The Night Manager: Episode 6

When you have a suspicion about something, you try and confirm it.  That is exactly what Roper did in this, the last episode in the series.  As expected it was too little, too late.

With barely any resources at her fingertips, Angela Burr finally outsmarted Richard Roper. Watching Roper’s final realisation as his house of cards toppled was delicious.  His arrogance up to the last minute made it all the more sweeter.

I was convinced that Jed’s betrayal would lead to her death, thankfully that wasn’t the case.  With some careful footwork and some fortuitous timing, she was saved just as Roper’s deal was going up in smoke.

What surprised me most was the secret source inside Angela’s team.  His few lines were enough to show what he had done and who’s side he was on.  It was a pity that the senior members of MI6 didn’t suffer the same fate but I guess you can’t have everything.

From the start the acting was excellent.  Olivia Colman’s portrayal as a woman under siege felt human.  You too would feel harrassed and betrayed as your enemies, former friends, pulled the rug from under you.  From there it only got better.

Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Pine/Birch was fascinating.  Using friends he had not seen in years, Pine turned the tables on Roper.  A clandestine meeting followed by a late night drive set in place a plan which would see Roper ruined in front of a client.  As the deal went sour, Hugh Laurie’s skill as an actor shone through.  The mixture of vexation and haughtiness was wonderful to watch.

There has been a suggestion that this series was a perfect audition for Hiddleston’s potential hiring as James Bond.  There were many similarities including playing roulette (a convenient plot device to pass a code to Pine) so I can see why people would think this.  While it is not up to me to decide who should play Bond, it would make a refreshing change to see Hiddleston in the role.

In conclusion, after watching this series, I find myself wondering what accolades it will win.  One more thing, I had better add another John Le Carre novel to my collection.

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The Night Manager: Episode 5

Looking back on last night’s episode I got the feeling that the success of the team is not just about a race against time, but also avoiding being trapped between a rock and a hard place.

We begin with a trip to the Haven,  a camp of soldiers set close to a refugee camp.  In order to avoid too many questions, Roper hands out some aid boxes on the way.  On arrival, Roper is greeted like royalty by his men.

Personally I found this difficult to watch, not least because they are essentially mercenaries.  While ‘mercenary’ is a dirty word, PMCs or Private Military Companies are numerous.  They have been taking over the less onerous tasks from the military for some years (the industry is now worth billions of dollars).  Certainly the group surrounding Roper did not have a professional feel about them.  Perhaps it is because of their diverse nature, I’m not sure.

Pine’s task was to supervise a firepower demonstration for a potential client.  While it went well, I’m not sure it gave the impression it was looking for.  By that I mean, some of the performances felt a little off.  For example, Hugh Laurie’s line about napalm was a little too close to the famous Apocalypse Now quote, for comfort.

In the meantime, Rex Maberley, Angela Burr’s boss, gets the push from his boss.  The ‘good’ side are losing friends fast, even the Americans are pulling out, too.  To top it all, a senior member of MI6 warns Angela Burr off, personally.  These deals which Roper is overseeing, are valuable to the country.

With time and friends vanishing at a rapid rate of knots, Angela Burr soon finds herself on her own.  Pine, with the arrival of Corcoran, is feeling the pressure too.  A night time excursion to deliver a message is spotted by Corky, leaving Pine no choice but to take him out.  Roper, desperate to find out who has been selling his secrets casts suspicion over everyone.  With Corky’s death, a convenient scapegoat is found.

Lastly we come to the convoy fiasco.  Angela Burr’s team, via Pine, hears about a convoy of weapons disguised as humanitarian aid heading to the border.  On interception, it is found to contain grain and agricultural equipment.

While it was a good episode, there were some scenes that did not feel right for me.  I was looking for either a gleeful, happy evil from Roper or a darker, colder one.  Instead it felt flat, neither cold nor anything else for that matter.

The performances from the rest of the cast was very convincing.  Elizabeth Debicki’s confession scene felt real.  Her lines were excellently thought out and well delivered.  Just one more episode to go for this intriguing story.

The Night Manager: Episode 4

Now that Pine is deep inside Roper’s crew he can be trusted to own one of Roper’s companies and it is here where we start.  His meddling has not gone unnoticed by Corcoran who has taken more than a dislike to Pine.  Threats ensue especially after a nighttime liaison.  While at the time there was nothing untoward going on between Pine and Roper’s girlfriend, they soon develop a more intimate friendship.

