Could things have ended better for this spy thriller? Only slightly.
We have arrived at the end of a six-hour John le Carre adaptation and the hero hasn’t been tragically gunned down and the antagonist is being carted away, presumably to his death. Not to sound like a complete fatalist, but what gives? For anyone familiar with the writer’s books — especially the Night Manager novel — or the other adaptations, the sunshiny conclusion to AMC’s event series might come as a bit of a surprise. I don’t come to le Carre for optimism. I want the cold, harsh reality of our modern and bureaucratically hobbled world. That’s my jam, so this was kind of uncomfortable.
But how does the “Pine triumphs” ending work for the miniseries on its own merit? That’s a slightly different question, one we’ll get to as soon as we get a firm grasp on just what the hell happened in the final hour (tentative) of The Night Manager.
When we last left the world of arms dealing and five-star travel accommodations, Roper had successfully dodged a rather aggressive maneuver by the US government to seize weapons at the Syrian border, and he was next headed to Egypt to finalize a deal in the company of Freddie Hadid, the former lover and likely murderer of Sophie Alekan.
Oh, and possibly the one person who could blow Jonathan Pine’s cover!
With Limpet’s big play a total bust, the full weight of the British intelligence community has come down on Angela Burr. She’s in the tough position of knowing full well that Black Jack Randall is on the take for Roper’s dealings and being completely unable to point out that happy fact because her primary piece of evidence turned out to be about as effective as a riding lawn mower in a game of chicken with a tank. “You know why,” she’s forced to say when refusing to give up her informer. “You all know why.”
This, to me, is such a pure le Carre moment. Everyone in the room understands that if Burr blows Pine’s cover in their “closed door meeting,” her spy will end up super dead. (I mean, the deadest.) And yet she cannot express this obvious and immoral truth because of the structures that are in place. It’s absolutely infuriating, and you can feel every bit of that frustration in Olivia Colman’s performance here.
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So that’s it for the International Enforcement Agency. Their name was vague, but their sources were good. All seems lost for Burr — that is, until a phone call from a hotel in Cairo let’s her know exactly where her man is. Despite being back where this thing started and living directly under the watchful eye of Freddie Hamid, Pine is still committed to bringing down Roper.
NEXT: Pine is a really slow texter.
Some of the more thematic elements of the show ripened a bit during this final episode, and once I saw the ending, I doubled back to the conversation Roper had with Pine shortly after they arrived in Egypt. The weapons dealer fondly reminisces about that time that T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill redrew the map in the Middle East after World War I. This is in essence what Roper wants to do. He’s using the strife of a foreign other — his racist outburst near the end of the episode clears up any questions we might have about his feelings about those to whom he sells — to line his pockets with no regard for what the effects will be. What little consideration he is giving to the end result of his deals is strictly related to creating even more conflict and selling even more weapons.
The time is now. If Pine is going to take down Roper and Freddie Hamid, and free Jed, he’s going to have to stop the Cairo deal. And the plan that he comes up with is actually pretty sweet and totally effective. Pine taps his old friend from the kitchen Youssef, who then calls upon his radical brother and his brother’s friends to sneak into the shipment the night before the deal.
That involves putting Jed directly in the line of fire and ultimately gets her in a lot of trouble. It was bad enough that the sexual tension between Jed and Pine was so palpable. They’re two beautiful, incredibly tall people. Why wouldn’t they hook up? Plus, the “funny, funny joke” bit killed. The laws of sexual gravity are too much to overcome, and Roper would have been an idiot not to see through them.
And that’s exactly what he does by the time that he, Pine, and Sandy reach the shipment to finalize the deal. Luckily, Pine has taken care of that. He’s moved the first $300 million out of the Andrew Birch account and rigged the weapons with explosives. To set them off, he takes a hilariously long time punching in the trigger telephone number, which everyone seems okay with. With the product lost and the money missing, Roper is in a bit of a spot. Things only get worse when he walks straight into Burr, who has saved Jed and cut off Roper’s London ties.
Though Roper leaves the Nefertiti in handcuffs, he isn’t shy about how long he expects to be in them. A person like Roper never stays locked away for long, and even if Burr managed to get him put away temporarily, that would be a small victory for justice (and an already more positive spin on the book’s ending), but AMC’s The Night Manager took things one step further.
The ending heavily implies that Roper could die at the hands of his buyers, which would completely expunge his evil from the face of the earth, a conclusion that is almost entirely out of place in a le Carre story. But I have to say that it works for this Bond-ified version of the tale. I will always prefer a more cynical view of the espionage world, but the conclusion here fits with the world that this particular narrative has established. It’s a good deal slicker than the “sad spy” yarns le Carre is known for, but the books will always be there and this six-hour trip around the world (if the BBC and AMC decide not to continue the story) is perfectly all right as a lighter, brighter escape.