Despite poor reviews, Prime Video's spy thriller Citadel is a smash hit

Poster for Citadel on Prime Video
(Image credit: Prime Video)

Amazon Prime Video has a hit on its hands, with the spy thriller Citadel’s premiere launching it to the number one slot in almost 200 territories worldwide (via Deadline).

Starring Richard Madden, Priyanka Chopra Jones, and Stanley Tucci, the mix of high-octane action and recognizable faces has proved a hit with Prime Video subscribers. Citadel’s premiere numbers are only second to last year’s Rings of Power – which is an impressive feat, since Citadel is an all-new concept, and doesn't have a big name like Lord of the Rings attached.

The show follows two former agents of the spy agency Citadel, who had their memories erased and must be ‘reactivated’ for a new, all-important mission. With plenty of guns, parachutes, train sequences, and inter-spy chemistry, it has the feeling of a Bond film that focuses less on a singular, iconic character and more on the thrill of the ride along the way.

Madden himself has been tipped as a future James Bond for years now, and this could be something of an audition – though we said Bond had little to worry about from Citadel. Either way, it’s a feather in the hat of the Russo Brothers, who executive produced the series, and since dropping Marvel movie duties have been rolling out action franchises like the Netflix film Extraction, starring Chris Hemsworth, alongside their recent Amazon success.

An "expensive mistake"?

Critics weren’t quite so kind to Citadel, with a 52% score on Rotten Tomatoes – which writes that “Citadel spares no expense but still feels underdeveloped”. Critical response sits somewhere between “televisual crack” (Guardian) and “expensive mistake” (Den of Geek), suggesting that, even if it won't rank among the best Prime Video shows overall, some people may find something fun that keeps the action moving for them.

It’s that first point that feels like classic Amazon by this point – throwing excesses of cash at something flashy that nonetheless can’t quite justify the screen time. Rings of Power was the most expensive TV show ever made, after all, and yet couldn’t get audiences to stick with it, muddling through Tolkien’s source material at great cost to the streamer.

Time will tell whether Citadel can entice viewers enough to get them to stick with the entire season – with only two episodes released so far, we’ve got a while to go.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.