vicious and a shameless flirt, which is unfortunate for Jonathan on several levels as both Corky and Roper hone in on him in a deeply unsettling fashion.
Capturing the tension and thrill of John le Carre’s novel, this first outing is on point, let’s hope the next one stays there because much like Jonathan I’m all in. I give Episode One 5 out of 5 sim cards.
He sells destruction, pain and death and he laughs.