When most of us think about John LeCarre’s novels (and their adaptations for the big and small screens), we probably think of George Smiley, an aging bureaucrat tracking down a KGB mole; or Alec Leamas, a disillusioned spies realizing that both sides play the same tired game that only results in the suffering of innocents. In the post-Cold War era, the conflict is no longer between bureaucrats of spy agencies, but between idealists and the corrupting influences of big business on democratic governments (e.g. The Constant Gardener).
But AMC’s six-part miniseries of The Night Manager, adapted from LeCarre’s novel of the same name, turns those stereotypes on their head with a tale of forbidden love and stylish espionage. The Night Manager follows Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), an almost obsequiously polite functionary in some of the world’s most exclusive hotels, whose reaction to a traumatic event in the first episode is to infiltrate the entourage of the ruthless arms dealer Richard Roper (played by Hugh Laurie), who’s currently engaged in selling weapons to the forces of repression in Egypt, after the Arab Spring of 2011. Pine is recruited by Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), an idealistic (and heavily pregnant) British intelligence agent who has dedicated her life to bringing Roper down and finally, in Pine, has the means and opportunity to do so; rounding out the main characters, Pine’s mission is potentially compromised by his dangerous and undeniable attraction to Roper’s beautiful and damaged young mistress, Jed (Elizabeth Debicki).