Netflix’s new series The Recruit is rough around the edges, saved by the quirky charm of star Noah Centineo.
From The Flight Attendant to The Rookie, there’s no shortage of comedy action series, flipping the script of formulaic procedurals and infusing a dose of relatable, if often quirky, characters as leads. Netflix looks to add to the roster with the new series The Recruit, which follows a dashing but stumbly new CIA lawyer Owen (Noah Centineo), as he falls deeper into internal espionage. While The Recruit gets muddled with an unbalanced tone, Centineo jumps in with enough charm and comedy to keep viewers coming back.
The Recruit follows Owen, a freshly hired lawyer at the CIA who finds himself over his head as he works with burned asset Max Meladze (Laura Haddock) to exonerate her name. He also has to navigate back-stabbing colleagues, entitled senators, and Max’s enemies from her past. Adding to the mess is a dead dad complex (his dad died serving in Afghanistan) and a roommate situation as she shares an apartment with his ex-girlfriend, Hannah (Fivel Stewart).
The Recruit was created by Alexi Hawley, producer of network action comedies such as The Rookie and Castle. At times, it feels like a network show, especially with the peculiar characterizations of Owen. Hawley’s great at creating outsiders who lean into their offbeat wit, thus forcing them to stand out amongst a blend of procedural tropes. Owen’s not the serious James Bond type of hero who orders martinis – he’s the type of guy who’d rather sip a White Claw as he sinks deeper into his mission.
The first two episodes are directed by Doug Liman, known for directing The Bourne Identity. If anything, The Recruit contains a dash of Bourne action – when faced with seemingly impossible situations, characters find a way to escape. Liman’s excellent at letting the camera roll to capture point-blank intense action scenes, like Max’s daring escape to America. Liman’s also got a penchant for blending comedy and action with films such as Go & American Made.
The Recruit stumbles because it feels caught somewhere between a network comedy and an espionage procedural. Is Owen just a charming talking lawyer with a knack for getting out of tricky situations a la a sitcom? Or did his father’s death leave him with his own haunting death wish, thus forcing him into precarious life-threatening conditions? The show attempts to balance the two genres, aiming for intrigue, but it lands on vague confusion. The show starts to find its footing in the fourth episode, as Owen starts to grapple with his identity, but it could have gotten to the action sooner. The Recruit reads like a network show with the time to fill a season with 22 episodes; as a Netflix show with fewer episodes per season, they don’t have the luxury of a slow build.
The saving grace of The Recruit is Noah Centineo as Owen. Centineo’s had a streak of playing cute fast-talking boys in Netflix’s To All The Boys trilogy. This is Centineo’s big splash in the adult landscape, playing a mid-20s lawyer rather than a high school crush. He’s appealing as he fights baddies, flirts with coworkers, and pisses off his gruff boss Walter Nyland (Vondie Curtis-Hall). He’s an affable star, but one might wish they’d give him a bit more drama to chew on, perhaps letting him subvert his boyish charm. He does get glimpses of big kid drama – he shows up all innocent to question an agent in Yemen only to face an intense interrogation like something out of Zero Dark Thirty. Centineo can also throw punches with the best of them in action scenes, battling his way out of a double-wide trailer with nary a weapon other than cleaning fluid. He draws in viewers with his quippy jokes and high-octane action scenes, and will surely keep viewers entertained for its ten-episode run.
The Recruit may not rewrite comedy-action series, nor does it flip the book on espionage procedurals. If viewers can get past the show’s identity crisis, they’ll witness some exciting moments with Centineo. Like Owen, The Recruit does show some promise as the episodes progress, as he starts to deal with the consequences of going in head first to dangerous situations. Let’s hope the evolution continues if The Recruit is lucky enough to get a season two.
The Recruit is now available on Netflix.
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