Citadel is robbing itself of suspense by making one mistake
Citadel spoilers follow.
Once Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and his old partner Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) have been reunited, with one-half of their somewhat conveniently erased memories restored, the third episode of Citadel drags back a couple of the cliffhangers the first two left on the brink.
At the midway point of the Russo brothers' six-part spy caper on Prime Video, we now have a chief suspect for who threw Citadel and its secret agents to the baying wolves of elite evil collective Manticore eight years ago (they totally want us to think it's Nadia, meaning it likely isn't).
We also now know that Mason's wife Abby (Ashleigh Cummings) isn't everything she first appeared to be (our bet on the actual culprit of said leak). And we know Bernard (Stanley Tucci) is staying upbeat in the face of some pretty horrific torture.
The stylish, full-throttle show is zooming through countries and conspiracies, but repeated episodes have now fallen into the trap of setting up intrigue around certain plotlines, only to deliver their big reveal in the teaser for the following episode.
At the end of the latest episode, Citadel leaves us with another loose thread to pull on in the back half of the first season, in the form of Abby, whose one function so far has been to look concerned about things.
But just as Bernard's session in the torture chair is about the escalate from damaging to beyond repair, with a small but mighty drill advancing to his temple, he tells Manticore lackey Silje (Roland Møller) that his beloved Brielle is alive.
"The woman you love. That's her name isn't it? Citadel lied to you," Bernard says, promising him proof. In the final scene, he then shows Silje a picture of – plot twist – Abby, nuzzling up to her hubby Mason.
Then, just as the credits are about to roll, sending viewers once again into the Great Streaming Catalogue for something else to peruse, Madden's Mason Kane waltzes back onto the screen.
What's this? A prized post-credits scene, but bumped up to a pre-credits spot? No. "Next on Citadel," Tucci's unmistakable voice tells us. Quickfire snippets then reveal everything we had been excited mere moments ago to find out in the next episode.
Abby sits in Citadel HQ with a pre-amnesia Mason. "The only way they're going to believe your lie, is if you do," he tells her. Abby then has blonde hair. Abby's then kissing Silje. Mason tells Nadia that Abby has gone "dark". Abby says she shouldn't have been brought on to the mission. So the upcoming twist, that Abby was an undercover Citadel spy who went rogue because she fell in love with Silje, has been spoiled.
We've long been in an era of filmmaking where the appetiser tactlessly ruins the main meal.
Film fans grumble that trailers divulge entire plots from beginning to end, in part because studios don't trust audiences to show up if they haven't already seen every eye-catching or impressive moment to come. Meanwhile, episodic trailers for TV shows are a newer phenomenon that have gathered apace with the rampant competition for eyeballs and the renaissance of weekly episode drops.
Citadel is an instance where this goes too far, using its teasers to hack suspense away before it can properly sink in. The stylish and expensive caper is firmly in the subtlety-be-damned camp, where plot wins out over character development, so revealing major twists in the hopes that people will continue to watch something they're already watching just hurts the viewing experience.
The aim of any good TV show should be to keep viewers glued not because they know exactly what is coming next, but because they don't. Given that the teaser trailer industry seems to be going nowhere fast, the approach of shows such as Succession and Yellowjackets are proof it's possible to craft a glimpse of what's to come that is ambiguous and full of playful hints, but never a synopsis – it should be a strip tease, not a peep show.
Ultimately, all of this really begs the question: Prime Video, where's the 'skip teaser' button?
The first three episodes of Citadel are available to stream on Prime Video, wiht new episodes every Friday.
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