Prime Video has had a pretty solid foothold in the espionage genre, but with The Night Agent, Netflix has come to play. Based on the novel by Matthew Quirk, The Night Agent is a character-based thriller centered on a low-level FBI Agent, Peter (Gabriel Basso), who works in the basement of the White House. His job? Manning the Night Action phone, a phone that never rings but, if it does, serves as the only secure way for a Night Agent to receive help when deep undercover. Then, one night it does. One phone call propels Peter into a fast-moving and dangerous conspiracy that ultimately leads to the Oval Office, and is in charge of protecting and believing the woman on the other end, Rose (Luciane Buchanan).
With the White House compromised Rose and Peter are the center of a spiraling story with more and more people getting caught in the current. Together, their chemistry builds. Awkward at first, the two grow to rely upon and trust each other implicitly, which builds their bond. That said, this isn’t just their story.
You see two parallel stories for the first six episodes of The Night Agent. Seemingly disparate, you can feel the tension as each one crescendo on its own before crashing into each other. But the bridging of the two narratives isn’t haphazard. Instead, they reveal the careful choices made in the narrative setup that have explicitly and subtly built on each other over each episode. As the mystery pieces start to fall into place, you can lean in and appreciate how the writers have worked to make you invested in every storyline put in front. And a lot of that investment comes from perfectly executed twists.
The Night Agent zigs every time you think it will zag, and that contact shift in narrative is its biggest strength. It also means don’t get too attached to characters because they probably won’t last until the last episode. But that makes it easy for the audience to both be engrossed and thrilled by what’s happening on screen. With constant and clever pivots, The Night Agent keeps you on uncertain ground, and that’s just what makes a spy story with treason and high stakes have some teeth. In fact, the series is well aware of espionage tropes it uses them to its advantage time and time again.
The only people you can trust are our leads, and even then, their trusting decisions work to make you question their choices but not through the fault of their own. While the strongest element of the series is its ability to surprise, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t miss some depth when certain characters are killed off. While each death does have significance, there are some holes that form from their absence. Not so much in ways of the plot but more specifically in the gravitas of certain parts of the story. While I can’t talk about the character specifically, which makes this whole paragraph rather vague, at times, our leads, Basso and Buchanan as Peter and Rose, don’t have the same compelling presence as other duos we see on screen.
That said, the pacing of The Night Agent is stellar, and that is what makes it work. I’ve deeply missed espionage thrillers and all the intrigue and state secrets that go with them. While we’ve some attempts from Netflix, The Night Agent is the one that comes closest to matching that Tom Clancy complexity that has made the recent Prime Video series succeed so well.
The success in the winding narrative comes from enough unsettled ground to keep things interesting while also laying out enough breadcrumbs for audiences to get in on the action. While some overarching elements are only revealed when the series looks back and unravels how twists are executed, small slips are made visible if you’re paying attention. A drop of a name that wasn’t said, a reaction to something that should have been secret, and the timing of the reveal are paused just perfectly for the audience to make the realization at the same time as the characters in the series.
Finally, the action of the series is good and grounded. It’s not Mission Impossible or even Jack Ryan but it is the right level of competency that doesn’t change a FBI-agent at the bottom of the ranks into a superhero. Instead, he just knows how to do his job and stay alive when backed into a corner, although his ability to stay alive is what makes his fights so entertaining. And that grounding makes The Night Agent invest more time in its story and mystery, and it succeeds because of it.
The Night Agent offers up an espionage thriller with mysteries that build unexpectedly. By keeping you on the edge of your seat and twisting your expectations, the series is what I’ve been waiting for from the genre on Netflix. With its ending, I’m open to more of The Night Agent, but at the same time, if it’s only around for one season, it’s a good way to end.
The Night Agent is streaming now exclusively on Netflix now.
The Night Agent
The Night Agent offers up an espionage thriller with mysteries that build in unexpected ways. By keeping you on the edge of your seat and twisting your expectations, the series is what I’ve been waiting for from the genre on Netflix.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.