NEW YORK (OSV News) – Amnesia is a hoary device for inserting drama into a fictional tale, and the writers of the hard-edged but less than convincing espionage yarn "Citadel" rely heavily on it. The first three episodes of the six-part series are currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Future installments will become available each Friday through May 26.
In this case, the forgetfulness is not the result of an accident but has instead been deliberately induced. Opening scenes set eight years before the program's main action show us spies Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) operating in apparently top form.
Their mission, however, turns out to be a set-up, part of a larger conspiracy on the part of the evil Manticore organization to take down the virtuous, supranational intelligence agency of the title for whom both Mason and Nadia work. The scheme succeeds so well that the pair's controller, Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci), finds it necessary to wipe their memories.
Despite being badly injured and presumed dead, Mason and Nadia survive and start new lives. Flash forward to the primary timeframe and Mason, now known as Kyle Conroy, is leading a quiet suburban life with wife Abby (Ashleigh Cummings) and daughter Hendrix (Caoilinn Springall).
But Bernard is also alive and kicking. So when he belatedly discovers that Mason didn't bite the dust after all, he swings into action.
Kidnapping the entire Conroy family, Bernard whisks them off to a remote hideout where he sets about explaining to Kyle that he is, in fact, Mason, and that his skills are urgently needed. Under the leadership of the deliriously wicked Dahlia Archer (Lesley Manville) – who doubles as the British ambassador to the U.S. – Manticore has hatched a plot that endangers the entire globe.
Well, of course they have. There's a certain laziness at work in showrunner David Weil's production that leads to both cliches and implausibilities, not the least of the latter being Dahlia's day job. (Was she invited to the coronation, one wonders.)
Who started Manticore? Power hungry rich people! What's the relationship between chiseled Mason and smoldering Nadia? They're wise-cracking professional rivals who are nonetheless irresistibly attracted to each other. And so forth.
Scripting sloth also evinces itself in the barrage of F-words used to assure the audience that the characters are tough and the stakes high. Together with an overabundance of nasty physical violence – Mason knows how to use a shard of broken glass when it comes to hand – gunplay and some gore, the four-letter dialogue restricts the appropriate viewership to adults alone.
Mature TV fans willing to suspend disbelief may find "Citadel" a serviceable diversion. But those searching for the sly smoothness of a James Bond adventure will soon realize that Ian this ain't.- - - John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.