The Night Manager: 8 Reasons Why We Loved It
Feature by Rob Carnevale
BBC drama The Night Manager drew to its explosive finale on Sunday night and maintained the quality to the end. Tense, sexy, brilliantly acted and tightly scripted, the show had something of everything to enjoy.
So, without further hesitation, we deliver 10 reasons why we [and the nation in general] loved this top-notch spy drama.
1) Tom Hiddleston Already one of Britain’s most likeable actors, Hiddleston – previously best known for playing the villainous Loki in Marvel’s Avengers and Thor films – raised his stock still higher. The actor invested his Jonathan Pine with charm, charisma and edge. He was resourceful, calm under pressure, eloquent and willing to take risks. And while the sex appeal was undoubtedly high (as evidenced by the Twitter trending that followed the showing of his bare bum), so too was that element of danger as evidenced when forced to kill to protect his identity or gain some revenge. These are two qualities associated with another world-famous spy and Hiddleston’s name had already been in the frame to possibly take over as 007 once Daniel Craig hangs up his gun. Few could now complain if he donned the tuxedo.
2) Hugh Laurie The former comedian and grouchy Doctor House MD returned to UK television in startling fashion as the big bad of the series. Yet this was no moustache twiddling, one-dimensional villain. Rather, Laurie invested his shady Richard Roper with charm to match the menace – and an everyman businessman quality that made it easy for him to conduct business in plain sight. There was also a pleasing complexity to him as well as a certain mystery. The ‘why’ of his world never needed explaining, even though we remained intrigued enough to learn more about him.
3) Olivia Colman It would be easy simply to write ‘when is Olivia Colman not great?’ But that would be to undermine her achievement. Playing the heavily pregnant Angela Burr, Colman brought humanity to a series that could have become a little soulless otherwise. Her big moment, as she tearfully recalled the reason she hated Roper so much, was a masterclass in acting, painting a vivid picture of the horror of arms dealing without over-playing her hand. It made any victories she achieved all the more sweet given the personal stakes at play.
4) Elizabeth Debicki It would have been easy to make Jed Marshall the token damsel-in-distress, the woman caught in a man’s world. But Debicki took the role and made it so much more. She brought vulnerability, for sure, but also a resilience that made her a decent ally for Pine. And there was emotional complexity too. This was a woman trapped by horrible circumstance, who had to conduct her life like a poker player. And yet she had the audacity to take risks, falling for Pine yet sleeping with Roper. She wasn’t afraid to use her sexuality, which made her all the more alluring. Yet also a dangerous proposition. Could the veneer hold? Could she mask her own hatred long enough? It was a nuanced performance from an actress who is clearly one to watch.
5) Tom Hollander Major Corkoran, or Corky, was another of the show’s prized assets. The loyal right-hand man to Roper, or bulldog to his friends and enemies, Hollander was a mesmerising supporting act who stole most of the best lines. Few actors could inject so much menace into a throwaway line like “tootaloo”, yet Hollander managed it with aplomb. He was a constant thorn in Pine’s side, always suspicious, yet fatefully not brave enough to pull the plug until it was too late. Hollander helped to elevate an already brilliant series whenever he was on-screen and we’d pine for his presence just to watch him devour his lines.
6) Susanne Bier The Danish director, best known for films such as In A Better World and Love Is All You Need, brought a keen visual style to John le Carré’s world. This felt like a six hour movie masquerading as a mini-series given its exotic locations, its slick action and its overall sense of panache. Bier proved a dab hand at mixing high stakes tension with intricate storytelling and a heightened sexuality. It was little wonder that audiences were so quickly seduced.
7) David Farr Screenwriter Farr took John le Carre’s post-Cold War novel and set it in the present day, in the middle of the Arab Spring. It was a master-stroke of a decision, giving the series a contemporary relevance that felt all too real. It also gave it an immediacy. Of note, too, was his sparkling dialogue, with every episode delivering one or three lines to genuinely savour. Admittedly, most of those seemed to fall to Hollander, yet arguably the best was reserved for Laurie and the Apocalypse Now referencing [and subverting] ‘nothing quite as pretty as napalm at night’. Such witty word-play often helped to offset the tension, which built so well because of Farr’s expert mastering of the material.
8) The final episode Where some series can tend to peter out or underwhelm, The Night Manager maintained its grip until the very end. There were betrayals, deaths, double crosses… the lot. The fate of at least three major characters hung in the balance at various points, with the battle of wits between Roper and Pine reaching an absorbing focal point. If the very final scenes felt a little too neatly packaged [given the complexity inherent in the real world equivalent, as mined by shows like Homeland], the series still achieved that all too rare feat of leaving you supremely satisfied… and more than a little sad that it had reached its end. Let’s hope rumours of a second season prove to be true.