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citadel.jpeg

The Trite, Insipid Tragedy of 'Citadel'

By Alison Lanier | TV | May 31, 2023 |

By Alison Lanier | TV | May 31, 2023 |


citadel.jpeg

It’s no secret at this point that the Russo brothers’ Citadel is a very bad show. It is also the second-most-expensive show ever made, right behind Amazon’s The Rings of Power. I mean, at least money can’t buy everything, if that’s any consolation.

A few weeks ago, I waded through the first few episodes and declared it harmless fun. I mean, it’s stupid, it’s pretty, and it’s a great big nothing-burger of a show. Watching how it all played out, I realize I made a grave error. Yes, it’s stupid. But fun? Seems like a baseline requirement for a Bond-ish thriller fueled by cliché. But no. That requirement it did not meet.

In a nutshell: Citadel follows eye-candy spies (who call themselves spies A LOT) Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) who had their memories wiped and are now in the high-stakes (does it feel that way? No.) Stanley Tucci plays Bernard Orlick, their man in the chair, whose emotional set-up falls so open-endedly flat it was literally stunning.

The tragedy of this show is that it took itself far too seriously to just have some damn fun. Worse, it’s self-serious in a way that you can tell it thinks it’s genuinely cool. But hot people do not automatically equal cool, unfortunately for the Russos.

Spoiler here (but honestly who cares): The finale is a ridiculous hostage standoff where Mason and Nadia’s daughter, who was literally revealed to exist minutes before, falls from a high bridge … to be harmlessly caught dozens of feet down by Mason in a highly emotional reunion in which the kid, who hasn’t seen Nadia since she was an infant, somehow recognizes as her mother. Yeah. Does it make sense? No. But I could excuse it if the action were cool. Or if there was any tension to be spoken of. Also then both main characters make overblown reveals about who their parents are.

This behemoth of a tacky spy thriller communicates almost exclusively in cliches, in both narrative structure and writing, and hasn’t noticed that it’s not Bond. It’s a very bad show, yes. Rotating the frame upside down (and they do that A LOT) does not compensate for an absolute lack of quality on so many other fronts. Inserting “fuck” in every line of dialogue that needs to feel dramatic can’t make up for it. Apparently not even Stanley Tucci can make up for it. The writing and story shape are about as substantial and convincing as a fraying plastic houseplant.

Why did I sour on this show since the first two episodes, when it was all harmless fun? I think it’s because, largely, I see what this was supposed to be. I was right when I said it was a prestige TV show, but it’s absolutely just … more content. And it’s not even fun content at the end. It builds tension and story with absolutely no intention of resolving them. Piling on the set-up gets tiring. It’s not even suspenseful.

This really should have been a dumb two-hour movie barfed out into theaters, or just direct to stream realistically. But instead, we got this.

The appeal of the series format for these big-budget projects is, in part, that things have time to build up and play out. The build-up happened…and then kept happening, at a loss about how to possibly resolve. Honestly, I gave this thing too much credit. This is a nonsense time-suck at its dullest and most expensive.

And naturally now they’re teasing an apparently equally plotless follow-up series, Citadel: Diana predicated around an asymmetrical haircut (you think I’m joking, but seriously). And, worse still, they’re billing the new series as an expansion of the Citadel-verse. I cringed so hard.

Give this nonsense a pass. Maybe the studios will remember why they need writers eventually.