12 Days of Lesley Manville – 2: Citadel (Series 1)

All the money in the world can’t make Amazon Prime’s would-be new franchise Citadel work

“You can’t even remember to put the toilet seat down. Now you’re Jason Bourne?”

I wish I could say that watching Lesley Manville watching Stanley Tucci being tortured to the sound of Andrew Lloyd Webber and saying things like “you dipshit” made Citadel a TV show worth watching but despite the presence of La Manville in one of her icy boss bitch roles, it really isn’t. Touted as one of the most expensive TV shows ever made, even with 6 relatively short episodes, and anticipated to launch multiple spin-offs in other languages, it was always a big gamble from Amazon Prime.

The Russo Brothers (of Marvel fame) are on Executive Producer duties, which probably explains a lot about the size of the budget but it is creators Josh Appelbaum, Bryan Oh and David Weil who need to carry the can with this hugely derivative spy thriller. In this already crowded genre, Citadel does nothing so much as recall other entries – the Bourne franchise, the Kingsman franchise – and even with multi-million pound stunts and location work thrown in, can’t establish a raison d’être.

I recapped the first two episodes here and as you might have guessed, things don’t really get better. The show suffers horribly from a complete lack of chemistry between Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as reactivated agents Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh. You could argue that to begin with the memory loss explains this but given that a huge strand of the show is based on the apparent eternal love between this pair, nothing that follows makes a compelling case for this, thus there are no emotional stakes.

The CGI-heavy stunts and effect don’t really make up for it either as the wavering tone doesn’t really let us know what’s meant to be happening as the remaining agents of good-spy-network Citadel take on the bad-spy-network Manticore who nearly destroyed them. Wacky, would-be comedic beats sit next to world-destroying villains and all-important briefcases, plus numerous flashbacks to the past tease the identity of a potential mole. If only you actually ended up caring about any of this.

The weakness of the script is the biggest culprit here, wasting some great acting talent and leaving some not-so-great talent cruelly exposed out there. Manville’s Machiavellian Dahlia Archer is an intermittent bright spot but even she is weighed down here, particularly in later episodes which seek to flesh out her character in the most banal (and once again derivative) of ways. Even though it is bearly the length of a blockbuster film these days, I still can’t really recommend spending your time with Citadel.

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