As a performer whose career has mostly been made up of his work in young romantic comedies for the streaming service, Noah Centineo is probably the prototypical Netflix star. Like the movies in which he has appeared, Centineo has a fleeting charm; he is a pleasant presence but one who quickly fades from memory.
Thus, he fits a program with many events but no real focal point. In “The Recruit,” a brand-new Alexi Hawley-directed Netflix thriller, Centineo’s character Owen Hendricks is forced into the middle of international spy shenanigans. Throughout the drama, he fluctuates in feeling from moderate intrigue to slight anxiety. Given that “Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman oversaw the pilot episode, the show should captivate viewers but instead fade away as it continues.
The main concept is clever enough: Use a millennial protagonist and espionage thriller language. (When offered a martini at a fancy function, our young Bond character chooses a White Claw.) Owen, a new attorney for the CIA, discovers a letter from an imprisoned former agency asset (Laura Haddock).
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This mysterious entity, going by the name of Max, pleads for forgiveness while using access to confidential information about American intelligence operations as a threat. Soon enough, Owen was involved in a complex relationship with a woman with a wealth of expertise, including how to deceive a junior member of an agency.
There are some exciting moments in this, like when Owen tries to teach Max how to rig a polygraph exam. (This viewer discovered some shocking details about the biological metrics such a test might employ!) However, too much of “The Recruit” seems to be operating automatically.
Bombastic and violent action starts to blend as it is randomly deployed to keep viewers interested. When Owen destroys his suit in Vienna and needs to buy a sweater that says “Vienna Bitch” to wear back home, gestures toward comedy feel nebulous and allude to the concept that jokes belong in the show more so than joke-jokes.
Owen’s interactions with his friends feel like a 20-year-later reboot of the least intriguing aspects of “Alias,” mixed with complaints that his extremely busy espionage schedule prevents him from being a completely engaged buddy.
Give “The Recruit” this much:
It is a wonderfully done cliffhanger that has been subtly built up during the season.
It was enough to make me wish the remainder of the show’s storylines were more concise and that its goals for what it may be and accomplish were less constrained by tepid humor. This viewer was excited to see what the show had in store for it at the very end, but it took too long to get there.