Handsomely mounted, epic in scope, and featuring an outstanding cast, TNT’s The Company might restore some much-needed luster to the image of the Central Intelligence Agency (then again, perhaps not). Based on Robert Littell’s popular historical novel of the same name, the show commingles real and invented characters as it traces the CIA’s role in several major events, from the earliest days of the Cold War through the collapse of the Soviet Union, with particular attention given to the division of Berlin into East and West in the 1950s, the anti-Communist uprising in mid-’50s Hungary, and the disastrous Bay of Pigs operation in the early ’60s.
The first of the miniseries’ three parts introduces us to Yale graduates Jack McAuliffe (Chris O’Donnell), Leo Kritzky (Alessandro Nivola), and Yevgeny Tsipin (Rory Cochrane); the first two are recruited by the CIA, but the Russian-born Tsipin sides with the KGB. The initial focus is on the CIA’s efforts to find a Soviet mole who’s been interfering with the agency’s work and putting many American lives at risk. Working with mentor Harvey “The Sorcerer” Torriti (Alfred Molina), who calls him “Sport” and delights in pointing out that such matters are nothing less than a life-and-death struggle between good and evil and right and wrong, McAuliffe skulks around Berlin, where his principal informant and soon-to-be love interest is a lovely young ballerina (Alexandra Maria Lara) with a few secrets of her own. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the colorfully-named CIA counter-intelligence expert James Jesus Angleton (a real guy portrayed with low-key intensity by Michael Keaton) slowly realizes that the mole in question is one of his old pals. And it doesn’t stop there. Turns out there’s another double agent (codename “Sasha”) working for the Reds; this one’s deeply embedded in the CIA, and Angleton, a chain-smoking obsessive whose behavior becomes increasingly cold and peculiar, devotes years (and most of the series’ third installment) to outing him. The process by which he does just that, culminating in some fairly excruciating interrogation scenes, provides The Company‘s best moments–especially because we don’t know until the very end whether Angleton has fingered the actual Sasha or not.