Many’s the slip twixt the cup and the lip is the moral we can take from this week’s gripping episode of The Night Manager.
Poor old Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) thinks she has finally nailed slippery arms dealer Richard Roper, after her man on the inside, Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddlestone), is able to leak details of a weapons cache heading for Syria. Unfortunately, for Burr, Whitehall mandarin Mayhew (Douglas Hodge) and CIA man Steadman (David Harewood), the Teflon-coated Roper, who has built his wealth on deception and subterfuge, is one-step ahead of them again.
Roper (Hugh Laurie) has been all charm in previous episodes, revealing only a glimpse of the sociopathic tyrant that he hides behind a mask. The revelation of a mole within the operation, though, brings ‘Tricky Dicky’s’ paranoia to the fore and brings down scrutiny of biblical proportions on all those within his inner sanctum.
Nobody is above suspicion, nobody is indispensible – not even Jed (Elizabeth Debicki). So what do you do when you are a multi billionaire arms dealer keen to root out a traitor and equally determined to mete out swift, merciless justice? The answer; you decamp to southern Turkey to your very own private military base, garrisoned by multinational collection of mercenaries who are on call for anything from weapons training to political assassination and coup d’etat. And, once there, you set about identifying the mole.
Such is the situation for Pine, Lord Sandy Langbourne, Jed and Corcoran, as Roper hosts them among his coterie of hired killers.
I was disappointed with the demise of Corky (Tom Hollander); he promised much as a consummate mischief-maker with caustic humour and a thinly veiled sadistic streak. He began the series as a smooth operator with a finger in every intelligence pie, but five weeks in – he is easily out manoeuvred by Pine and meets his end in a very clumsy and unconvincing bit of fisticuffs after discovering he has slipped out under the wire – of the heavily guarded, top secret mercenary base!
With Corky bereft of life, Pine wastes no time in exposing him as the traitor. “So Corky was my Judas,” says Roper as he rues the inconvenience of having to hide another body.
There was much to satisfy with the further exploration of the Roper character in this episode. He’s been cleverly realised and played by Laurie as a master tactician and manipulator, who seems to operate at a higher level to all those around him. Only Roper seems to be in possession of the full picture and he assiduously curates whom he shares information with and scrutinises to the nth degree the slightest weakness or discrepancy in the activities of those in his fiefdom.
Pine thinks he covered his tracks with the killing of Corchoran. But, don’t for one moment think that Roper’s suspicions have been assuaged. As the episode closes, Roper further ensnares Pine as his entourage travel to Cairo – bringing Pine full circle to the Nefertiti Hotel and a meeting the brutal Hamid family.
The Night Manager concludes on BBC1 on Sunday 27 March.