The Recruit TV Review

Last Updated on December 20, 2022

Plot: Owen Hendricks is a young CIA lawyer whose first week on the job turns upside down when he discovers a threatening letter by former asset Max Meladze, who plans to expose the agency unless they exonerate her of a serious crime. Owen quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous and often absurd world of power politics and mischievous players, as he travels the world in hopes of completing his assignment and making a mark at the CIA.

Review: It seems like a risky move for Netflix to premiere their new spy series just a week before Prime Video debuts the third season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. The Recruit and the John Krasinski-led thriller center on CIA employees with military backgrounds who get pulled from their regular duties to become field operatives. The most significant difference between the two series is The Recruit has a much lighter tone than Jack Ryan and a main character who, despite being very intelligent and talented at his job, may just be a bit in over his head. With a solid performance from Noah Centineo, The Recruit is a fun, action-oriented spy series with great potential but somewhat squanders it in an uneven first season.

Noah Centineo plays Owen Hendricks, a new lawyer at the CIA General Counsel’s office. On his first day, Owen is assigned to sort through the “graymail,” a pile of threats from people who claim to know sensitive secrets and will reveal them unless their demands are met. Owen uses his charm and insight to determine that one such threat, from Max Meladze (Laura Haddock), maybe more than just idle gossip. Before long, Owen travels across the globe from Yemen to Beirut, Phoenix, and beyond as he gets pulled deeper and deeper into a case that has far-reaching repercussions. All the while, Owen is forced to face what kind of person he is and what he is truly capable of as he navigates his personal life, including best friend and ex-girlfriend Hannah (Fivel Stewart), a high-maintenance boss (Vondie Curtis-Hall), two co-workers trying to sabotage him (Aarti Mann and Colton Dunn), and a demanding love interest (Kaylah Zander).

Over the eight-episode series, The Recruit struggles to find a consistent tone, pace, and style. With The Bourne Identity‘s Doug Liman serving as the director on the first two episodes, a cinematic quality elevates this from becoming a rote procedural commonly seen on network television. It also helps that Noah Centineo makes a charming lead, evoking an air of a young Mark Ruffalo mixed with more swagger. Centineo plays Owen as a smart-ass who knows when to be quiet and keep his voice down. Despite starting as seemingly meek and nervous, Owen comes alive once he is out in the field and has excellent chemistry with Stewart, Zander, and Haddock. The series also benefits from airing on a streaming platform that allows for the violence and profanity to run free and not hamper the momentum of each episode.

The supporting cast is all good in their various degrees of prominence. Byron Mann, Angel Parker, and Vondie Curtis-Hall all make for excellent foils opposite Centineo, with some tremendous minor roles from Linus Roache as a smug senator and Mann, Dunn, and Kristian Bruun as rival coworkers who butt up against the titular recruit. Laura Haddock, best known for a brief appearance as Meredith Quill in the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, makes for a genuinely intriguing character as Max, Owen’s contact and frequent bane of his existence. Her background as an asset to the CIA develops over the series, as does her chemistry with Owen, and makes her almost a co-lead in this story. Haddock alternates between villain, sympathetic protagonist, and teacher and makes Max a fully-rounded creation. Centineo has good chemistry with everyone in this series, but it excels when he goes toe to toe with Max.

Clocking in at just eight episodes, The Recruit still somehow manages to add some filler plots to bridge the main case focused on Owen and Max. The first two episodes feature Doug Liman’s breakneck pacing and quick wit. Still, by the third episode, director Alex Kalymnios begins to crack under the weight of too many threads going in different directions. Series creator Alexi Hawley has a familiar concept for The Recruit that begins to take off thanks to Centineo’s youthful charm. Still, it often feels like this series cannot tell if it wants to be a comedy, a serious espionage thriller, or a satire. There are several moments where The Recruit skewers the bureaucracy of government institutions, and then it turns into cliche action territory.

There is a lot to like in The Recruit, especially in Noah Centineo’s performance which shows he is more than capable of leading any marquee projects, big screen or small. The series keeps things moving and injects a decent amount of humor into a fairly rote spy story. While network espionage shows like Alias and Chuck took their premises completely out of the realm of reality, The Recruit remains pretty grounded in a more realistic storyline. Because of that, there is a lot of potential for this story to stabilize and turn into something much better. I had fun with The Recruit and breezed through the season without any regrets, but by the finale, I was left wondering if what I had just watched amounted to anything truly memorable. As a weekend binge while you wrap Christmas presents, you could do worse than this series, but don’t expect it to raise the bar on the genre.

The Recruit premieres on December 16th on Netflix.

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The Recruit



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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.