So this is the story all about how Jonathan Pine’s life got flipped, turned upside-down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how he became a trusted member of Richard Roper’s inner circle.
Okay, so that wasn’t as cool as it sounded in my head, but you get the idea.
After bringing us into the world of spies, arms dealers, and the surprisingly small world of international luxury hotels, The Night Manager uses the second episode to explain just how a guy who checked Richard Roper into a hotel that one time becomes trusted enough to do some damage to his criminal outfit.
And boy, does Pine have a long way to go! But since this is a le Carré story, his journey into the good graces of Roper is meticulous and meaty. It’s one of the author’s strengths — relishing in the process of something and watching someone in an extraordinary circumstance work — and in The Night Manager, we essentially get an entire episode dedicated to this aspect of his style.
But before all of that, the episode begins in quite the unexpected place.
The hour kicks off with Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) having a real tough time, set to a Nina Simone song. But who hasn’t been there before? It’s just your typical afternoon of putting on lingerie and chatting with dear old mom. Oh, but there was the apparent prescription pill abuse and that thing with her mother calling her a “whore.” That was rough.
Joking aside, this bit of character development is a direct effect of the adaptation process, which brought the story of The Night Manager into the 21st century, turned Burr into a woman, and beefed up Jed’s role. Le Carré doesn’t have the best track record with women — mostly due to the times in which he was writing and the professionals he focused on — and this depth is ultimately turning the television retelling of the novel into something richer.
This is obviously much easier to do with someone like Elizabeth Debicki in the role. The actress, who was in The Great Gatsby and will be in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so quickly transforms Jed from nudity-inclined arm candy to a tragic, real human being with a single look. It’s actually ludicrous how quickly Debicki and director Susanne Bier add depth to a archetype so often discarded by the genre that you have to wonder how all of the other modern examples of “male genres” justify such thin female characters.
With the call from her resentful mother and reminder of her abandoned child behind her, Jed heads downstairs to join the rest of the party at Roper’s Mallorca lair, which is a pretty clear sign that this guy is seriously evil. Who else has a lair? And if you need further proof, that pronunciation of paella should do it.
NEXT: Meet Jack Lindon
The group heads off to dinner, where Roper proves that there is some real charm to go along with all of the arms dealing. “You drink my wine. You steal my woman,” he tells his son, Daniel. “I’m proud of you.” Aww, did you hear that? He’s proud of his son…and likely raising a monster!
From there, things devolve. A Roper associate dances with the nanny in front of his wife, and Daniel gets kidnapped in an apparent play for ransom. But wouldn’t you know it! Jonathan Pine is in the closet ready to attack.
How the hell did Pine get all the way from this wintry retreat to a restaurant in Mallorca? It’s actually a funny story!
Burr, having tracked Pine down, discovers that he’s clean, meaning that when Roper’s team inevitably runs extensive background checks on the new guy, they won’t find a connection to Egypt, Sophie, Freddie Hamid, and, from there, MI6. This means that all he’d need to get into the crew would be a more criminally skewed background and chance run-in with Roper.
Getting started on his legend, Pine heads to the country. There, he rents a house and assumes an alias — Jack Lindon, drug dealer and tough guy extraordinaire. One of the delights of this second hour of the miniseries was watching Tom Hiddleston modulate his performance ever so slightly to become Jack Lindon. His voice is just a tad deeper. He is more concise when he speaks. He’s less effusive. The tweak is so small but so meaningful and effective that it gives such a great sense of the specificity that Hiddleston is capable of. It’s kind of astonishing.
Part of my reservation about Hiddleston in this role is that he’s so classy that even seeing him in a modern setting is a bit jarring. The Jonathan Pine of the Nefertiti Hotel in Cairo is a polished and well-spoken man. How was he ever going to convincingly infiltrate the sphere around the world’s most dangerous man? But in seeing Hiddleston become Jack Lindon, what’s clear is that every choice he makes as an actor is ridiculously precise.
What I’m trying to say is this: Hiddleston good.
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It remains to be seen, however, just how good Pine is. Even though he got into that closet and fought off the fake kidnappers and got beat up enough to earn some sympathy from Roper, will the spy be able to convince anyone that he’s who he says? The fact that the hotel guy from Switzerland has appeared magically in Mallorca should be automatically be sending up some red flags. I don’t care how clean this guy is: That British guy’s popping up in the exact right place at the exact right moment.
Doesn’t this all seem at least a little suspicious, Roper? “You sleep now,” he tells the unconscious Pine after tucking him in. “Tomorrow, we’ll find out who you really are.”
Okay, that’s really sinister and everything, but maybe give this guy a really, really close look.