Everything to know about Netflix’s new political thriller The Night Agent

Netflix, like every streaming service, has a hit-or-miss track record when it comes to offering spy and spy-adjacent shows. Some of them, like Kleo, have a stylized aesthetic and avoid pandering to the lowest common denominator. Others, like The Recruit, pack in as many well-worn tropes of the genre as possible, aiming for schlocky entertainment value instead of anything resembling verisimilitude. Netflix’s newest title in this genre is The Night Agent, a 10-episode TV series based on Matthew Quirk’s novel of the same name that the streaming giant debuted on Thursday.

Should you put this one on your watchlist? If you’re a fan of the genre and are looking for a new thriller to try, this one gets a tentative “yes” — for reasons that we’ll get into below.

The Night Agent – now streaming

The basics: Creator Shawn Ryan has described the series, which stars Gabriel Basso and Luciane Buchanan, as “All The President’s Men with car chases.”

The novel it’s based on is like one of those pulpy spy novels that airport bookshops and newsstands are filled with. As far as the plot goes, The Night Agent is about a low-level FBI agent named Peter Sutherland who works nights in the basement of the White House, manning a phone line for undercover spies that never rings. One day, however, it does ring, setting into motion a chain of events uncovering a conspiracy that reaches all the way to the Oval Office.

The series — part of this week’s Netflix releases that have also included titles like Waco: American Apocalypse — is reminiscent of the kind of formulaic storytelling that fans of the Jack Ryan, Reacher, and Bourne Identity books will recognize, albeit without the same kind of secret agent who comes off as a borderline superhero in so many of these kinds of stories.

Basso’s Peter is an FBI agent who doesn’t exist as some kind of “unbeatable killing machine,” as Ryan puts it. He’s an underdog, not a trained assassin. You also get the sense that the young woman he’s trying to protect may or may not make it to the end of the novel, and so the story keeps you locked in and turning the pages.

Luciane Buchanan as Rose Larkin and Gabriel Basso as Peter Sutherland in Netflix’s “The Night Agent.” Image source: Dan Power/Netflix

Rotten Tomatoes scores

Overall, Netflix’s production does as good a job as it can with source material that didn’t exactly wow me — a sentiment that’s also reflected in the Rotten Tomatoes score for The Night Agent.

The series currently has an 83% critics’ score and a 67% audience score as of this writing — a bit of a mixed bag, which is the reason for the tentative “yes” above. Opines a Los Angeles Times reviewer, “The characters are generic — plucky heroes, superior superiors, inscrutable politicians, eccentric assassins — which is not in itself a problem; it’s just that little interesting is done with them.” All in all, coming from someone who also read the book, I’d say that’s a fair assessment.

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