Citadel proves unworthy of Priyanka's splendour, Madden's intensity or veteran talents like Lesley Manville and Stanley Tucci squandered in banal parts, complains Sukanya Verma.
The word 'trust' constantly crops up in Citadel's soap drama of spies. Where the schmaltzy ones promptly hook up yet can't stop wondering if they can trust one another, the shrewder kind are happy to caution, 'I'm exceedingly untrustworthy, I'm a spy!'
For elite agents rescuing the world from nuclear catastrophes, they are a staggeringly small group of clueless, sloppy individuals blindly banking on the screenplay's contrivances while equipped with fancy-looking gizmos that guarantees little success and zero know-how beyond friendship and favours.
Driven by far more twists than one cares to count than insight, the ambitiously mounted first installment of an international franchise spends so much of its time in here-comes-another-bombshell, it loses all charm.
Created by Anthony and Joe Russo, the globetrotting espionage masala was never too bright to begin with, but its star-studded allure, especially a razor-sharp Priyanka Chopra Jonas and her flirty exchanges around the suave Richard Madden, elevated Citadel's cliched writing to harmless fun.
I didn't mind the first two breezy episodes and enjoyed how smoothly PC glided into its unpretentious space of big-budget, lowbrow Bond.
The actors are still Citadel's biggest draw in the episodes that follow.
The opening bits of season one, already renewed for a second, established Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Mason Kane (Richard Madden) as business-and-pleasure mixing partners of a world-class espionage agency trying to figure out their place in each other's lives and an imminent nuclear threat after their memories are wiped out using a technology called Backstop.
Episodes three, four, five and the finale skimp on the action set pieces to ramble on about romance stuck in a limbo and how every single character is not what they seem.
Everybody lies or is lied to.
Everyone is a suspect in its done-to-death game of moles.
Seeing characters through a moral prism would be a lot more exciting if Citadel would commit itself to their mystery and motivation.
One of its most fascinating character arcs belongs to Mason's wife (Ashleigh Cummings). Her backstory and conflict add texture to an otherwise flat storytelling. If season 2 aspires to do better, here's a character to invest in.
Priyanka alternates between restraint and razzle dazzle while also dropping some possible clues on Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Varun Dhawan's role in Raj and DK's Indian edition of the series.
Always rising above the predictable written matter, Citadel proves unworthy of Priyanka's splendour, Madden's intensity or veteran talents like Lesley Manville and Stanley Tucci squandered in banal parts.
Between an incessant to-and-fro timeline and globe hopping, Citadel's actual concern is relegated to the backdrop. When it is finally addressed, it's so moronic you'll want to try some of that Backstop technology.
Citadel streams on Amazon Prime Video.