Previously, on The Night Manager: “Episode 5”
You could power a small city with the amount of raw electricity emanating from this spectacular finale. From beginning to end, every moment used to make up the conclusion of this miniseries event was wrought with sheer suspense and the feeling of danger. The below review has spoilers for the finale of The Night Manager; I usually try to review without spoilers, but I failed this time. Just be sure to watch the finale before reading this.
In many ways, this finale served as a bit of a microcosm of the entire miniseries. In this scale model, the role taken by Jonathan Pine in the series goes, instead, to Angela Burr. She begins the episode in a position of seemingly hopeless impotence, as she is being scapegoated for the failed mission we saw in the previous episode. This scene sets the stage for the entire finale, and we never look back; from there, the episode is a series of power struggles: Angela and her corrupt government, Roper and Jed, Roper and Pine, Pine and Freddie Hamid, etc. Every scene is another mouse set loose, and we are the chasing cat.
Of course, that has been the entire miniseries, hasn’t it? Yes, Jonathan Pine was the centerpiece of this story; as such, he was the hopeless character–as he says here, “living half a life”–when he was thrust into action by events around him. However, Angela Burr was just as powerless as he was, but at least she had a purpose. The two of them found each other after some shady shit went down in a luxury hotel in Cairo, and her purpose became his.
Just as Angela seems like she is about to give up and go live herself half a life, Jonathan Pine steps into her shoes: he saves her, this time, because he is still fighting, and he is in a position of power… but is he, though? That’s what is so delicious about this story: Richard Roper always feels like he is in control, and that’s because he always is. Here, he spends much of the episode flexing that power by continuing to test both Pine and Jed, Roper’s girlfriend. Subtly, we’re given hints in the writing that tell us he is doing this; they come in the form of Roper constantly asking about luck: “Do you feel lucky?”, “We’ll see which one of us is the lucky one.” These are lines delivered at, not to, Pine and Jed, and they transparently let us see behind Roper’s curtain. He doesn’t care because he knows you can do nothing about it, just as he doesn’t care to flaunt his girlfriend in front of his wife.
At alternate times, we see Roper exercise his power with Jed and then with Pine (I’ll just say I’ve never been more afraid of a hotel room safe), and Hugh Laurie continues to wear this menace so well. For the first half of the episode–or maybe even more–Richard Roper is not only in charge, but he is winning, and you believe that to be the case.
Then the pendulum swings. Pine and Angela both get their opportunities to overtake a room in which Richard Roper is trying his best to exhibit the same authority as when he was in control, but he ultimately feels like a child wearing his father’s shoes; suddenly, the room is too big, and he can’t help but stumble. Hugh Laurie plays this so well because you can actually see this change. It’s incredibly subtle because Roper, the character, still acts as though he’s okay, but he’s not. He knows he’s not, and we know he’s not. Everyone knows he’s not okay, and you see the facade is no more. Dickie Roper, Richard Roper, nor the emperor: none of them have any clothes.
As much as this story focuses on Jonathan Pine, Angela Burr, and Jed Marshall, it is ultimately the deterioration of Richard Roper which plays the most beats in this medley. When you think about it, this story was about power being taken from someone who had it and being given to some who didn’t, which I guess is why it feels so fitting to have the Arab Spring play as a backdrop to the whole thing. It’s all really just a series of power struggles.
I loved this miniseries, and it’s largely because of Hugh Laurie. The man did an outstanding job of being the boogeyman who seems nice to your face, becoming the actual monster he is, and then imploding when he is defeated. Of course, Tom Hiddleston did a terrific job throughout, and it makes perfect sense this role has pushed him to the front of a lot of lists for the next James Bond. Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Angela Burr, the pregnant operative obsessed with taking Roper down, was fabulous; when she ultimately confronts Roper, it’s magical. Elizabeth Debicki played the role of Jed Marshall wonderfully. David Harewood was great as Joel Steadman (The American Manhunter); it was awesome to see he and Hiddleston finally share screen time, because it meant The Martian Manhunter and Loki were hanging out.
Everyone was just top notch in this entire miniseries, and that includes the fantastic work of director Susanne Bier. She had several auteur moments sprinkled throughout the six episodes, which were always well-done and well-placed, but the success is in how often she allowed the story to tell itself. It’s very easy to want to put your fingerprints on every second, but Bier played it smart and picked her moments well. When you have a plot-heavy story like this and excellent actors to deliver the dialogue, the most important thing you can do is remember to let the scenes breathe; she did that and used the exotic filming locations cleverly, too, allowing the characters and story to be a part of their setting, instead of feeling like paper dolls pinned to them. I look forward to seeing more from Bier in the future.
The Night Manager - Episode 6
As The Night Manager comes to its end, Hugh Laurie continues to lead the pack, due both to his acting and the realization that this story has always been about Richard Roper and his comeuppance.
That’s not to take anything away from the rest of the cast, especially Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman, and Elizabeth Debicki who has all done tremendously well all series and also shine in its finale.
At the end of the day, The Night Manager’s acting was superb, its directing was excellent, and its plot was intriguing to the last moment. This John le Carré adaptation turned out to be a rousing success for everyone involved, particularly its viewers.