I haven’t watched any new TV in a while, and was attracted to this one by Hugh Laurie, and also that it was written by John Lecarre–who, although I’ve never read him, has had many good movies based on his books. I guess I’ll say spoilers, but the episodes have aired weeks ago by now, so, that should be taken for granted.
The episode begins with a glowingly good looking Tom Hiddleston pushing through a riot in Egypt during the Arab Spring. I almost gave up on the show right then, just based on the way it was shot. We have a perfectly handsome white man, glowing with color (like literally it looked like his hue was adjusted post production to make him stand out against a washed out, grey background) and surrounded by the dirty, rioting brown people. Maybe I’m being too sensitive but I though, ‘great, are we in for a ‘fear the middle east!!!’ kind of show?’
Tom enters a fancy hotel and begins directing people to get away from the windows and keeping order among the chaos. I thought at first that ‘night manager’ must be some kind of euphemism for whatever security job he really had, but no, he’s just the manager of a hotel.
Enter sexy woman. She is the mistress of a very powerful and influential person named Freddy Hamid. She flirts with Tom and then later, for no reason I can really figure out, she decides to give secret inflammatory documents to him. Tom, the manager of the hotel, is the guy she gives very valuable secret information to. Because… he’s good looking, I guess? These papers prove that Richard Roper, a CEO of something or other, is selling chemical weapons to Hamid. In this scene, we are led to believe that Sophie (the mistress) fears for her life and is giving these papers to Tom, a complete stranger, as a sort of insurance policy. Okay.. I’ll play along I guess.
Tom(I probably should call him by his character’s name, Jonathan Pine) is compelled to do the right thing, and sends the papers to a friend in the International Enforcement Agency. I’m instantly sure that this friend is crooked, and have my suspicions immediately confirmed when the next day Sophie asks Tom up to her room, where he finds her bruised and bloody. Apparently, someone warned Hamid about the documents being leaked. Gee I wonder who could have done that. Also, big surprise that the guy with the Arab name hits women. Thanks for that, TV land.
I wondered later in the show, when the mistress is inevitably killed, why Freddy didn’t kill her right away? I guess it’s because we had to have Pine rescue her temporarily, and get in bed with her in a very weird sex scene. Sophie’s face is still all messed up, and Pine is kissing her cut and bruised mouth and she’s all smiles and the lighting is all white and glowing. Very strange and one could even say off-putting tone. If they had darker lighting, rain, and tense music suggesting danger and fear–it could have been good, juxtaposing violence and sex and all that arty stuff. But having your regular sex scene in a white bed with sunlight on their backs, with all the same shots you’re used to seeing (we see Tom’s muscly shoulders from overhead, then cut to a close up of their faces, they touch noses and smile then kiss softly–oh but wait she has a gash on her lip and a giant black eye wtf??) … it was weird.
So anyway, after he’s hidden Sophie away for a while, he talks with his ‘friend’ in the enforcement agency about getting her out of the country to London. His ‘friend’ makes it clear that this is a bad idea. Hamid is very influential in London! She won’t be safe! Tell me where she is? I’m your friend, really!
Pine tells Sophie he’s not sure about getting her out of the country anymore. She throws a grumpy fit and leaves the secret place he’s hidden her away in, and goes back to the hotel, walks past him at the front desk giving him a pouty look, and goes back up to her room… where she is dead hours later.
Pine is gets a phone call from the one agent who seems to care about any of this, (Olivia Coleman) and she somehow knows that Sohpie is in danger and warns him. He runs up to the room and we get a very well acted scene from Tom. His upsetness at the dead body in the room was very real, and impactful I thought. So many shows seem to brush off violent death as something the characters must encounter every day. I felt very convinced that this death had a lot of emotional impact on the character.
When the cops show up it’s very clear they are in Hamid’s pocket, and the whole thing is swept under the rug.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Yeah, that happened.
Pine is now the night manager of a different hotel, in another country. I almost laughed a bit. It felt like he is somehow trapped in this career. The alternate world Jonathan Pine lives in is titled The Night Manager, so he must forever stay in that role, no matter what traumatic events or lengths of time have passed. He is and forever will be The Night Manager.
Anyway, Roper (Hugh Laurie) shows up to stay at the hotel and we get a series of very tense scenes with Tom trying to hide the fact that he detests the guy and Roper feeling suspicious and unsure of this new night manager he’s never met. This was by far my favorite section of the episode and has got me looking forward to future scenes with these two together.
Pine ends up stealing the SIM cards that Roper and his crew throw out with the trash, and gives them to the same investigator (Coleman) who he sent the papers to before. And they decide they are going to ‘do something’ about Roper’s evil ways together.
The questions I am left with are:
Who is Jonathan Pine? What does he want? What are his goals in life? Who does he care about? We meet him as a night manager with no persons or goals attached to his life other than ‘be a Night Manager and receive secret papers’. He seems to be a plot device. He doesn’t strike me as a real person, despite the terrific job of Tom Hiddleston to give him feelings and soul. We learn that he was a soldier, but that doesn’t really tell us much. He seems to be a ghost who’s only purpose is to move this story forward.
I like this enough to continue. A clunky start with a very strong finish, and I hope the series improves the way this episode did over time.