Books, Reading
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Some thoughts on ‘The Night Manager’ on TV and on the page

Last night the final episode of the BBC adaptation of The Night Manager aired in Australia. As readers we all hope that when a book we love is adapted for the screen, the makers of that adaptation will do it the justice it deserves. I can say with all of my le Carré fangirliness that it well and truly surpassed my expectations in some areas, while not quite meeting them in others.

Before I go too much further, I should warn you that there are spoilers ahead for both the book and the TV show, so if you haven’t read the book or finished up with the series yet, maybe stop reading now and come  back at a later date so we can chat! If you’ve watched the show and are thinking about reading the book, you can check out my review here.

The casting.

Real talk: I can’t imagine anyone else playing Jonathan Pine and Richard Roper, than Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie respectively. Laurie has been quoted in several articles (like this one here) as saying he wished he could have played Pine when he was younger (I love that Laurie is a le Carré reader from way back) and while I think he would have done an admirable job, he was fucking brilliant as Roper (excuse my language). And Hiddleston? Well, here are my thoughts after the first episode:

Other honourable mentions must go to Tom Hollander for his portrayal of Major Corkoran, and Elizabeth Debicki as Jed – I was quite skeptical of both castings initially, but I now can’t think of two people better suited for the roles. Speaking of skepticism, here are my thoughts on the early casting announcement of Olivia Colman as Angela Burr, a character who is actually male (named Leonard Burr) in the book and who I love dearly:

I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Olivia Colman was so excellent and hey, here’s an idea: how about you write her a spinoff series, BBC?

The setting

The TV adaptation is set about 20 years later than the book. Again, I was skeptical but I love the relevance that this modern setting gave it. I think I was most concerned with this change as there are very little technology and “spy” gadgets in the book, and I didn’t want the TV show to turn into a James Bond style gadget-fest. But happily there was very little tech, and Jonathan’s undercover work remains as lonely and disconnected from his handler, Burr, as it does in the book.

The relationship between Jonathan and Jed

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the relationship between Jonathan and Jed in the book – they get a relatively happy ending, but there was something about it that just didn’t sit right with me. But after watching the show I have a new perspective on things.

So, in the book they sort of sail off into the sunset and head back to the cottage in Devon that Jonathan lived in when he was building his legend. In the show, Jed heads back to her family in the US and Jonathan goes off to do whatever it is that Jonathan’s going to do. Basically, I got the impression that their relationship may or may not be a permanent thing.  Did Jonathan love Jed, or was she a stand in for Sophie, and did he simply feel that he needed to atone for his perceived failure in allowing Sophie to be killed? The same goes for Jed – did she feel something like love for Jonathan, or were her feelings motivated by fear and self preservation?

I think their closeness was as a result of the situation they found themselves in. As nice as it was to see them “live happily ever after” in the book, for a few pages at least, I  believe their ending in the show was probably a little more realistic than the one in the book.  Without wanting to go too far into the depths of the human relationship, I suspect that once outside the intensity of the situation they were in, their feelings for each other would also have become less intense. Maybe. I’m not a psychologist.

The ending of everything else

I think this is where the show let me down. Firstly, I thought that there was too much packed into the last episode. Where the first five episodes felt like a slow burn, the final moved quickly from scene to scene in order to get things wrapped up – I reckon it could have done with another half an hour to make it feel a little less rushed.

And Roper? Well Roper’s a bad guy, and I’m sure that the people who only watched the show and haven’t read the book would have been happy to see Roper get what could be seen as his comeuppance in the show. But the book is very different – sure things don’t quite go his way, but he’s virtually left free to carry on with his business, untouched and unchecked, while those attempting to bring him down basically have their careers ruined. The conclusion to the novel is far more open and offered a very real chance for there to be a sequel – much more so than the show, so I was very surprised that so many viewers were calling for there to be a second series; I thought everything was pretty well wrapped up (except perhaps for Jonathan’s future).

I definitely prefer the ending of the book, because in reality the bad guy doesn’t always get arrested and he doesn’t always get made to pay for his crimes. It’s a shitty world sometimes, and things don’t always go the way they should.

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: The round up // April 2016 | Bits & Books

  2. I’m delighted that you liked this casting! My friend and podcast partner had some reservations about Tom Hiddleston being cast as Jonathan Pine, and I’ve been nervous that it wouldn’t turn out well, even though Tom Hiddleston is of course a wonderful and gifted actor. YAY okay goody. I even more can’t wait to see the series, now.

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    • I was excited about Hiddleston at first, but then as it got closer to the air date in Australia I began to worry that he’d be *too* sexy (yes, that’s a real concern I had), but he really was perfect. The whole cast was pretty perfect actually, I don’t have a bad thing to say about any of them. I hope you like it!

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    • I definitely prefer the ambiguity of the book. I felt like the way everything was tied up in the show felt a little bit too like the typical spy movies/TV shows we see, where the bad guy always caught and good triumphs.

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  3. I completely agree with your ending about how it’s almost better to see the bad guy not get caught? In a sense… it makes the whole thing more frustrating and a better book 🙂

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