Previously, on The Night Manager: “Episode 2”
As we cross the halfway point of The Night Manager‘s 6-episode miniseries run, we can look back on these three episodes and see that one thing is absolutely clear: nothing is clear. This series is an opaque menagerie of charlatans, each more skilled than the last.
For the entirety of the first two episodes, Hugh Laurie’s Richard Roper has been a man about the shadows, only peeking through to flash his Cheshire grin at the world. If you weren’t careful, you may have begun to like him, in his limited but effective moments in those two weeks. Here, again, Episode 3 begins with Roper in that similar position: we see the affable “Dickie Roper” attending the birthday party of a very unhappy teenage daughter of one of his associates. He’s so likable here that, when the festivities take a turn for the worse, he springs into action to try to help.
In those first two weeks, it seemed this is where we would leave fun-loving Dickie to his surely light-hearted antics off-camera. Here, though, we don’t leave his side. As we continue following Roper into the next day’s morning, the elusive Loch Ness Monster of Richard Roper’s true personality steps into the light for all to see–in this analogy, the Loch Ness Monster has feet; just go with me–but then he immediately retreats when he sees Jed doesn’t like it.
This is the beauty of The Night Manager: every single character in this story is hiding their true selves. Nowhere is this most put on display than in the first real conversation between Jonathan Pine and Richard Roper. Sure, they spoke in Switzerland, but Pine had not yet converted that potential energy reserve built up inside of him into any kinetic energy. In this moment, their first actual encounter, Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine and Hugh Laurie’s Richard Roper see each other for the first time; simultaneously, they are still playing coy with each other. “We do a little swashbuckling now and then”, Roper says, behind his duplicitous facade. In turn, Jonathan Pine reacts as if he doesn’t know exactly what Roper is up to. I could watch Hiddleston and Laurie do anything together after seeing them dance so masterfully here.
In a revealing moment, we see Roper happens to keep two books at the ready: Stalingrad by Antony Beevor and Eminent Churchillians by Andrew Roberts. The former is an exhaustive recounting of the battle between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for an already fallen city of Stalingrad; the latter is a revealing look at the “real” Winston Churchill. I’m probably reading way too much into it, but at the same time, why else would those books be there than for me to read into them? If nothing else, it’s interesting trivia that gives you a look into Roper’s taste in literature: he likes stuff from the middle of the twentieth century.
In the previous episode, I was lukewarm on Jonathan Pine, only because it seemed the character had gone into that boring area where he wasn’t the night manager anymore but also wasn’t really a spy yet… well, he got right the hell out of that this week, flying headfirst into spy land. He successfully manipulates a child into a false friendship, finds several ways to relay information to Angela Burr, and also walks the fine line between not having sex with anyone (shocker!) and potentially seducing two–TWO–unhappily taken women (Hiddleston also handily seduces the audience by going shirtless multiple times, much to the erogenous delight of many viewers, I’m sure).
Turning our attention to the British and American governments, they are not exempt from the cloak and dagger game–what were those two books again?–as they, too, are hiding themselves. We learned last week that Angela Burr and Joel Steadman (The American Manhunter) wanted to keep River House (the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service — MI6) out of the loop on their investigation and Pine’s involvement; let’s just say that was a pretty good call.
Lastly, I continue to be vastly impressed with the direction of Susanne Bier. Unlike the first two episodes, there was no standout “director’s moment” in this episode (although, she did sneak in some Dogme-like shots in one scene at River House). What there were, however, are a ton of bokeh shots, as Bier’s camera takes advantage of the lush filming locations to skillfully play with depth perception, light, and spatial dynamics–all while also creating one hell of a tourism ad for Mallorca, Spain, as if it needed it. Bottom line: this series is beautifully shot, both aesthetically and physically.
The Night Manager - Episode 3
We finally get a heaping helping of Hugh Laurie’s Richard Roper, and boy is it fulfilling in all of its duplicitous and dangerous glory. Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine goes headfirst into his spy life, and in turn, becomes monumentally more interesting than he had been in Episode 2.
We’re halfway through this riveting miniseries, yet it feels like we are just getting started.