Citadel Series Premiere Review: The Best Winter Soldier Side Quest On TV, Just Don’t Think Too Hard

Citadel is fun and has impressive acting talent, but it feels a little too similar to the Russos' Marvel work.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

citadel premiere


The two-part Citadel premiere is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video, and it’s exactly what you would expect from an espionage thriller captained by Anthony and Joe Russo… really, a little too much like what you would expect from the Russo brothers. If you want a fun thriller with riveting action and top acting talent, it fits the bill, but it feels so much like the Russos’ Marvel work that you’ll wonder where Sebastian Stan is hiding.

In Citadel, Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas play two of the only surviving members of the titular clandestine spy organization, whose loyalties align with no specific nation but who work purely for the benefit of humanity. The Citadel premiere opens on a luxurious rail trip through the Italian Alps, where Nadia (Jonas) hopes to confront a man illegally transporting uranium. Her cocky colleague, and former lover, Mason Kane (Madden), surprises Nadia by showing up as backup.

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Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in the Citadel premiere

By the end of a bloody and bullet-ridden Citadel premiere opening scene, we learn the whole thing was a setup to get Mason and Nadia in the crosshairs of the nemesis Citadel didn’t even know it had: Manticore. Mason survives but wakes up with his memories erased. Eight years later, now calling himself Kyle Conroy, Mason is discovered by Citadel’s Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci) after he checks his DNA in hopes of discovering his forgotten identity.

So what we have in the Citadel premiere is a clandestine agency that claims allegiance to no single country but to the world as a whole and chooses a name that sounds like something solid and defensive (like a shield). But that powerful agency is all but wiped out by the secret, evil group that names itself after a mythical creature (like a manticore, or a hydra). As a Captain America: The Winter Soldier shaped cherry on top, the amnesiac hero suffers his mental and physical alteration after a huge fight on a train (in Europe).

Then there’s the high-tech self-driving SUV Orlick uses to transport Mason and his new family from their house in Oregon that feels like he swiped it from Samuel L. Jackson. Which, by the way, is completely different from the car he’s driving in Episode 2 when Manticore agents catch up with them on a busy highway (kind of like when Bucky yoinks Sitwell out of the car in The Winter Soldier).

And there’s Mason’s claustrophobic battle with a Manticore agent in a train bathroom that feels at every turn like he should’ve been fighting it in the glass elevators of the Triskelion.

This brings me to the second big issue I have with the Citadel premiere. Call me a nitpicker if you want, but regardless of its similarities to The Winter Soldier, there’s a whole lot of it that just doesn’t make sense.

There are rather large, glaring things, like the whole idea behind the Citadel organization as one of pure benevolence with no national allegiances. Who funds them? Santa Claus?

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Stanley Tucci in the Citadel premiere

There’s also the question of agents of a supposedly humanitarian-minded spy agency that murder as easily as Orlick does when he captures a trio of Manticore agents.

In reference to the train bathroom fight, there’s the question of why spies in the world of the Citadel premiere are as discreet as bulldozers on fire. The bathroom fight happens after Mason intercepts a Manticore agent who’s following Nadia. Rather than quickly taking him out as quietly as he can, he barks, “Hey! Pal!” saunters up to him like John Wayne and says, “You know what’s going to happen now, right?”

He’s supposed to be the best agent in the world’s most secret organization, and he deals with bad guys by acting like they flirted with his girlfriend at a bar?

What follows is the Citadel premiere’s first extended fight sequence. The bloody mess all takes place in the train’s restroom and ends with Mason hurling the Manticore agent through the train’s smashed window.

Does this all-benevolent secret agency not issue things like knives? It can afford self-driving SUVs that respond to voice commands, but they forgot to buy handgun silencers?

Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in the Citadel premiere

Then there’s the fact that Mason — after waking up with no memory and being told there is no record anywhere of the name in his passport, Kyle Conroy — in eight years is able to make it back to the States, marry, have a child, and afford a house that I’m pretty sure even Richard Madden would have trouble paying for unless he survived a few more seasons of Game of Thrones. He can’t prove who he is, but he got a loan for this dream house?

He’d be laughed out of a DMV trying to do anything, but he’s got a home that looks like it could house at least a mid-sized cult?

The Citadel premiere is genuinely fun and has some great acting, particularly from Tucci and the lead Manticore villain, Dahlia Archer (Lesley Manville). But you will have to turn off different parts of your brain to enjoy it. Even doing that may not stop you from waiting for Chris Evans to run past Richard Madden with “on your left!