Jonathan Pine wins Richard Roper’s trust in The Night Manager – but for how long?

In another sumptuous instalment of the hit BBC1 thriller, Pine embeds himself in Roper’s operation. But is it all so straightforward, wonders Ben Dowell?

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If we were in any doubt about what a wrong’un Hugh Laurie’s Richard Roper was, his reaction to the grisly, desperately tragic suicide of Elena, told us everything.

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“She’s caused a lot of other people pain too,” he says of the death of the daughter one of his business partners Juan Apostol, who hanged herself at her own birthday party. “I had to reschedule that meeting.”

Yes, this is the actual reaction of the man who witnessed the poor girl hanging lifeless in a room on her birthday. Someone who was in such distress she took her own life.

He can feel pain, it seems, but only when it concerns a diary inconvenience. It’s a level of wickedness that makes you start and stretch your eyes. And it shows how the nastiness of his business operation can also impact itself closer to home.

Roper’s partner Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) is beginning to realise this. She looked pretty disgusted at her fella, but she too is being manipulated, by Pine. As Tom Hiddleston’s undercover operative embeds himself in Roper’s circle he has cleverly sown discord among the women of Roper’s entourage – not just Jed but Caroline too. She’s the unhappy wife of Roper’s faithless right hand man Sandy Langbourne (Alistair Petrie) and she seems to know – and speak – a little too much.

Still, Roper’s heartlessness also extends to his own inner circle. With Sandy’s help he has moved to expunge Corky (Tom Hollander), his oldest friend and compadre, from the closed circle. Roper wants Pine to be the main man. Corky is a little too indiscreet, a little bit too much of a drunk. And poor old Corky is looking pretty bereft.

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The pain and despair and befuddlement on the face of Tom Hollander was a joy to behold. If he were a wine he would be well and truly, well, corked. You could almost – almost – feel sorry for the poor chap.

But still, Roper has a way of making friends in another episode of tungsten-quality drama – wonderful acting, stunning locations and a thrilling plot as whip-crackingly smart as you can get.

“You saved my boy and I’m grateful,” he told Pine tonight. “But if you ever step out of line I will make you howl for your mother.”

What is he up to? Pine seemed to have the upper hand this episode, leaking information via young Daniel’s mobile phone to his secret service minders Angela (Olivia Colman) and Joel (David Harewood). But you can’t help thinking that there are deeper forces and more intricate plotting at play behind Roper’s steely eyes and suntanned exterior.

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After all, we also learned that he has Raymond Galt (Jonathan Aris) on his side inside MI6, so he clearly knows a lot more than he is letting on.

As for Pine, what about his new name, eh? Andrew Birch. Roper thought it would be a wheeze to continue the “tree thing”.

Birch? Pine? You can’t help feeling that there’s a chopper coming his way very, very soon…

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The Night Manager continues on Sunday nights on BBC1 at 9pm