Maybe Someone Changed the Rules in Spyland – The Night Agent (2023) Season 1

Officially, the new Netflix thriller series The Night Agent is based on a 2019 novel by Matthew Quirk. If the TV adaptation follows it at all closely, the story seems to have been based in turn on the author watching a lot of Fox’s 24. At the very least, the Netflix show’s producers sure did.

With a twisty plot featuring an abundance of terrorist moles and deep-state government conspiracies, punctuated by frequent gunplay, fights, and car chases, The Night Agent feels like a very conscious effort to copycat the formula of 24 as closely as possible (down to incorporating at least two former 24 cast members). Nevertheless, I tend to doubt it will become quite the cultural phenomenon that show did in its heyday, and not just because Netflix will limit it to only ten episodes a season.

The Night Agent (2023) - Robert Patrick
Title:The Night Agent
Number of Episodes:10
Release Date: Mar. 23, 2023
Watched On: Netflix

Producer Shawn Ryan earns a lot of credit (and benefit of the doubt) for creating the legendary crooked cop drama The Shield. He has a few other very good shows like The Unit and Terriers on his record as well. Regrettably, not everything he’s made over the years has reached those standards. The Night Agent hardly feels like it’s even trying to. Despite its glossy production values, this isn’t prestige TV. It’s mostly just a bunch of silly nonsense.

The hero of the story is a young FBI agent named Kiefer… ahem, excuse me, Peter Sutherland, played by the blandly handsome Gabriel Basso. Peter has a serious chip on his shoulder, owing to a bunch of loony QAnon types framing his father as traitor, or so he believes. Despite this burden, he’s a super awesome FBI stud who starts the pilot episode by single-handedly saving a subway train full of civilians from a terrorist bombing. For this clear act of heroism, the FBI immediately demotes him to the most thankless job the agency offers – working nights in the White House basement manning a telephone that should never ring.

Of course, on his very first shift, that phone indeed rings, calling for “night action,” an emergency code used by agents in trouble. Answering that call initiates a chain of events wherein Peter will need to protect a pretty young tech entrepreneur named Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan) from terrorists trying to murder her for reasons neither can comprehend at first. In doing so, Peter finds his loyalties divided between his hardass FBI superior (Robert Patrick) and the much nicer White House Chief of Staff (recent Oscar nominee Hong Chau).

Also playing important roles are 24 vets D.B. Woodside as a Secret Service agent protecting the Vice President’s daughter and Kari Matchett as the President. (Yes, a female President! Cue the inevitable manufactured outrage about “woke” Hollywood from the expected quarters.)

When it becomes evident that the FBI, the Secret Service, and every single level of the U.S. government from bottom to top are all infested with double agents and moles working toward nefarious ends to do something diabolically horrible, Peter and Rose must go on the run and root out this conspiracy before it can unravel the entire fabric of American civilization.

Needless to say, the plotting of this show is completely ridiculous. Right from the start, the two agents who give Rose the Night Action phone number (her aunt and uncle) are spies who ought to work for the CIA, not the FBI. The whole premise of the story hinges on the writers (and the audience) not understanding the difference between those two agencies. Further along those lines, it’s not at all clear why Peter would report to the White House Chief of Staff. As plot twist after plot twist are unveiled, each inevitably revealing that some presumed ally has in fact been an evil conspirator all along, the twists become tediously predictable and ineffective. The two leads are fairly dull, and the action scenes, while generous in volume, are mostly tepid in execution.

For all that, The Night Agent has its modest pleasures. The show is basically an airport paperback in TV form. It makes a perfectly adequate time-waster to put on without exerting too much mental energy caring about the characters or whether the plot makes any sense. To that end, I’ve certainly watched worse in my day.

The Night Agent (2023) - Hong Chau

Video Streaming

Netflix streams The Night Agent in 4K HDR at an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. The image sharpness is pretty good, enough that nothing seems untoward even if most scenes don’t necessarily leap off the screen. The photography is very dark a lot of the time. Someone took the show’s title seriously and decided to pull down the brightness. Fortunately, highlights have decent pop and balance the contrast enough that the episodes rarely feel excessively dim (as can be a frustrating problem with some HDR content). Daytime scenes look fine.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack has impressive dynamic range for a streaming TV series. Although forgettable in most musical respects, the score’s deep strumming bass is very satisfying. The track also has occasional LFE hits that land with surprising force. Gunshots give a nice kick, and the surround channels are very active. Overhead activity is less noticeable, though at least one episode takes good advantage of the height speakers with a helicopter flyover.

One thought on “Maybe Someone Changed the Rules in Spyland – The Night Agent (2023) Season 1

  1. My wife and I are watching this now. We picked it because she was looking for something -anything- in a series that I would sit and watch with her. The plot doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny, and there’s not a single original idea, but it’s been an enjoyable diversion and I’m looking forward to seeing how they wrap up the season. Agree with you about the brightness – the show is waaay too dark.


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