Despite writing for this sci-fi/fantasy/anime based site, my heart has always been with political thrillers. And there have been a lot of great new spy shows on streaming services lately! Here’s a recap of what I’ve been watching – I don’t have any secrets.
Citadel (Amazon Prime, debuting April 28)
Citadel is Amazon’s newest entry in the political/spy thriller arena. Less political than spy series, Citadel stars Richard Madden as Mason Kane and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Nadia Sinh, agents for an ultra-secret agency that, in the first episode, is being wiped out by the baddie, world-domination-planning Manticore. Jonas, who starred in the TV series Quantico a few years back (and stars in new film Love Again coming out in May, opposite Sam Heughan), is of course beautiful, but she does well in this “female action protagonist” genre (nice to see the women can be as deadly as the men!).
Amazon’s official summary:
Eight years ago, Citadel fell. The independent global spy agency—tasked to uphold the safety and security of all people—was destroyed by operatives of Manticore, a powerful syndicate manipulating the world from the shadows. With Citadel’s fall, elite agents Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) had their memories wiped as they narrowly escaped with their lives. They’ve remained hidden ever since, building new lives under new identities, unaware of their pasts. Until one night, when Mason is tracked down by his former Citadel colleague, Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci), who desperately needs his help to prevent Manticore from establishing a new world order. Mason seeks out his former partner, Nadia, and the two spies embark on a mission that takes them around the world in an effort to stop Manticore, all while contending with a relationship built on secrets, lies, and a dangerous-yet-undying love.
The first episode, rather clumsily, sets up the plot for the series. Manticore is wiping out Citadel’s agents, and attacks the top two – Kane and Sinh – on a train. Of course, they survive, barely, but their handler Bernard (Stanley Tucci, who is excellent as always) executes the Backstop protocol, wiping out their memories as Citadel agents. This first episode felt a little heavy on setup, even though it was necessary for as complicated a plot as this promises to be. But the next two episodes (as far as I’ve seen at this point) really ramped up the action with gadgets and wisecracks. A traitor inside Citadel helped Manticore, and may still be active – who is it? Are there other Citadel operatives still alive? Will Mason remember who he was?
While the series is big on action – there’s a loud, fun, explosion filled scene in episode 3, complete with go go gadget boots – it’s also fairly high on the bloody, gory side. If that bothers you, you may want to be ready to put a pillow over your eyes. Plenty of twisties and turnies to come!
The Night Agent (Netflix)
This newer Netflix series is just what I had been looking for. Political intrigue, high-level infighting and double cross! Gabriel Basso plays FBI agent Peter Sutherland, assigned to answer the emergency hotline phone for a super-secret group, created by the President, called Night Action. Peter is dealing with a need to prove that his father, who had also been an FBI agent, was not a traitor; and because of that, is under a cloud of suspicion himself due to seemingly heroic actions during when he found a bomb on a train. The 8-episode series, which has already been picked up for a second season, was Netflix’s third-most viewed series on its debut in March. Following a rare phone call to this emergency line, Peter is responsible for protecting an unintended victim of an attack against Night Action operatives, and with her, discover who in the White House has turned against the President.
The Recruit (Netflix)
Noah Centineo plays Owen, a brand-new CIA lawyer (think second day) who accidentally gets involved in a plot that’s well over his head and pay grade. This wasn’t your typical spy show – a little lighter, a little less believable (I know that sounds pretty ridiculous, are any of them believable?) – but generally fun. Probably not in my top tier of political thrillers, but worth watching when you need something new. Season 2 has been ordered.
The Bodyguard (Netflix)
Richard Madden’s role in Citadel is not his first spy thriller. in 2018, Netflix released The Bodyguard, with Madden playing a troubled war veteran now with the British Metropolitan Police’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch, assigned to guard England’s Home Secretary. The series was originally aired on BBC One, and picked up by Netflix in the US. I found this fast-moving and compelling – an easy watch at only 6 episodes. It won or was nominated for a variety of awards. A second season has been ordered,
Berlin Station (MGM, formerly Epix)
One of my favorites from recent years! Berlin Station follows the CIA office in Berlin, and stars Richard Armitage as Daniel Miller, an earnest undercover agent, and Rhys Ifans as a cagey, double-dealing, whatever-it-takes spy. Season 2 deals with the rising political right in Germany. The series was created by political thriller author Olen Steinhauer, and ran for 3 seasons. It’s available on MGM (formerly Epix), or for purchase on Amazon Prime.
Out of this entire group of shows, Treason is my least favorite. It feels more like a BBC production than one from Netflix – slower, more convoluted, harder to keep the thread. I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish this one (although I may go back one of these days). Starring Oona Chaplin, Charlie Cox and Ciarin Hinds, the official plotline says “An MI6 deputy’s bright future takes a sharp turn after a reunion with a Russian spy forces him to question his entire life and which side he truly wants to side with in a looming conflict.” This is considered a “limited series,” with 6 episodes. No news yet on a second season.
The Diplomat (Netflix)
I haven’t seen this one yet, but The Hollywood Reporter has done several pieces on it, calling it “thrilling” (and a couple of friends have watched and really enjoyed it). Read one of these pieces here. The 8-episode series follows Keri Russell as the newly-appointed ambassador to Great Britain. The Reporter’s article says that it “could be a spinoff from Homeland or Madam Secretary,” and anything that harkens back to Madam Secretary moves it up several notches in my want-to-see pile (alas, I have not yet gotten to Homeland). The series just started last week, so we’ll have to wait for some reviews!
Yes, I know this isn’t a complete roundup – what other shows in this genre have you watched and enjoyed? Comment below and let us know!
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Follow me on Twitter: @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace
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