Season One [Premiere]
Aired On: Prime Video
Release Date: 04/28/23
"Global spy agency Citadel has fallen, and its agents' memories were wiped clean. Now the powerful syndicate, Manticore, is rising in the void. Can the Citadel agents recollect their past and summon the strength to fight back?"
There is nothing new about the spy genre. Technology might grow in astronomical silliness but the tricks are all the same. The best a storyteller can provide is a compelling anecdote that fits within the rules of the game. For the new Prime series Citadel - where spies from a global agency are hunted on the run - executive producers Anthony and Joe Russo (yes, those Russos) go big and throw every spy cliche from the medium into a single 45-minute premiere.
How do you like your cheese, Mr. Bond? For Citadel? It is an all-you-can eat buffet.
The series sets up the Citadel as a global spy agency working for the good of humanity. Think Mission: Impossible’s IMF or Marvel’s SHIELD. Beautiful people doing dirty work. And none are more beautiful than Richard Madden’s Mason Kane and Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ Nadia Sinh. But a mission on a Eurorail train high in the Italian Alps goes bad. Kane and Sinh find themselves hunted by the dastardly-evil Manticore.
Citadel is blatantly, gorgeously cornball. The pilot episode is directed by Newton Thomas Sigel, who has recently photographed Da 5 Bloods as well as Cherry. Sigel makes everything look Marvel-slick. The action scenes are hyper-kinetic. The catch-me-if-you-can pace is breathtaking. The production is smooth, fun, and, in tapping the same vein as the Russos’ The Gray Man, completely turn-your-brain-off chic.
Perhaps additional episodes will draw from a deeper well, but the premiere is entirely a this-is-what-you-get presentation. Even the casting is spot-on conventional. Lev Gorn as the evil agent. Lesley Manville as the British diplomat. Moira Kelly is a bureaucrat. Because of course they are. All this and the great Stanley Tucci gets to crack wise as Kane and Sinh’s handler.
Casting aside, all of the other usual suspects are present: those wonderful spy tropes. The amnesia. The rogue agent. The nuclear missile McGuffin. The reaching for the weapon that is only a finger-tip away. All this commonality, though, becomes a mere distraction as the spotlight falls on the main stars: Madden’s abs and Chopra-Jonas’ lips. Spycraft has perhaps come a long way since The Americans Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.
Citadel is by no means high art. It is, and will hopefully remain, ridiculous fun that will certainly score high with the young and the young at heart. Citadel might skew more A View To A Kill than Bourne Identity but excels in its most vital capacity: escapism.