Citadel’ Review: Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden in the Russo Brothers’ Big, Basic Amazon Spy Series
DT (Beats)- In a television marketplace in which international territories are more important than ever and the landscape is glutted with IP-driven franchise plays, the idea of pre-franchising an original idea and instantly building brand fungibility with different foreign spinoffs is enticing, albeit meaninglessly jargon-filled.
Of course, it’s easy to get conceptually interested in something when you don’t know the actual concept — and having seen half of what ended up being a six-episode first season for Citadel, I will say that sustained interest is harder to come by.
If you’ve followed industry reporting and scuttlebutt related to a burgeoning budget, showrunner changes and extensive reshoots, you might expect Citadel to be some sort of disaster, all mismatched pieces and jagged narrative edges. It isn’t. Instead, whatever its initial ambition happened to be, Citadel is just innocuously basic. Fans of stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden will at least get some desired eye candy, but more generally curious viewers will struggle.
For all of its globally expansive, forward-looking aspirations, Citadel had me mostly looking backward and thinking of the sci-fi and spy shows that covered the same ground previously. I’m not saying most of them did it better or worse, just that finding something original in Citadel, or anything original to say about Citadel, is nigh on impossible.
The first three episodes peak within the opening 10 minutes, with a rousing introductory scene set on a fast-moving train zipping through the Italian Alps. Secret agents Mason Kane (Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Chopra Jonas) are on a generic mission to stop some guy with a bag full of enriched uranium. They work, we quickly learn, for an organization called Citadel, liaising with tech genius Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci) off in a command center somewhere. Their adversaries? A nefarious assemblage of oligarchs calling themselves “Manticore.”
Mason and Nadia bicker and banter in an assortment of languages before everything goes pear-shaped in a series of fights and double-crosses culminating in disaster, with Mason and Nadia left for dead.
Mason and Nadia are not dead. If they were, Citadel would be an even briefer show, and each of the three episodes sent to critics comes in at under 40 minutes.
Eight years later, Mason has a wife (Ashleigh Cummings) and daughter (Caoilinn Springall) and no memories at all of his life before. But the world needs Mason Kane now more than ever, as Manticore has orchestrated years of terrorist activities that made the rich richer and the poor more terrified. Only Citadel can set things right, except that there’s no more Citadel. Oh, and where is Nadia in all of this? Stay tuned!
There’s something fun about the idea of an amnesiac spy, the need to reconcile the person you are now — inevitably boring and domesticated, but probably happy — with the person you were and the things you did. You know how I know there’s something fun about it? I’ve seen and/or read Total Recall, The Bourne Identity and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Heck, I’ve seen and/or read American Ultra and The Rook.
Heck, series creators Josh Appelbaum, Bryan Oh and David Weil — among the several credits that reflect the show’s reconception/reshoots — are aware that they’re building a show on a foundation of unsteady tropes and archetypes.
That both leads and every supporting player in Citadel are upstaged by Tucci, withstanding his character’s nonstop not-so-wise wisecracking, and the expertly imperious Manville is half a product of that duo’s general excellence and half a product of the lack of available time for characterization.
Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the The Hollywood Reporter Diplomat Times holds no responsibility for its content.