Thursday, March 23, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Night Agent' - One Phone Call Requires Rose to Trust Peter With Her Life After Tragedy Strikes in 'The Call'

Netflix's The Night Agent - Episode 1.01 "The Call"

While working the night action desk, FBI agent Peter receives a distress call and is soon put in charge of protecting cybersecurity expert Rose.

"The Call" was written by Shawn Ryan and directed by Seth Gordon

A year ago, Peter saved lives during a bombing on the metro while Rose was the CEO of a cutting-edge cybersecurity company. And now, he works in the basement of the White House manning a phone that never rings while she has moved in with her aunt and uncle after declaring personal bankruptcy. Their lives entangle after Rose's aunt and uncle are assassinated for whatever they discovered during a recent covert mission. Rose is given a number to call. That puts her in direct contact with Peter. He saves her life. He directs her to safety as one of the assassins tracks her down after she sees his face. She can identify him. And yet, she doesn't know who to trust because she overheard her aunt and uncle saying the White House was compromised. Every official who responds to this scene seemingly comes from the center of political power. Rose wants to trust Peter. She's skeptical because of where he works. He argues how he doesn't have a pivotal role within the control of the nation's government. However, his boss is essentially the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. Sure, territorial disputes occur over who can officially give Peter orders. Deputy Director Hawkins is his superior within the FBI. However, Diane Farr specifically recruited him for this job. She is the one who directs him to follow up with Rose and keep her safe. Any agent who had this number to call while in distress deals with the most sensitive intelligence work happening throughout the government. Peter is lucky he's never had to pick up the phone before. He has the skills to respond accordingly. Rose appreciates that human connection. She decides to trust him because she needs an ally. She doesn't know what her aunt and uncle discovered. She didn't know the truth about their jobs. She thought they had boring lives and only traveled for conferences related to their work. She thought she provided the drama within the family because her life was imploding. That was far from the truth. Of course, Peter has a tragic backstory as well. Dark corners of the internet have created a conspiracy that he was responsible for the metro bombing. They want to see him as a traitor to the country just like his father allegedly was. It's a lot of baggage for Peter to carry. It's not effortlessly introduced here. Moreover, the conspiratorial nature of the storytelling would suggest that every detail connects in some way. Peter doesn't catch the bomber after all. That could be significant. Rose's career could provide her with useful skills as she remains targeted by motivated individuals desperate to keep their secrets hidden. Anyone in the White House could be nefarious. That includes everyone Peter believes he can trust because of the relationships he's built over a year. It's a lot to carry.

This show doesn't immediately set out to do anything new or innovative within the genre. It's meant to cater to a very specific viewer that loves the mystery that needs to be solved over the course of the season. The most effective versions of this format are driven by characters who are just as compelling. Right now, the mystery is more important than Peter and Rose. Peter is absolutely given more personal details. In addition to the baggage with his father, he has an ex-fiancée who moved away to Texas. That detail may only be provided to explain why he has a closet full of clothes for Rose to borrow. Sometimes the show feels the urge to offer an explanation for why Peter has these skills. He's meant to be immediately seen as a good and noble man. He gives up his seat on the subway so a mother and daughter can sit together. Moreover, he notices the bag with the bomb in it. He alerts everyone to the danger. Most escape in time. Only one person is killed. That's still too many for Peter. Even with a concussion, he's motivated to pursue the bomber after he returns to the scene of the crime. Peter risks his personal safety in the name of saving lives. He is easily offered up as a hero. He makes an impression. That's why he's working at the White House. It's still a low-level position. He can't rise the ranks because he allows these fringe conspiracy theorists to provoke him. It's all over the internet. The people in positions of power know about it. And yet, he's still trusted for this job. He knows when people are following him and mean to do harm to Rose. He aims to keep her safe. She feels protected in his presence. However, she isn't going to share everything she knows with Diane and Hawkins. If it was that easy, then normal procedure would have been followed with Hawkins taking her in right away. Instead, Peter had to shield her. It was a precarious mission. He prevails. That doesn't explain the immediate threat to an innocuous woman in Racine, Wisconsin. She's killed by a couple posing as new parents reminiscing over the past. It's a completely random final scene. It infers how this couple makes their way across the country. They are effective at following these incredibly specific orders. They have unfinished business in Washington, D.C. Their faces are now known to the audience. Rose has seen one of them as well. Peter trusts her instinct. But he doesn't know specifically what her aunt and uncle were working on. They were a part of the Night Action program for a reason. This carries a special designation beyond the usual protocol. It's all mysterious. As such, the show needs to compel the viewer to remain engaged. Academy Award nominee Hong Chau certainly offers a sense of legitimacy the program otherwise would lack. That's encouraging even if the plotting remains a little too stilted to offer much complexity to the rapidly developing situation. Diane and Hawkins are the only significant characters from the White House to immediately suspect is the true threat after all. If it's not them, then the show really doesn't offer the audience much chance at successfully solving the mystery as it plays out.