Friday, April 28, 2023

Citadel, on Prime

Citadel is a lot like U.N.C.L.E., but it is not an acronym, at least not as far as we know yet. The super-secret, trans-national spy agency’s backstory is getting filled in as the series goes along. The problem is, there are not a lot of people left who would know. Nadia Sinh and Mason Kane are two of the handful of agents who survived their enemies’ lethal purge, but their memories were wiped clean, as per agency protocols. With or without their memories, Kane and Sinh will reteam to save the world and themselves in the first season of showrunner David Weil’s Citadel executive produced by the Russo Brothers, which premieres today on Prime Video.

There was definitely some awkward but potently charged history between Sinh and Kane when they found themselves on the same assignment that fateful day. Unfortunately, they were being set up, like every other Citadel agent, as part of a worldwide gambit launched by Manticore, a more buttoned-down corporate cousin of SPECTRE and THRUSH, fronted by the ruthless Dahlia Archer.

Kane basically started over when he woke up in an Italian hospital with no memory of his previous life. In the eight years that followed, he married and had a daughter, but occasionally he has visions of Sinh. The feeling of incompleteness spurs him to launch a highly advanced DNA search, which alerts his old boss, Bernard Orlick—and their old foes at Manticore.

To protect his family, Kane agrees to help Orlick recover Citadel’s global nuclear code skeleton key, before Manticore figures out how to use it. Kane still has no memory of his past, but he can get by on his reflexes and muscle memories. However, when things really get bad, he will need to find Sinh.

is a lot like a lot of other shows and movies (call it The Bourne Citadel), but it is way more expensive (reportedly the second costliest series ever). At least it is much more watchable than the tedious, de-Tolkien-ized The Rings of Power (assumed to be the #1 most expensive). There are non-stop stunts, punctuated by a bunch of explosions, set-off against a rapidly changing panorama of exotic backdrops. There is even a flashback to a mission targeting the Iranian regime, which earns Weil and company credit for actually taking on a real-life bad guy who is really bad.

It also has Stanley Tucci snarking it up as Orlick, which also goes a long, long way. His sardonic humor (and flippant stoicism in the face of torture) are just as entertaining as you would expect. Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden are also hugely photogenic co-leads. Their characters might have been out of the spy game for eight years, but they clearly kept up their workout routines. Plus, Lesley Manville chews the scenery like nobody’s business as Archer, making a worthy foil for the acerbic Tucci.

Frankly, based on the first three episodes provided for review (out of six), it is not immediately obvious where all that money is on-screen, but Tucci and Manville are wonderfully droll, while Madden and Chopra Jonas look great in their fight scenes. As formulas go, that one adds up pretty well. Recommended for fans of globe-trotting
Mission Impossible-style action, Citadel starts streaming today (4/28) on Prime.