Among the franchises it takes from, “Citadel” is undeniably post-Bond, starting with its slick two leads, played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden. They’re both cunning and quick-witted in an opening scene that takes place eight years ago on a speedy Italian train. Their Citadel spy characters Nadia Sinh and Mason Kane, respectively, are ready to thwart some scowling bad guys (who we learn are working for Citadel’s new rival spy group, Manticore). But Nadia and Mason have been expected, and the bad guys they shoot at and scuffle with throughout some choppy editing nearly kill them by blowing up the train, launching them to a lake below. Nadia and Mason both survive but lose their memories in the process, including their hot-and-heavy bond that was years in the making.
Mason Kane recovered pretty well: he went on to live a quiet domestic American life (echoes of what the Russos did with Hawkeye) with a wife, Abby (Ashleigh Cummings), and daughter Hendrix (Caoillin Springall). But that tranquility is challenged when he’s kidnapped by his old computer genius and boss Bernard (Stanley Tucci), who then reveals how the evil Manticore has hunted Citadel agents since that train explosion. Now, he needs Mason’s help to thwart Manticore and save Citadel, therefore saving his family. To do that, Mason has to track down Nadia in Spain and get her back in the business.
“Citadel” only has a couple of interesting ideas to play with, like how the agents’ memories have been saved in little injectable vials, which also makes a suitcase carrying them a hot commodity (and the catalyst for an anti-climactic retrieval scene) . But what’s most important to know about the not-so-nuanced spy game in this series from creators Josh Appelbaum, Bryan Oh, and David Weil, is that Citadel = good guys, Manticore = bad guys. We learn about this dynamic from one of many revealing, silly scenes in which poor Stanley Tucci has to dump a bunch of exposition, his monotonous delivery like a coded message to how bored he is. At the end of episode one, Bernard gives Mason (and us) the low-down: Citadel is a group of spies with no national loyalty who are forces of good (the word “GOOD” flashes on the screen) and have saved the world from potential crises (the headline “Y2K AVERTED” is then used with a straight face). Bernard then gestures Mason to a different computer, maybe six feet away, to narrate another slideshow, this time about how bad Manticore is. Crashing stock markets, oil crises, grid failures, it’s so broadly nefarious that it demands a GI Joe cameo to comfort us that this show actually knows what it’s doing. (No luck.) Because Mason and Nadia have eluded their wrath, now it’s up to the two of them to stop Manticore from obtaining all the nuclear codes in the world before they achieve world domination or other evil Santa Claus feats.