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Answer the call from these bingeable thrillers
To have watched The Night Agent is to have finished The Night Agent. Netflix's hit political thriller about an FBI agent working the night shift watching a government spy helpline who gets involved in a conspiracy that involves some of the most powerful people on the planet, is, if nothing else, incredibly addictive television. It moves at a swift pace and is pretty much made up of unrelenting action from the moment Agent Peter Sutherland (Gabriel Basso) gets an emergency call from civilian Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan), who is being hunted down for reasons unknown.
The story isn't exactly complex, but it is compelling enough to keep you smashing that "next episode" button, and it's full of both easy-to-root-for characters and some exciting twists that keep upping the ante until its conclusion. When you breeze through the show's ten episodes, you might be on the hunt for more political thrillers with unlikely heroes, spy shows with twists and turns, or the very reliable "son avenges his father" plot. Well, look at the top-secret dossier below, because we've got suggestions for all of those and more.
Once you plow through The Night Agent — the only way to watch it, honestly — if you find yourself craving more political thrillers involving cover-ups and fall guys and handsome government agents thwarting terrorist attacks on public transportation before being pulled into something much bigger and more dangerous than they could ever imagine, head right on over to Bodyguard and do not pass GO. This U.K. drama's six episodes might even be more tightly wound than The Night Agent, which is to say, this is another show that you'll devour in no time. Here, Game of Thrones' Richard Madden stars as David Budd, a vet with severe PTSD turned protective security agent who, after stopping a suicide bomber on a train, is appointed to Julia Montague's (Keeley Hawes) security detail. Montague is a conservative MP and the U.K. Home Secretary, who's come under fire for a controversial bill she's trying to push through. It's full of twists and turns, reveals you don't see coming, and a central performance from Madden that holds it all together.
When we first meet John Krasinski's take on the iconic Tom Clancy character, his Jack Ryan is still working his CIA financial analyst desk job after serving in the Marines, but it's not long before he and his boss, played by Wendell Pierce, head out into the field after uncovering important intel that threatens the country. It's certainly not a show that reimagines the spy genre in any way, but it knows exactly what it is and how to pull off a compelling, addictive action series. That enviable Amazon budget is put to good use by way of international locales and thrilling action sequences and Krasinski and Pierce make for a wildly watchable duo that elevates the material any time they share a scene.
Listen, there can never be too many shows about unlikely people uncovering vast government conspiracies — at least, that's what they tell me. As Apple TV+'s Slow Horses proves, there's still fun, original ways to present the genre and that fun, original way is… let Gary Oldman have the time of his life. Based on Mick Herron's Slough House novel series, Slow Horses stars Oldman as notorious and notoriously obnoxious MI5 agent Jackson Lamb, who leads what is basically a group of agency rejects who've been sent to Slough House, an MI5 admin hell, after making some career-killing mistakes. Oldman gives a standout lead performance while surrounded by a refreshing cast of characters, and the writing deftly balances the dark humor with the thrilling spy stuff.
Sure, the quality sags a bit in the middle of Homeland's eight-season run, but the first season of this political thriller is, quite simply, phenomenal television, and its winning formula returns eventually. Even when the overarching plot of a season isn't exactly working on every level (or there are annoying teens everywhere you turn), the one-two punch of Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin at the helm is more than enough reason to keep watching. If you wanted more out of the Night Agent's Peter/Diane relationship, you'll find it here. Danes stars as Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent with bipolar disorder, and Patinkin as Saul Berenson, Carrie's mentor, friend, and the person who originally recruited her to the CIA. Their relationship as they deal with terrorist cells all over the globe is complicated and intense and only grows more so as the series goes on. You might sign up for Homeland for the political intrigue, but you'll stick around for the true treat that is Danes and Patinkin sparring on screen for eight seasons.
Peter Sutherland isn't the only underestimated government employee who is tossed into a political conspiracy and asked to rise above his station in order to save the country — please also meet Designated Survivor's Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland). Excuse me, President Tom Kirkman. The premise for the series — which spent two seasons on ABC before moving to Netflix for its third and final outing — is a great catalyst for a political drama: On the night of the State of the Union Address, an explosion at the Capitol Building kills (almost) everyone inside, leaving the designated survivor, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman, to be sworn in as President. Not only is he left to figure out who's behind the bombing, but he has the additional task of proving his legitimacy, competency, and power to a reeling nation. Sutherland is certainly the marquee name here and a major reason the high concept premise works at all — you believe him as the beleaguered HUD secretary and as someone who can rise to the occasion — but he's buoyed by a great supporting cast including Adan Canto as his Chief of Staff, Kal Penn as Comms Director, and Maggie Q as a CIA Agent investigating the bombing.
In The Night Agent, Peter's driven by an unrelenting need to clear his disgraced FBI Agent father's name — that same motivation courses through French crime drama Lupin. Peter has chosen a life lived above board in order to get the answers he wants regarding his father's transgressions, however, the protagonist of Lupin, Assane Diop (Omar Sy), chooses life as a master thief as a means to avenge the wrongs done to his dad. Twenty-five years earlier, Diop's father was framed by the powerful family he worked for and sent to prison where he hanged himself. Just a teen at the time, Diop has worked his entire life — inspired by literary master thief Arsène Lupin — to scheme and trick and thieve his way into enacting revenge. The series is full of fun twists and compelling action and Sy is about as charismatic a lead as you can get.
The man behind your Night Agent addiction is producer and writer Shawn Ryan. The Night Agent isn't his first foray into corruption within powerful organizations; Ryan's most well-known series dives head first into a police division riddled with corruption and takes the idea of a "moral gray area" to the extreme. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) leads the Strike Team, a group of detectives working on gang-related crimes in Los Angeles who are, let's say, super cool with breaking the law in order to get their guy or other items advantageous to them (Peter Sutherland would never, you know?). It's gritty and dark and if you're talking about hall of fame TV anti-heroes, Mackey — for whose portrayal Chiklis won an Emmy and was nominated for a second — is easily on that list. The crime drama, which ran for seven seasons from 2002 to 2008, also featured standout performances from Glenn Close and CCH Pounder.