Citadel Season 1 Review – A glitzy, polished drama with no substance


Season 1


Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -|Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 5 -|Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 6 -|Review Score – 2.5/5


So much of what went wrong with Citadel comes down to the expectations it set. When you hear of a show being produced by the Russo brothers, with a soaring budget of more than $300 million, and with several spin-off shows already greenlit, you tend to expect it’s going to be a good one. At the very least, a decent one.

An action thriller about spies, Citadel revolves around Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh, who belonged to an elite spy organisation named Citadel before it was forced to disband. Following this event, they had to have their memories erased. Years later, when a new world-threatening danger arises, the agents must find their way back to who they used to be.

Citadel could have been a truly thrilling story about underground spy agencies, one that delved into the complexities of saving the world in this day and age. An age where ‘save the world’ doesn’t mean one single thing anymore. Citadel very much wanted to be this show, with the creators openly talking about the greyness of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. But unfortunately, the real thing fell far off from the mark.

The biggest downfall of Citadel is how generic and bland it is. There’s a good spy agency and a bad one that led to the former’s downfall. Agents go on missions to deal with yakuza bosses and Russian submarines with zero further explanation. There are evil rich families pulling strings behind the scenes and nuclear warheads in the sea. The tech is similarly oversimplified. There is an Oz Key that can hack into a country’s entire infrastructure, a button that erases memories and an injection that brings them back. It’s all far too convenient for the characters and terribly lacklustre for audiences. It seems like when it came to depicting spy agents and their missions, Citadel simply did not want to put in the work.

The first episode hints at a potentially intriguing tale but as the show goes on, the story gets more and more mediocre. The plot is packed with tropes as well as loopholes. Character development is weak if not non-existent, and dialogue is cheesy and bordering on unrealistic. Bernard Orlick starts out as one of the most fascinating characters on the show and pretty much disappears towards the end. The recurring suspicion on Nadia becomes tiresome and when her secret is finally revealed, it is underwhelming.

Citadel attempts some stylistic flairs, such as a particular use of a swivelling camera that is supposed to imply how things in Citadel’s world are all upside down, but its frequent use renders it an annoyance. The story often flits between past and present as well, but the effect is more distracting than anything. Rather than a smooth flow of storytelling, it comes across as if somebody’s cut and pasted the scenes.

If I thought that one could enjoy Citadel despite its simplified story, I was wrong. While it does have sleek production values — elaborate, sophisticated settings, snazzy costumes, high-stakes action sequences, and famous (and really attractive) actors — it isn’t enough. The show doesn’t have the over-the-top endearingness of James Bond or the fun tech-savvy-ness and edge-of-the-seat thrill of Mission Impossible. Even Mason and Nadia’s initial spark fades out over time. Ultimately, there is nothing in the show that captures viewers’ attention.

It’s a real shame because the entire cast has done such a phenomenal job. You can see them physically trying to spark life into the script. Priyanka Chopra Jonas is everything a female spy needs to be — mysterious, badass, and sexy all at once. Richard Madden doesn’t have the same range of skill but he’s still a pleasure to watch. Stanley Tucci is an absolute joy and deserved a lot more screen time than he got. Leslie Manville makes a delightful villain but would have done so much better with a more fleshed-out character.

A small point of redemption is that the season ended with some truly intriguing cliffhangers. This means Season 2 could possibly be a lot better than the first, particularly since we won’t have to bother with constant flashbacks anymore. But that will be seen when the time comes.

If there’s anything to learn from all this, it’s that you can have the biggest star cast, renowned filmmakers, and a lofty budget, and still fall at the hands of weak writing.

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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