Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for the ending of the BBC series The Night Manager. You have been warned!
The Night Manager was a fantastic bit of TV. The acting was sublime, helped in no small part by having both a stellar cast and a group of people I am personally a bit fan-girlish towards, whilst directing and cinematography were both top of the line. The opening sequence (a clear Bond homage) was one of the tightest I've seen in a while, probably since Game of Thrones first aired! Scripting? Superb! Music? Tonally spot on. Set design? Astonishing, especially for a TV show.
In other words, I really can't fault the series in any meaningful way. So why can't I shake a vague, niggling feeling of disappointment when I think of how it ended? I've been trying to work this out since watching the finale on Monday evening, to no avail. Could it be that, after six episodes of being 100% righteous, Angela Burr's (Olivia Colman) actions at the very end don't quite sit right? Is it the lack of ultimate justice, a feeling that although Roper (Hugh Laurie) may have "got what was coming to him" this somehow drags our heroes down to his level; that he should have been tried by a court, his duplicitousness dragged out via the media and into the history books?
Maybe its that Jonathan Pine's (Tom Hiddleston) strategic tour dé force in the final episode wasn't quite given enough of the limelight/payoff it deserved (or, arguably, the setup either). I mean, that was damned clever, even for him, but it did feel a little deus ex machinima, which I feel is unfair. But I still don't feel, even given these (minor) points, that they fully sum up my actual thoughts.
Perhaps I was actually too won-over by Laurie; a case of viewer-actor Stockholm syndrome. I am a huge fan and his performance throughout the series was faultless, but perhaps no moment was quite so impactful as the moment of animal terror that accompanies his final scene. The dawning realisation that something is wrong, that the situation is completely out of his control, that his own bigotry – in a rare moment of public emotion – is coming back to haunt him, all followed by the resultant break down and all occurring in just a couple of seconds of film! This is the imagery that dominates my thoughts when I remember that final episode. And in those moments, I felt sorry for Roper. Let down at the lack of justice, annoyed that our heroes credit would be stifled, that the full monstrousness of who Dickie really was would never be truly uncovered, all compounded by a sense of empathy for the very person we are meant to hate. No man deserves the fate that almost certainly occurred later, off-camera and after the credits have rolled.
I feel I am largely alone in this conclusion, but I'm beginning to think that maybe I shouldn't be and that, perhaps, this concept embodies the whole point of the entire series. That I can know everything about Roper that I do and still come away feeling sorry for his character shows either excellent or misjudged craftwork by everyone involved. Either way, it remains a damned enjoyable ride.
Note: This was intended to be published several weeks ago. I'm
still not too sure why it didn't, but now here it is, potentially in
need of an edit or two but oh well!
Note: This was originally published as a standalone article on the 07/04/16.