The Pitch: When we first meet Mason (Richard Madden) and Nadia (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), they’re cool and confident secret agents for an organization called Citadel, a collective of spies with no allegiance to any one country — as we watch the pair banter mid-mission on a high-speed train, there’s also clearly some history between them. Before we can get the full scope of their relationship, though, things literally explode around them, as a separate organization called Manticore has begun a global massacre of Citadel agents, with Mason and Nadia next on the list.
While Mason and Nadia both survive the attempt on their lives, their memories are remotely wiped by what remains of Citadel, and eight years pass before Mason, now married with a young daughter, decides to try answering the question of who he was before he woke up a new man. This, however, alerts people who weren’t aware he was alive to his existence, including Bernard (Stanley Tucci), Mason and Nadia’s former handler, as well as Citadel’s old enemies. With his family in danger, Mason has to track down Nadia — and see if the two of them can find answers.
Bond Lite: The greatest strength of Prime Video’s big budget spy thriller is also its greatest weakness — it’s familiar. You look at the plot description above, and you can see some Bourne, some Bond, and not much of a fresh point-of-view on the genre as a whole. So while Citadel should please the audience with which Prime Video seems to have the most success (dads who enjoy zoning out with Jack Ryan, Reacher, and Bosch), it’s not doing anything innovative — certainly nothing innovative enough to kickstart the kind of franchise Prime Video wants it to be.
A quick summary of those intentions: Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke approached MCU maestros Joe and Anthony Russo with the idea of creating a global adventure, which led to the concept of not just a core series starring Madden and Chopra Jonas, but spinoff series to be filmed in other countries with local talent.
The problem came when original showrunner Josh Appelbaum left the series and Hunters creator David Weil came in to bring the show over the finish line. No telling what the original version of the series might have looked like, but in terms of the end result, the feeling is similar to a high school student rushing to finish an essay the night before it’s due — there’s a sense of accomplishment in achieving the task in a limited amount of time, but just because it did get done doesn’t mean it was done well. (Procrastination and reshoots aren’t a perfect analog, metaphor-wise, but that is sincerely the vibe.)
Time For Some Math: Perhaps it’s unfair to hold Citadel to high standards based on its original ambition, but what stands out about the final product is how slight it feels. Critics were provided with the first three episodes of the season, all of which were approximately 40 minutes. That is, 40 minutes after you include an opening title sequence, the full end credits, a “Next Time on Citadel…” montage and, for Episodes 2 and 3, a “Previously on…” introduction.