Angela’s back-up source has been getting cold feet and needed persuading to help once more.  His fears are realised later on when he is found dead.  The information he gave was pivotal in more ways than one.

For a start Angela’s team, with the help of a mole, (I use the term loosely here) is able to discover who is set to gain from Roper’s deals.  Shockingly the people are senior members of MI6.  To make matters worse, a member of the government is embroiled in it too.  Wheels must turn which results in the aforementioned death.

While this is going on Roper and Co. make their way to Istanbul.  It is here that Pine must carry out his first transaction of his new company.  As expected, all goes smoothly.

Then we come to a scene which I felt was unnecessary. We know that these deals involve weapons, through dialogue as well as carefully photographed documents, so why show Roper and Co. visiting the ship the weapons arrived on?  Perhaps it is to add an air of excitement or danger to the proceedings.  Without actually seeing the weapons the story could come across as being lukewarm.  I can only guess.

Pine’s antics with Roper’s girlfriend were not as secret as you might think.  Angela’s team have discovered the affair and they order him out.  Panicking, Pine informs Roper of a police presence and they escape just in time.

This episode, despite the earlier reservation, was very good.  The plot twists and turns, never quite going where you think it is.  It helps that brilliant acting brings the story to the fore.  While I have taken the time to highlight the main cast, the supporting members are excellent too.  Even the dinner guest who lost a lobster salad to Corcoran’s antics was well played.

 

photo courtesy of intheequation.com

The Night Manager (Episode 3)

After watching last night’s episode I have come to the conclusion that it was predominantly about liaisons and testing loyalties.  Now that Pine is inside Roper’s group he needs to alter the balance of power so he can have more access.

Treading carefully, Pine must move from being the pariah of the group into one with power.  The best way to do that is the eliminate his rival, Major Corcoran.  In doing so Pine aligns himself with some intriguing characters.  With their unwitting help, as well as Angela and her team assisting, Pine is able to sideline the threat and come up smelling of roses.

While the main plot is evolving a sub-plot is taking shape, one which threatens to undo all Pine’s hard work.  Inter-agency rivalry (MI6, CIA et al) is beginning to make itself felt. Some members of the aforementioned intelligence services are jealous of Angela and her team and will do anything to take over the operation.  What is doubly surprising is that at least one of the agencies is passing intelligence to Roper directly.

Over the last three hours the story has unfolded gently enabling the viewer to get their teeth into each character.  Murder, suicide, adultery, cynicism, naivety and even a dash of self-loathing have had their part to play.  Relationships, both personal and professional, feel the strain and start to dissolve.  These characters, including Richard Roper, feel vulnerable and perfectly human.  It makes me wonder where the story will go next.

As always, the acting has been solid throughout.  Hugh Laurie is excellent as Roper.  The mix of bully, sneak, liar and arrogant philanthropist has been captured perfectly.

The Night Manager (Episode 2)

Just how do you show the journey from respectable Night Manager to hardened criminal in an hour?  If you watch this episode it’ll surely give you a few ideas.

We start by following Roper and his gang as they have a party on a terrace in Mallorca, Spain (Yes, I am aware it is an island).   From the first episode we know we must hate them but there is a happy, family atmosphere.  There is just enough of an uncomfortable feeling about the group, however.  Events take a rapid turn for the worse when two armed men show up and kidnap Roper’s son.

A quick change of setting informs us that what we have seen us six months into the future.  Now we return to the ‘present’ where Pine meets with Angela (Olivia Colman) who wishes to recruit him.  His response is a rather underwhelming, yes.

To help put him on the next stage, he must steal.  With that over, Pine moves to darkest Dorset where he is masquerading as Jack Lyndon.  For those of you who don’t know where that is, it is a county in the South West of England. For his ‘Legend’ (background in spy parlance) Pine must be a nasty person indeed.  Roper does not follow the rules and neither must Pine.

Sure enough he shakes up the little village he has been living in and scurries off without warning when it gets too hot for him.  Returning to the new present (Mallorca), Pine stops the kidnappers but not without being badly beaten himself.

Yet again we are treated to some impressive performances including a very convincing Dorset woman played by Hannah Steele.  She managed to get the right mix of innocence and shock in her character and I hope she goes on to bigger and better roles.  Olivia Colman takes a bigger part in this episode which is nice to see as she is always watchable.

