The Longest Night had all the hallmarks of being a smash hit. An eclectic group with diverse characters, interesting settings, and volatile situations, the pressure of which can explode at any moment. There’s nothing there to exploit. The problem, however, stems from execution, which is the most shaky.
Spread over six episodes, Netflix’s latest Spanish series is a breathless, frenetic and high-octane series that refuses to give up as it glides through the main plot. The thing is, compelling stories come at the expense of memorable characters, who eventually fade to mediocrity, leaving little time to fine-tune their journey into something more than just feeling one note.
The story is fairly simple, with several layers of conflict. At the heart of this is the serial killer known as Simon. In the middle of the night, he is arrested and transferred to a psychiatric prison called Baruca, where Warden Hugo, is called on Christmas Eve to process him. Unfortunately, she is also forced to drag her children with her, thanks to family problems at home.
Unbeknownst to poor Hugo and the others, armed mercenaries are on their way and intent on bringing Simon alive, having been hired by a mysterious contractor, who has his own plans for the night. This plan isn’t really revealed until the end of the game, but there’s not much spoiler to say that they’re trying to keep Simon quiet if he spills some secrets to the judges when he’s being processed in the morning.
So with mercenaries on the road, Hugo’s situation becomes even more precarious when he learns his other daughter, Laura, is being held for ransom. If they don’t hear from Simon by 1am then they will kill him. This puts Hugo in an impossible situation, juggling his family’s life against the lives of those in prison.
On paper, this actually raises a pretty interesting conflict. The thing is, The Longest Night is in such a rush to get to the next set piece that it never takes time to really get to know these characters properly. Hugo feels like the typical white male protagonist you’d find in a lot of video games. Likewise, the mercenaries – fronted by Ruso and Lennon – have very little characterization other than hired guns. They were extraordinarily one-dimensional, as were many prison guards.
The inmates inside the prison are slightly better off, thanks in part to a few flashbacks peppered through each episode showing how some of them ended up inside.
As for Hugo, the only background we’ve got for him comes from small snippets of his tense family life in episode 1 and repeated flashbacks of him with Laura, which do have context when it comes to the show’s ending. Although, I will reveal that everything here is left on a big cliff (4 actually!) in preparation for another season.
The biggest problem with The Longest Night though stems from the pacing. There’s a good story here, and there are some really nail-biting sequences, especially when the convicts and invaders attack. But all of this is sped up throughout the show which takes about 10-12 episodes just to let things breathe.
One of the more understated reason shows like Prison Break and La Casa De Papel — which feels very similar in execution to this one — work so well comes from moments of quiet contemplation.
In prison breaks, we have a lot of time with each inmate, understanding their souls and how they all fit into the prison hierarchy. with La Casa De Papel, we have quiet moments of reflection on Tokyo or the Professor pondering his next move, increasing the tension in the process as we are left wondering what’s next for our characters. Outside of waiting for the first episode for mercenaries to appear, The Longest Night has none.
For a title like ‘The Longest Night’, the irony here is that this show needs longer to really emphasize the threat and raise the stakes. On the other hand, the writers were so desperate to make it a good part, they forgot about the main cast. Instead, what we get is a plot-heavy, character-lite prison drama that’s impossible to remember in a hurry.
It will be interesting to see how audiences view this one, as there are definitely a few standout moments. It is spread around a frenetic scenario that explodes through its main plot. Notmaybe you’re bored with this one, but it’s questionable how satisfied you feel at the end. And that’s before mentioning some of the decisions the characters make in this show.
The Longest Night wasn’t a bad show; will most likely find the majority of the audience going through this happily. The thing is, it’s also one of those series that tends to fall apart the more you think about it. And with the final hint that we’ll have to wait a while to get a proper resolution, there’s plenty of time to research the issue. This is an average, forgettable drama that so easily can be a night to remember.