Citadel Season-Finale Recap: It’s Hard To Be A Saint in the City


Secrets in Night Need Early Rains
Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating 2 stars


Secrets in Night Need Early Rains
Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating 2 stars
Photo: Jonathan Prime/Prime Video/Jonathan Prime/Prime Video

As Citadel’s first season draws to an end, it’s time to reflect on the simple questions: Does this episode succeed as a season finale? As an episode of television in general? Most importantly, does this season succeed overall as the launchpad of an entire televisual universe? The next installment in the Citadel Spyverse’s intended multiyear expansion, Citadel: Diana, arrives in 2024. A brief, dialogue-free teaser for the new series appears at the end of “Secrets in Night Need Early Rains,” and a second season of Citadel has already been announced.

On the plus side, the finale leaves open plenty of juicy avenues for further storytelling. On the minus side, it disappoints because it fails to answer so many lingering questions. These are just two sides of the same coin. All season long, Citadel has been leading viewers on a merry chase toward sussing out who was the mole who betrayed the organization, leading to its near-total destruction at the hands of Citadel’s nemesis (and supposedly evil) organization, Manticore. When we learn the mole’s identity — we get a suggestion of it in the first five minutes of the episode and explicit confirmation right at the end — it feels, briefly, like the intense, out-of-nowhere shock it’s intended to be. My initial notes do indeed read, “LADS! COULD DAHLIA ARCHER BE MASON KANE’S MOTHER???” But the thrill that accompanies the reveal (particularly Mason’s all-too-brief reunion with Dahlia) soon gives way to more questions than the episode could possibly answer in its 45 minutes, even if it wanted to.

My lingering questions include: Did Mason become the mole by accident when he guilelessly handed over Citadel’s entire internal rolodex — a workforce totaling over 1,000 people — to Dahlia in exchange for information on Nadia’s whereabouts? Does he even understand how bartering and negotiation work? How about trust but verify (yes, even when it’s your mother, who is an international diplomat serving the Crown)? Why would nuclear missiles, which can only be accessed using Mason’s biometrics, be at the heart of Manticore’s endgame plan if Dahlia believed that Mason was dead until he popped up on security-camera footage in episode two?

Bernard claimed not to know who the mole was, but how is that possible? Given his suspicious question to Mason about how he came by the Valencia address, he asked Bernard to check in his quest to find Nadia. Speaking of Bernard and Nadia, Bernard knew about Asha’s existence before she came back for the doomed Italian Alps job but pretended not to. Why the pretense? Historically, Bernard hasn’t been too troubled about betraying confidence or violating trust. Grace called to ask Nadia to return for the Italian Alps mission, but did she do so independently of Bernard, or at his behest, or just for mission-driven reasons?

I acknowledge that every show leaves questions unanswered, and I don’t expect Citadel to answer all of my questions. I didn’t expect it to exceed that expectation quite so thoroughly. It barely acknowledges that it’s even prompted these questions! This could be due to the need to leave a number of significant narrative threads dangling for subsequent seasons and spinoffs, instead choosing to be content with putting all questions in the broad category of cliffhangers.

The Venn diagram of (a) questions about significant plot holes and (b) cliffhangers is not a circle, though. That’s a cop-out. Yes, it’s certainly in keeping with genre norms for an espionage thriller to have allotted more time to staging the nuclear missile cores heist set piece instead. And that was a fairly reasonable choice — the ensuing sequence is a deliciously bonkers caper, 100 percent season-finale-worthy thanks to its high stakes, death-defying logistics, and credulity-straining plot developments.

Chief among them is Carter’s discovery that if you just yell at a backstopped Citadel agent repeatedly and loudly, they can dredge up the skills of their pre-backstopped self to finally kill one of the very baddest baddies in the show! Wow! Science! Sure! If we can accept that people can regain extracted memories by having the essence of those memories injected into a major blood vessel, why shouldn’t we also accept that Coach Taylor–style yelling will basically serve the same function?

Even with some generous allowances and caveats in place, this episode is simply too much of a mess. The pure Pixy Stix–style adrenaline rush of watching — in the same set piece — a final battle of wills between Dahlia and Anders and Mason and Nadia snatching victory from the jaws of disaster wears off abruptly. (It’s usually pretty boring to watch another person eat, but Lesley Manville making a meal out of multiple paragraphs of floridly withering dialogue directed at the hapless Davik is a sparkling exception to the rule. Give her an EGOT, already!) After the zippy submarine heist, the leaden scene of the Asha-for-nuclear-cores exchange nearly makes the entire episode come to a screeching halt. The final scenes of Mason’s memory restoration and his ensuing existential crisis err on the side of too much brooding (and of forcing poor Richard Madden to deploy a disastrously unconvincing plummy British accent). The whole episode is much less assured than the previous five installments. I can chalk a lot of that up to the substantial rewrites and reshoots this season needed, but it’s still disappointing.

