As the battle of the streamers rages on, Amazon fires another broadside with a $300 million super-series that feels much too big for the small screen. A blockbuster budget buys a great cast, a slick script and a whole lot of explosions, but the best thing about Citadel is just how old-fashioned it all feels.
Unashamedly owing everything to Mission: Impossible, James Bond, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity and every other spy series that’s gone before, there’s something warmly Sunday teatime about Amazon’s latest flagship – the show you look forward to watching with your granddad after he’s done with The Antiques Roadshow.
Marvel alumni the Russo brothers (Infinity War, Endgame) join here as executive producers and the polish of the MCU gleams from every surface. Citadel are the Avengers without superpowers – a secret spy agency that protects the world from international terrorism and the last line of defence against shadowy baddies Manticore (aka Hydra/Spectre).
“You wouldn’t know we existed, but we helped shape every event for good in the past hundred years”, explains Citadel boss Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci), handily having to re-explain the whole premise to his own top agent, Mason Kane (Richard Madden). Orlick picks Kane up eight years after an expensive-looking train crash in the Swiss Alps leaves him with Bourne-style amnesia, just in time to try and convince him to help foil Manticore’s biggest global attack.
But Kane isn’t the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on. Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) also doesn’t know she’s a super spy with memory loss, with no knowledge of the knotty history she shares with Citadel – or with Kane – when she gets dragged back into action in the present day.
Barrelling backwards and forward through time, continents and set-pieces, Citadel barely stops for breath. Madden and Chopra Jonas make a solid double-act, sparking and fizzing off each other’s chemistry as they ski down sexy mountains, dodge sexy jet planes and parachute into sexy gun fights. A chance for something deeper is missed as the show skims the surface of every fragile relationship, but emotional grounding isn’t really the point here.
All very silly and all a lot of fun, Citadel’s strength is in its own blind love for the genre – playing like the greatest hits of every other twisty action thriller around as it moves from one giant set-piece to another. Double-crosses are sign-posted, the plot frequently trips over itself, and you’ll spend half the time second-guessing who’s on whose side, but it’s all exciting enough not to matter.
Light and funny without being too quippy, the show skims the surface with serious style and money. Years ago, this would have been another 24, Spooks or Prison Break, but Amazon’s bottomless budget now squeezes the TV action series into a fancy new suit that it wears well.
Citadel debuts on Amazon Prime Video from 28 April.