I watched The Night Agent on Netflix. It is a superb portrayal of the world you can read about on Twitter.
We start one year ago, at a subway station in New York. Right from the outset our attention is focussed on an innocent little girl with her mummy.
A nice young guy smiles at her in the carriage.
But he’s also got his eyes open for trouble and he sees a suspicious looking guy in a dark hood, who frankly might as well walk round with BADDIE painted on his back.
Bad Guy leaves his rucksack under a seat, surprisingly no one challenges this. Our chap goes to inspect it after the hooded one gets off at the next stop.
Of course there’s a device in it.
Our man, who is in fact FBI agent Pete Sutherland, slams on the emergency brake and tells everyone to start evacuating.
Most people get away before it goes off. Pete is pulling his thoughts together when he spots Bad Guy in the crowd of on-lookers. He gives chase but doesn’t get him.
Meanwhile tech start-up CEO Rose Larkin is getting ready for her first big public engagement. Her importance become clear soon enough.
In the present day, Pete is now employed at the White House, working for Chief Of Staff Diane Farr, who singled him out for his great service during the bombing, and overlooked the big security issue that his dad got busted out of the service for leaking documents.
That’s why there are conspiracy theory websites like “Rome Tome” who keep pestering him and getting in to fights, alleging he’s a spy like his dad and involved in setting up the false flag of the Metro Bombing.
Sutherland also doesn’t get on too well with FBI Deputy Director Hawkins, played by Robert Patrick who is now a lot older and paunchier from his Terminator 2 glory days.
The top of the pyramid is President Travers, who might well be the 1st female President but no one thinks it worth mentioning.
Pete’s job at the White House is to be the Night Agent who just sits by the special secret phone line that can be used by secret field agents in an emergency. This is what happens now, when Rose Larkin goes to stay with her lovable old aunt and uncle, but then has to leave quickly in the middle of the night when they tell her they’re in great danger. It turns out they’re secret agents who have uncovered a big conspiracy linked to the Metro Bombing, but there are conspirators working inside the White House, who have sent assassins after them. They tell Rose to runaway to a safe house and give her the contact details to call the emergency line.
And so she gets in touch with Pete, who ensures she’s rescued from the assassins who kill her only relatives… and then he becomes her only ally in the struggle to find out what’s going on and who they can trust. Luckily Rose is a top cybersecurity expert and can do that thing of “hacking” passwords and so on by just clattering at a keyboard for 20 seconds.
Let’s back up a bit and find out more about her. She’s a clever kid but couldn’t afford to go to Stanford, though during her time as a rising tech CEO she liked hiring Stanford grads and getting them to make the coffee. Three months ago she was trying to get more funding, patiently explaining to a venture capital number-cruncher about why she was being prudent and sensible in her expansion road-map. But then an emergency broke out as her top systems person had to tell her everything was going wrong. It turns out that Adam, the chap who did all the work, had screwed up the business for her. That’s why she’d been sacked by her board and had to ask her old relatives to let her stay over, when it turned out they had bigger problems.
But Rose isn’t gonna give up, she’s gonna get back in the game as soon as she can. Just like Pete, she won’t let an accident of her disadvantaged background hold her back in any way. “She’s a survivor”.
Someone else who is pulling himself back together and getting back to work is Eric Monks, secret service guy. He’s back out of rehab and his old buddy, who is now the chief of the service, has assigned him to the special squad watching “Badger”, ie. the daughter of Vice President Redfield.
He immediately gets in conflict with the boss of the detail, Chelsea Arrington.
Arrington has a younger modern approach of being close and empathetic and keeping out of sight with her charge, whereas Monks is for the old school, masculine style of showing force all the time and not talking about feelings and stuff. Maddie Redfield doesn’t really mind either way.
Arrington thinks most of Maddie’s friends at Georgetown are all ridiculously entitled pampered idiots, and you can hardly blame her when so many, like Maddie herself, are attending an “Art And Activism” course.
The teacher here is a beardie creep who is of course part of another plot since he’s a weird environmentalist buffoon who thinks he can trick Maddie into making a statement about how cutting down trees is bad or something. The fact he is bisexual might also be an indicator that he’s a wrong’un, though of the hopeless naive variety that gets killed off by the real tough bad guys.
I’d like to see more of that strange painting in the background, which seems to be a postmodern fusion of romanticism with a giant smartphone.
Oddly, when Maddie gets kidnapped and held in a shipping container, her captor is at least decent enough to put a picture in there as well.
After the kidnapping, Monks and Arrington search through Sutherland’s bookshelf looking for clues, since he’s unwittingly made himself prime suspect. Why does he had books he hasn’t looked at? Pretension, explains Arrington, that’s why people have copies of Infinite Jest.
Arrington herself is very conscious that “Everything here reflects on me and I cannot fuck this up” and tells Monks that “you of all people” should appreciate that. This leads back to the story of Monks – he’s a national hero because he literally took a bullet for the previous President. However, recovery from that injury lead him into drug dependency and then rehab and being given this supposedly low-level assignment to redeem himself.
The story of that assassination attempt tells us something of the political changes in alt-USA. It was “at a manufacturing plant in Ohio”.
As the old President arrived, he was greeted with a call of “thank you for supporting Union workers”.
On the platform, his guest declares “Mr President, you’re the only reason we’re able to keep this facility Stateside. Every worker here would like to shake your hand.” The big guy starts emoting: “When I was a boy, a Union job at the plant meant honest hours…”
So it appears that the previous administration was led by Bruce Springsteen. Monks was on the ball in spotting that a weird beardie guy wasn’t clapping like everyone else, and he was the danger.
It’s not clear how much President Travers differs from this agenda, and I don’t think it’s even stated clearly that she is from the other party, rather than the being the previous VP who stepped in when the old guy got scared witless by nearly getting shot. When Diane Farr needs to reassure her of her loyalty (being old college friends and all that) she says she totally supports the administration’s programme, which includes a “Jobs Act” and other things. Of course protectionism and anti-globalisation have been a force in the politics of alt-USA for a long time. The second series of 24 saw the Democrat President getting a strong challenge from a Republican who wanted to bring back jobs lost due to trade agreements he’d been signing.
But what matter is being a survivor, like Pete or Rose. She never had to rely on bogus advantages, though if necessary she can play at that game – getting a woman in the records office to pass her some papers after spinning several yarns, one of which was that she could help with a college application to UC Berkeley as she was an alumna. Other people just take the work they can get and get on with it, like the hitman and hitwoman couple Dale and Ellen. When they aren’t being vicious and brutal they also have comic strained 30something couple conversation in ze forrin aczent about how Ellen just wants to settle down and have kids. She does have a range of hot goth guitarist hairstyles though.
As Pete and Rose and also Chelsea and Eric rush around trying to crack the case whilst a countdown to another big incident ticks down, there are still some “Patriot” sad sacks who get half-baked versions of the story off websites, getting in the way and filming themselves doing it.
But it’s all really about mysterious private contractors doing work off the books and also turning out to be big campaign donors to senior politicians who are so firmly committed to fighting terrorism they want to do more of it themselves so they can blame Balkan populist leaders with sketchy agendas.
At least unravelling the case isn’t so very difficult. Rose has her magic computer skills, but also the baddies help out with some corny old gaffes. When pretending to be a resident of a house she never visited, Ellen does the entirely predictable mistake of remembering long ago some detail that was only added recently. Pete also gets a big break in spotting someone he can’t trust when they mention back to him something he never disclosed. That’s so corny he even winces at it himself.
One positive in all this: Britain is doing well, as we’re still selling them Range Rovers. We have the songs as well.