It's a good time to be a fan of the spy genre. Superhero, sci-fi, and high fantasy shows have dominated the television scene for a while now. And, even though some espionage-based TV series have made their way onto our screens during that time, fans of the genre have been feasting off morsels rather than full-blown meals.
The arrival of three potentially big spy shows in the first half of 2023, though, is set to change that. Netflix, Prime Video, and HBO Max have come out swinging – or, in the latter pair's case, will eventually come out swinging – in the battle to secure the 'best spy show' of 2023. Fans of spycraft and thriller TV shows, then, will have plenty to enjoy, and debate about which series is best, over the next couple of months.
So, what are these so-called top-tier shows that spy fans will want to, well, keep an eye on?
First up is The Night Agent. Unless you've been locked in a dark room for the past week, you'll know that The Night Agent has become Netflix's new TV show darling. The Shawn Ryan-developed espionage series accrued an impressive 168.7 millions hours viewed in its first week post-release – viewing figures that make it the second most-watched Netflix show of 2023 so far. Given its unexpected success, Netflix has unsurprisingly renewed The Night Agent for a second season.
Launching to little fanfare, The Night Agent is everything you'd want in a spy series. It's well acted, comes equipped with a tension-filled plot with multiple twists and turns, and has just enough action to break up the potential monotony of watching characters stand around discussing what to do next. With few other excellent spy-based shows available on Netflix – Treason and The Recruit also landed in recent months, but struggled to appeal to the streamer's fanbase – The Night Agent plugged a huge gap in Netflix's back catalog to stunning effect. Expect it to join our best Netflix shows guide in the interim.
The Night Agent is the spy show on everyone's lips right now. However, two big-budget series, which are set to launch within days of each other in late April and early May, will look to usurp it in the fight to be crowned 'best espionage TV series' of 2023.
Amazon Studios' Citadel will be the first to challenge The Night Agent when it's released on April 28. Produced by Marvel alumni in The Russo Brothers, created by Hunters showrunner David Weil, and starring Game of Thrones' Richard Madden and The Matrix Resurrections' Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Citadel is positioning itself as James Bond-styled TV series that'll look to corner the spy genre market on the small screen.
There's good reason to believe it will, too. As the above trailer shows, it looks as action-packed, stylish, narratively thrilling, and even slightly witty. Amazon has clearly thrown plenty of cash at Citadel with the aim of turning it into another expensive franchise show.
Like The Rings of Power, Amazon will hope Citadel commands viewers' attentions. If nothing else, at least we'll get to see Madden go full James Bond in Citadel – something fans of the Scottish actor have wanted to witness for a while. Expect it to be part of our best Prime Video shows article very soon.
It won't be long until Citadel is given a run for its money, however. White House Plumbers, a prestige politically charged spy-drama, debuts on HBO Max just three days later on May 1. And, while it might not have the immediate appeal of Citadel or The Night Agent, it could become the surprise contender for 'best spy show' by the year's end.
There are plenty of reasons why it might achieve that aim, too. For starters, it's been created by Alex Gregory and Peter Hyuck, the writers behind some of the best episodes of Frasier, Veep, and King of the Hill. David Mandel (The Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm) is on directorial duties, so we'll get plenty of cringe-inducing and slapstick humor as part of the story, too. Some of Succession's executive producing team, including Frank Rich, are also on board.
Then there's White House Plumbers' absolutely stacked cast. Woody Harrelson, Justin Theroux, Lena Headey, Domhnall Gleeson, F. Murray Abraham, Judy Greer, Kiernan Shipka, and Ike Barinholtz are just some of the big names attached to this project. Add in the fact that White House Plumbers is based on the shockingly true story concerning the Watergate scandal and, of this trio of spy-centric shows, HBO's offering could be the most dramatic and historically appealing of the lot. You can bet it'll be part of our best HBO Max shows list soon.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Citadel and White House Plumbers will crash and burn. Maybe they'll be critically panned pre-release. Maybe they won't resonate with a wider audience. With other highly anticipated TV shows launching around late April/early May, such as Dead Ringers and Sweet Tooth season 2, they might not perform as expected.
Regardless that happening, fans of the spy genre have three high-quality shows to look forward to (or, in The Night Agent's case, to enjoy right now). It's been a long time since we can say that. Maybe, just maybe, this is a huge turning point for espionage fare on the small screen. Heaven knows we've been waiting a while for such a watershed moment.
For more spy genre-based coverage, read about the latest Star Wars espionage drama in our Andor review. Additionally, check out our ranking of every Daniel Craig James Bond movie, or watch these seven bloodpumping spy thrillers while we wait for The Night Agent season 2.