“The Night Agent” is a great example of how to juggle multiple narrative purposes in a spy thriller. On the one hand, it’s a survival story—keep Rose, and later Maddie, alive by staying one step ahead of the people trying to kill them. On the other hand, it’s a mystery about why Rose’s relatives were executed and what enemies want with Maddie in the first place. How does Sutherland get to the bottom of something fishy at the top level of world government and keep Rose alive at the same time? Ryan and his writing team calibrate each episode to do a little of Column A and a little of Column B, filling in the background of these characters as they go on this incredible journey.
It helps to have a solid cast who understands the assignment, and Basso graduates from playing younger guys into a mature, adult role in this show. He’s very effective as a modern Jack Bauer, finding the right balance of FBI stoicism and morally upstanding passion in this character. Basso is well-balanced by Buchanan, and it helps that the two also have some excellent chemistry. Evans-Akingbola knows how to balance commitment and suspicion in someone who takes their job very seriously, and there are nice acting choices in the supporting cast, too, including the odd couple of assassins in the strong-but-silent Dale and eccentric Ellen.
As with many Netflix shows, there are times when the 10-episode requirement of a show like this drags “The Night Agent” down. Thrillers are so dependent on momentum that it can be hard to maintain over such a long running time. It’s fair to say that “The Night Agent” sometimes sags, but nowhere near as much as many modern shows like this one. It doesn’t spin its wheels as much as slows its speed more than it arguably needed to. There’s a difference.
The success of “Yellowstone” has led to many shows that seem designed to tap into a similar, older audience looking for more traditional storytelling. “The Night Agent” won’t find that kind of success, but I hope it does hit its target and doesn’t get buried by Netflix’s awful interface. While everyone loves the ambition of shows like “Barry” or “The Last of Us,” sometimes you just want to see a thriller about good guys, bad guys, and those who play both sides.
On Netflix today. Eight episodes were screened for review.