Previously, on The Night Manager: “Episode 4”
Over the course of its first four episodes, The Night Manager has gradually morphed from what could be favorably compared to the “playboy” days of James Bond Past to a darker and more politically involved thriller. Sure, from the beginning, the Arab Spring was–literally–right outside, but it was treated as more of a backdrop to a more personal story playing out with Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine in the foreground. With its penultimate episode, The Night Manager goes pitch black–again, literally–to bring those undertones bursting to the surface.
Immediately, Pine has his betrayal of Richard Roper shoved right into his face. Pine shrugs it off like the dirt on Jay-Z’s shoulder. Hiddleston sells this scene very well, but it’s Hugh Laurie’s performance in this episode that runs while everyone else is standing still. Laurie–who, of course, plays Roper–puts approximately 7 layers on the bean dip of Richard Roper. When he accepts the many lies Pine tells in this episode, it’s indiscernible if he is being genuine or not. That plays out in spades throughout this episode, with Pine and with everyone.
Much of this episode is spent in the dark, and this mirrors Roper’s position. He knows there is a traitor in his inner circle, but he believes it could be anyone–anyone. It’s in this cornered position that we see Laurie’s portrayal truly shine. Roper questions everyone, and these questions aren’t always verbalized; in fact, the majority of Roper’s suspicions take the form of thoughts creasing their way across Hugh Laurie’s face, as he wears them in his furrowed brow or the slight upturn in the corner of his mouth you’d swear was a smile if not for the doubt evident in his eyes.
Beyond that, Laurie also pulls out that slick talking Dickie Roper routine he loves to do, and this time it works a camp full of mercenaries into seeing him as some skewed father figure to them all. What’s great about this is, now that we’ve seen the real Richard Roper, Laurie seems to play this Dickie character in a completely different way. Now, the facade is transparent. There are hints in his performance–in character and out–that give notice to the viewer that he knows we are watching. It’s not for us, of course; it’s for Pine, but it plays all the same. Damn, Hugh Laurie is just really good at this whole acting thing, you guys.
Roper doesn’t stay in the dark, however; just as the episode moves its way into the light, Roper and his machinations also see a new dawn. From an affinity for napalm that calls to mind Robert Duvall to a casual golfing moment that calls to mind the likes of MASH’s Hawkeye or Sgt. Bilko, Richard Roper is as complex and intriguing a character as we’re likely to find.
Among the Hugh Laurie showcase put on by this episode, everyone else continues to do a terrific job. Tom Hiddleston, of course, does well, especially in his ability to sell the bad decisions Jonathan Pine makes here. Elizabeth Debicki is afforded the opportunity to do some selling of her own, as her character of Jed has her own confrontations with Roper, and she nails it. Olivia Colman gets to navigate Angela Burr through some mistakes–mistakes that are not entirely of her doing, but mistakes nonetheless–and the fact that, yes, she continues to be pregnant is making me more and more nervous, as Burr’s situation becomes more and more perilous. Finally, Tom Hollander shows us how to roll with the punches as Corky is introduced to the figurative underside of a bus. This entire cast is doing very well.
The dark scenes comprising most of this episode draw a stark contrast to the bright, picturesque settings we’ve seen thus far, and director Susanne Bier handles them with ease, even managing to make death and destruction bring something, as Roper calls it, “pretty” to the dark, bleak, and miserable desert.
This is the penultimate episode, so we’re coming up on the finale next week. As is often the case, time has moved by so quickly, but so much has taken place in this plot, but that has been beneficial in many ways. For example, if not for the miniseries timeline, the suspicions we see Roper wear in this episode could have played out for several weeks. Laurie could have handled carrying that weight for that long, but it wasn’t necessary. The taut turnabout playing itself out here goes that much further to demonstrate the elasticity of Richard Roper. Thus far, he is the rubber band, and we have one more episode to see if Jonathan Pine and/or Angela Burr will see that he snaps.
The Night Manager - Episode 5
Through its use of darkness in both plot and cinematography, the penultimate episode of The Night Manager gives us a front seat to The Hugh Laurie Show, courtesy of Richard Roper’s continued growth in both complexity and intrigue. The end is in sight, but any conclusion to this story is still far from predictable.