Citadel Season 1 Finale Review: Shocking Twists And Insanely Dumb Decisions

The Citadel Season 1 finale continues the series' penchant for compelling action and suspense, but also makes some ridiculous storytelling decisions.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

citadel finale


I hope I was clear that I wasn’t very impressed with the Citadel series premiere when I called it “the best Winter Soldier side quest on TV.” As this short but expensive inaugural season has unfolded, I thought today would feature some real eating-of-words on my part because I’ve actually enjoyed most of it. But while the Citadel Season 1 finale, “Secrets in Night Need Early Rains,” delivers some great surprises, those twists are paid for with plot and storytelling choices that are kind of mind-boggling.

The penultimate episode ends with Mason (Richard Madden), Nadia (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), and Carter (Osy Ikhile) cornered by Manticore agents. If Mason and Nadia want their daughter back, they need to infiltrate a Russian sub, steal the nuclear cores of a half dozen missiles, and deliver them to the ruthless Dahlia Archer (Lesley Manville). They’re joined on the sub by the vengeful twin Davik (Roland Møller) who of course would never dream of turning on them at the last minute.

The submarine heist is the major action set piece of the Citadel season finale, and it’s done well, with one minor caveat: there are no Russians on the Russian submarine. In fact, there’s no one but Mason, Nadia, and Davik. Either the sub is supposed to be a drone and no one bothered to mention it, or judging by the submarine being remotely hacked and forced to emergency breach — not to mention the sounds of hand-to-hand-combat and gunfire — Mason and co. must have caught the sailors at nap time because no one shows up to investigate.

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Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Citadel

Then there’s the throwdown between Mason and Davik, when Mason — because of his memory-wipe — has to be urged to “fight back” by Carter yelling in his earpiece. It comes off as forced, considering all we’ve seen the memory-wiped Mason/Kyle do already.

Right before the fight with Davik, he jumps out of an airplane toward the ocean. In the previous episodes, he was taking out Manticore agents like John Wick after a bad trip to the kennel. But he needs his guy-in-the-chair to remind him self-defense is an option?

I know, I know, “it’s just a TV show,” but there’s only so much nonsensical storytelling you can take. If I’m watching Commando I can deal with the characters in ways that clash with what we know because, well, they all come off like idiots. But in something like the Citadel season finale, when the heroes and villains are all portrayed as super-spies who know more about technology, weaponry, and hand-to-hand combat than a liquid metal Terminator, I expect the things they do to occasionally make sense.

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Nikki Amuka-Bird and Osy Ikhile in Citadel

Another big issue with not just the Citadel season finale, but in a number of the episodes leading up to it, are all the flashbacks. Usually when a flashback begins, we’re given a prompt along the lines of “8 YEARS AGO.” But not always, and we don’t get similar prompts when we return to the present.

The flashbacks are so integral and so numerous that it gets to be a little confusing. You start doing equations every few minutes–Okay, Nadia is in this shot + Nadia wasn’t in the flashback = this is the present.

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Stanley Tucci and Richard Madden in the Citadel Season 1 finale.

While the Citadel season finale ends with an admittedly delicious surprise twist, it also ends with far too many questions not only unanswered, but not even addressed. Chief among them: where the hell is the most intriguing character in the series, Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci) and his family? The only time Orlick shows up in the episode is in a flashback when he acts uncharacteristically paternal toward Mason.

The acting talent is great, and every penny of the massive budget spent is visible on the screen. But you can only heap so much bad story on your audience before they see past the shine.

Citadel Season 2 got the green light from Amazon long before the finale streamed, and the season ends with a preview of the spinoff Citadel: Diana (half of the Citadel Season 1 budget was clearly spent on coming up with that riveting title). So there’s more on the way. I just hope some lessons are learned before it reaches the screen.