So where does the end of the episode leave these damaged high-jinks lovers? Mason has had his family and his memories restored to him. Now he must come to terms with not just his identity but the knowledge that he is partly responsible for the deaths of so many of his colleagues. Will he spend some time next season atoning and making amends? Are amends even possible? At minimum, will he come clean to Nadia, Carter, and Bernard and do everything possible to clear Nadia’s name? It’s not just unfair that she’s been the fall guy for so long; it’s cruel.

Nadia and Asha have some catching up to do, which is going to be very weird because for Nadia, just a few weeks have passed without seeing Asha, and for Asha, eight years have passed without seeing her mother. Then there’s the matter of Nadia’s father, who is in the wind, and her mother, the former Citadel agent. Is she still alive? Does she know of Asha’s existence? On top of all of that, Nadia seems brokenhearted and justifiably weirded out by Mason/Kyle’s relationship with Celeste/Abby.

Speaking of that relationship, what’s going to become of Kyle and Abby now that Mason knows he’s married to a (so far as we know) still-backstopped Celeste? Mason and Celeste loathe each other; can Mason love Abby, anyway? Mason must feel crushed by guilt at having backstopped her. Then there’s the question of who Mason considers family. Bernard told Mason to fight for his family — will he fight for both Kyle’s family and Mason’s, or will he have to choose?

Bernard is presumably en route to Brazil for the big Manticore event Dahlia alluded to in the previous episode. It seems that Jo and Val and Jo’s wife are fine, having escaped the bombing of their Wyoming safe house with Abby and Hendrix. Carter needs therapy to recover from the trauma of being captured, held, interrogated, and tortured by Manticore for so long.

Dahlia faked her own death following the failure of the nuclear core swap in Valencia; will she use that to buy some time and then try to get back in Manticore’s good graces, or will she just chuck it and go on the lam? I’m pretty sure burning the U.K.’s ambassadorial residence to the ground is the equivalent of an emphatic resignation letter, so I wouldn’t anticipate seeing her dropping in at Whitehall anytime soon, though a crossover event with Citadel’s distant cousin The Diplomat would be pretty fun.

Fun With Bullet Points

• Most charming character beat: Bernard’s mudlarking habit — a real activity (sometimes a profession, as dramatized by the late, lamented, one-season wonder Lockwood & Co., a YA horror/adventure/friendship-is-magic show canceled too soon by Netflix) akin to beach combing, done along the Thames instead of by the ocean.

• Spotted: Leo Woodall (a.k.a. Jack, the hot rent boy from The White Lotus’s second season) in exactly one flashback scene as Duke, a Citadel mission strategist. Here’s hoping that if Citadel’s second season employs the multiple timeline structure established in the first, we might see more of him. It would also be good to see Grace — Citadel’s middle manager who is way too reasonable and competent to work there — more, as well. Now that Nikki Amuka-Bird’s other recent show, Avenue 5, has been canceled over on Max, perhaps she’ll have more availability. That would be a win, though more work on Citadel won’t provide nearly as many moments for her comedy chops to shine.

• Welcome to Sophie’s Entirely Wrong Predictions Corner: So it turns out that Nadia did inject her memories vial, after all. I thought the combination of not catching the knife that Mason threw at her and the lack of visuals showing her injecting the vial added up to her already having her memories back. I also must have misheard something Dahlia said about the mole because, contrary to my assertion in last week’s recap, the mole was not a woman. My apologies! I usually have a much better prediction-accuracy track record, but with the exception of Secret Baby Asha being real, Citadel stymied me.

• The title of this episode is a little weird, isn’t it? The title of every episode is just a tiny bit off, now that I think of it — only “Tell Her Everything” is descriptive of its episode’s plot, and that’s also the only one that has any discernible meaning. That’s because each of them is a mnemonic device. The first letter of each word spells out another word, which, when all strung together, becomes a clue of sorts: THE SAINT IS THE TRUE SINNER. In her first interrogation scene with Bernard, Dahlia rebukes him for having made the mistake of thinking that he and his fellow Citadel agents were saints. If a spy can’t be a saint, who’s the saint being referred to? Nobody we’ve met so far qualifies for canonization.

Citadel Finale Recap: It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City