Night Agent (2023)
When FBI agent Peter Sutherland answers the phone to a distressed Rose Larkin it sets off a thrilling chain of events that includes back-stabbing, espionage, and international intrigue that reaches into the highest echelons of the White House and the Secret Service. Peter played with a focussed intensity and thoughtfulness by Gabriel Basso is a national hero who has somehow found himself with one of the most unenviable jobs in the FBI, answering a phone in a windowless room in the basement of the White House. The phone is a line on which FBI agents in the field reach out for emergency assistance in dire circumstances. As he is told by the Chief of Staff Dianne Farr (played by Hong Chau) who has recruited him for the post, the phone never rings and he should view the post as a stepping stone to greater heights. Peter’s seeming demotion has ironically come on the heels of his heroic intervention in a Washington DC train bombing in which he saved countless innocents. But as we soon find out, the bombing is connected to a panicked caller, Rose.
When Rose reaches out she is not in the best of situations. After her tech company goes belly up, she moves in with her aunt and uncle who she thinks are boring middle class folks. She couldn’t be more wrong of course because they are actually undercover agents who have discovered that Americans connected to the highest office in the nation (and not some rogue terrorist leader), are actually responsible for the bombing. That knowledge gets them killed and sends Rose fleeing to a neighbour’s house with a secret code urgently imparted by her aunt moments before an assassin arrives to murder her and her husband. Rose now connected to Peter on the phone – her life line – explains her plight while hiding from the assassin who has pursued her to the neighbouring property. Sound exciting? It is!
This action-packed, thrill-ride is full of tier one talent like Enrique Murciano who plays Ben Almora the head of the Secret Service and Robert Patrick as Jamie Hawkins, the gruff and suspicious (of Peter) FBI Director. Two other stand outs are Fola Evans-Akingbola and D. B. Woodside as two black secret services agents, Chelsea Arrington and Erik Monks. Monks is a recovering addict whose addiction stems from his recovery from a shoulder wound inflicted during an assassination attempt on the former president. As a black woman who clearly suffers from the on-the-job sexism and racism of low expectations, Arrington initially resents the senior Monks’ placement on her team. She’s is a rising star in the service who has been tasked with protecting the vice president’s daughter, Maddie Redfield (played by Sarah Desjardins), a university art major. Maddie’s traumatic past (her little sister died in a swimming accident when they were children) and her self-serving, psychologically abusive VP father, contribute to her lack of self-esteem and poor judgement which leads to disastrous consequences that reveal her father’s connections to the train bombing. But when Maddie gives Arrington the slip to have a rendezvous with an art professor, Arrington is finally and appropriately grateful for the insights and experience of the more seasoned agent, Monks.
As the plot unfolds across the ten episodes, Peter and Rose (who know too much) are publicly blacklisted by White House insiders who are determined to dispose of the intended target of their initial bombing and pin it on the resourceful duo. What’s great about their partnership is that both characters, in their own ways, display psychological complexity, physical ability, and technical knowledge. Rose, who saves Peter on several occasions, is certainly not helpless and Peter is not a one-dimensional, mindless action hero. The romance that blossoms between them is organic and does not overwhelm the plot, their desire for justice, and their respective dreams and ambitions.
Night Agent has the urgency of Designated Survivor (2016) and the narrative complexity of Prison Break (2005). Like the latter, a part of its appeal is that it feels more like a movie than an episodic TV show. There’s a reason why Night Agent reached the #1 slot for Netflix TV shows in both Canada and the USA! If you like the pulse-pounding energy of action movies and the narrative complexity of thrillers, Night Agent is one to watch.