The Night Manager – episode 4

Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager

The Night Manager is fast becoming compulsive viewing for Sunday evening’s with Tom Hiddlestone’s suave, charming and principled Jonathan Pine enchanting many within the Roper crime operation as well as a fair proportion of the UK’s female population.

Hiddlestone’s female fan club excitedly tweets along in tandem with his on-screen exploits and went into near meltdown on Sunday night when he indulged in a stand-up quickie with Ged – the troubled wife of the ruthless arms dealer, Richard Roper. If Pine’s position was not complicated enough, his illicit affair with Mrs Roper could be his undoing, especially so after Corky (Tom Hollander) witnesses one of their meetings. Talk about swimming with the sharks!

Episode four of this thrilling Le Carre adaptation continues apace with Pine, under the guise of Thomas Quince finding favour within the Roper organisation as the ideal man to front their latest illegal arms transaction. Complete with a fresh identity – courtesy of Roper, Pine/Quince now Andrew Birch is shuttled to Istanbul with a briefcase full of cash, a Swiss banker and armed minders – all under the suspicious gaze of ‘Tricky Dicky’.

Richard Roper played by Hugh Laurie

Trust is the theme of this chapter of the story with Roper weighing the value of the loose-tongued, impolitic, drunk Major Corkoran; the loyalty of the Spanish lawyer Apostol (which ends badly for Apos); all the while running a bead rule over the character of Pine.

“What your tipple,” Roper queries. “You don’t drink, you don’t screw. I’m not sure I can trust a man who has no appetites.” To which Pine, on a high after concluding a tricky arms trade in Istanbul, retorts; “Well, you’ll have to trust this one.”

“I don’t have to. I choose to.” Roper declares pointedly.

It’s riveting stuff. Hugh Laurie has been on our screens for years and had brought us buffoonish, harmless characters such as Bertie Wooster alongside Steven Fry in Jeeves and Wooster and Lieutenant George Colthurst St Barleigh, the simpleton infantry officer in Blackadder Goes Forth, but never has he displayed the menace he carries through the eyes of Richard Roper.

His gaze is piercing, and behind the familiar smile we know so well, he shows that the cogs in the criminal mastermind’s brain are scheming away to find a chink in the armour of an opponent or an angle for his next play.

As it turns out, his next play is in Whitehall as he searches for the mole within his organisation who leaked details of illegal dealings. Hapless civil servant Rex Mayhew (Douglas Hodge) unwittingly exposes Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) as the source of his intel and sets in motion bloody wheels of retribution that Roper reserves for those indiscreet enough to talk or incur his displeasure.

Tobias Menzies, Jonathan Aris and Neil Morrissey

The weasel-like MI5 spook Geoffrey Dromgoole (Tobias Menzies) and his venal lackey Raymond Galt (Jonathan Aris) reveal themselves to be part of Roper’s arsenal of high level influencers and begin using the organs of State to discredit Burr and muddy the waters between Roper, Trade Pass and the weapons.

Pine is no fool though, he has seen that his only exit from this deadly game is to see it through to its end and foregoes the opportunity of escape offered by Burr. Shaking off handlers from the International Enforcement Agency, Pine dives deeper into the black waters of illegal arms trading with his cover intact and his position cemented within the upper echelon of Roper’s organisation.

With four episodes of this six-parter down, there is a heavy cloud of impending doom hanging over the assembled players. Pine’s high stakes charade is certain to have bloody consequences. But who, when and where? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Night Manager continues on Sunday at 9pm.

Images: BBC/The Ink Factory/Des Willie.