This episode has progressed the story nicely, moving along at a decent pace, never feeling like you are being dragged along.  Some might argue that his ‘legend’ need not have been shown, but I feel it shows depth to a character.  Motivations are better understood when you know what someone has been through.  You might not agree with the action, but at least you should understand why.

The Night Manager (Episode 1)

I confess, I love books by John Le Carre so I was more than a little intrigued when I saw the trailer for this six part mini series.  I admit now though, that this is not one of the books I own.  As such I could watch this with fresh eyes much like I did some years ago when Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was repeated.

Ignoring the prologue, which tells us briefly about the antagonist, we start in Egypt in 2011.  Starting as it does, I began to wonder where the story would progress.  We begin by following the unflappable Johnathan Pine, night manager at a top-class hotel in Cairo.  Used to dealing with problems discreetly, I wonder how well prepared he was for what happened next.

One of his guests, a woman by the name of Sophie, wants to copy a document.  This is no ordinary document as it is in fact, a request to purchase and ship arms to Egypt from an arms dealer called Richard Roper.  The woman in question is none other than the mistress of Freddie Hamid, young playboy of the Hamid family.  This isn’t just any family either, the Hamids own most of Cairo.

Johnathan’s orders don’t just cover copying the documents either.  If anything were to happen to Sophie, he is to take the copy straight to his friend, Simon Ogilvy, working in the British Embassy.  Matters start to unravel when Johnathan hands the copy over the following day.  Word gets back to Freddie and Sophie is soon found dead.  With an investigation into Richard Roper strangled at birth, there is nothing more anybody can do.

Four years later sees Johnathan as the night manager in a hotel in Switzerland where chance has brought him into contact with Richard Roper himself.  Taking the opportunity to re-establish contact with Simon’s friends, Johnathan does his utmost to keep tabs on Roper and his entourage.

Tom Hiddleston proved to be an excellent choice to play Johnathan Pine.  He is instantly watchable but never to the point where he hogs the screen.  Johnathan must be the object of discretion so cannot take centre stage.  His characteristics must include; impeccable manners, cordiality, trust and the ability to get things done.  Tom brought those to the fore with ease.

From watching ‘House’, I can say that Hugh Laurie does ‘evil’ admirably.  His opening scene gives but a glimpse of what his character is like.  Roper’s public image is little more than a paper thin façade designed to distract the public.

Tom and Hugh were joined by Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander, both bringing their talents to their characters too.  All four actors, and the supporting cast had me hooked from the word go.

Episode one was a gentle start into what I reckon will be an interesting and exciting adventure.  And if episode one is a good indicator for the other five episodes, then I want in.

The Young Montalbano: An Apricot (2/6)

As I look back over ‘An Apricot’ I can’t help but admire Andrea Camilleri’s skill as a writer.  He has managed to weave a story that twists and turns, leaving you wanting more.  Certainly, of all the endings I was expecting, this was not one of them.  But lets not put the wrong end first.

Salvo’s imminent departure is what starts the story.  Livia has arrived to help pack.  On the way home from the airport, they discover an old stone wall close to a cliff edge has been knocked down.  On further investigation we find an overturned car at the bottom of the cliff with a dead woman inside.

The woman worked as a model at a local agency and had been having a relationship with one of her employers.  This had ceased some months ago, however, all was not as it seemed.  Digging deeper, they find she had an apricot stone stuck in her throat.  This is odd as she was known to be allergic to the fruit.

Now convinced of her murder, the team checks out her new lover, a photographer working at the same agency.  We learn very quickly that he is a heroin addict.  Suspicion soon flits from one suspect to another as new clues arise.  Even her neighbour is suspected.  Bit by bit the story is revealed, the agency has been shipping drugs to South America.

Finally settling on the real killer, we are dismayed to see that he has been killed too.  Worse than that, he is murdered right outside Montalbano’s house and the night before he is due to leave.  Being the dedicated detective, Salvo stays behind while Livia returns to Genoa.

Little more than two days later and he has unraveled the mess and is finally ready to leave.  Just before he goes, he decides to take one last look around town.  A lack of people is bewildering until he returns to the station.  It is there that we learn of a shocking event that persuades him to stay.

While I suspected Montalbano would continue to stay in Sicily, I had hoped to see him at work in a new venue.  However, living and working in a city like Genoa would entail a complete change in pace.  Whatever happens in the mean time, I hope I will not have to wait too long for the next series.