'The Night Agent' Review: Netflix's Exciting Political Thriller
Hong Chau — the Oscar-nominated actor, who’s appeared in “The Whale,” “The Menu,” and “Downsizing” — is an interesting element on Netflix’s new series “The Night Agent,” and a revealing one. To cast Chau, a gifted and hardworking performer who’s been elevating projects for years, is to announce a certain ambition. Here, she’s playing the determined White House Chief of Staff, a figure close to the heart of various intrigues on a political thriller with schlock in its DNA. And yet she does it so elegantly, so excellently that she elevates the whole thing.
So it is with “The Night Agent,” created by Shawn Ryan of “The Shield,” and based on a novel by Matthew Quirk. Here, Gabriel Basso (who played the future U.S. Senator J.D. Vance in the film “Hillbilly Elegy”) stars as Peter Sutherland, whose employment at the FBI is at such a low level that an offer to stand by and monitor a rarely used emergency hotline on the night shift comes to feel attractive. Wouldn’t you know it — one evening, that phone rings, and the caller is a tech founder who has found herself drawn into a drama she barely understands when her aunt and uncle were killed. Peter and Rose (Luciane Buchanan), his unlucky protectee, must piece together what happened on the fly, as they attempt to keep her safe and, just maybe, redeem Peter’s unfortunate family history of perfidy.
There are little touches throughout “The Night Agent” that make clear its writers and directors are really trying — a welcome, and too-rare thing. Chau is excellent — steel in her spine underneath a solicitous exterior, but Basso and Buchanan have real chemistry; so, in an askew manner, do Eve Harlow and Phoenix Raei as a pair of assassins for whom murder is an aphrodisiac. And the far-reaching conspiracy goes genuinely surprising places, ones not worth spoiling here.
The show isn’t perfect: Much is resolved, toward the conclusion, with a dump of exposition, and there are moments when the dialogue isn’t as sharp as the performers. Still, it’s a pleasure to see a show better than it might have been, when so often the opposite is true: “The Night Agent” sparks with curiosity and intrigue, a richly detailed show that propels viewers forward with a relentless pace.
“The Night Agent” premieres on Netflix on Thursday, March 23.