The Recruit – Being a Lawyer for the CIA Turns Deadly

Owen Hendricks keeps telling people he’s a lawyer, not a spy. But before he can say C.I.A., he finds himself in Yemen having his fingernails pulled out by Dawn Gilbane, a fellow operative. Turns out, C.I.A. agents don’t even trust their own to tell the truth, even though Owen, with his youth and good looks, resembles a boy scout, not a spy. 

Aarti Mann as Violet Ebner, Colton Dunn as Lester Kitchens in The Recruit (Photo Credit: Philippe Bossé/Netflix © 2022)

A newbie, Owen is bullied by two of his co-workers – Violet Ebner and Lester Kitchens – who purposely give him bad advice and then enjoy watching him make mistakes. They recommend him for his first assignment – reviewing gray files, letters written to the agency threatening to release confidential information. Most of the letters are written by crazies, but, as luck would have it, Owen finds one that seems to be legitimate. Max Meladze from Belarus, once a back-pocket asset (the term used for assets that are not formally recruited) is serving a long sentence in an Arizona prison for killing a truck driver. She wants the agency to arrange her release, otherwise she will make good on her threats. 

Owen convinces the C.I.A.’s general counsel, Walter Nyland, that Max’s claims should be investigated. Before he can say “trust no one,” he’s landing in Phoenix arranging to meet Max. At first she’s annoyed the C.I.A. would send someone young and inexperienced – a lawyer to boot – to talk with her, but soon uses his naiveté to her advantage. She gives him several leads he can follow to verify her credibility. One of those tips leads him to Yemen where he’s clearly in over his head. 

While Owen is ignorant about C.I.A. operations, he’s smart and a quick study. His good looks and boyish appeal make him a magnet for women and someone who comes across as trustworthy to the higher ups. When he’s put to the test by the president’s chief of staff to spy on Nyland, he quickly says no earning him points.

Daniel Annoh as Terrence Hoffman, Fivel Stewart as Hannah Copeland, Noah Centineo as Owen Hendricks in The Recruit (Photo Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

The only people Owen trusts are his two roommates, Hannah, his ex-girlfriend, whose mother is an influential D.C. lobbyist, and Terrence, who works at the Treasury Department. But not being able to tell his friends where he’s going and why means when he needs help, they will have to go to extraordinary measures to find and rescue him.

And he will need help, because babysitting Max turns out to be a challenging assignment. Once she’s out of prison, Owen believes his job with her is over. Max, however, feels Owen is the only one she can trust and insists he stay involved. Gilbane, now in D.C., wants Max vetted and reinserted into Belarus to continue feeding to the C.I. A. information about a highly placed Russian general. Because Max barely escaped Belarus with her life, she knows she’ll need to bribe her way back in. When the C.I.A. refuses to supply the funds, Max and Owen go rogue to get the money on their own. What Owen doesn’t know is that Gilbane, as well as Violet and Lester, and soon, Hannah and Terrence, follow them to Geneva where bodies start to fall, literally, and Max and Owen worry they could be next.

Laura Haddock as Max Meladze in The Recruit (Photo Credit: Philippe Bossé/Netflix © 2022)

While the supporting cast is strong, the burden to carry this eight-part Netflix series falls on Noah Centineo who turns in a convincing performance as a young lawyer turned agent forced to learn on the fly. His puppy dog looks easily attract an older woman, Amelia, a higher ranking C.I.A. attorney. played by the sexy Kaylah Zander. Hannah (Fivel Stewart) still loves Owen but, worried that he takes unnecessary risks, is reluctant to renew their relationship. And while Max (Laura Haddock) isn’t looking for romance, she’s definitely looking to defuse her stress with sex and targets the available Owen. Haddock, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Angelina Jolie, shows Max’s toughness and survival instincts, but also her vulnerabilities. Only Owen knows that she once had a daughter, something that obviously still haunts her.

Comic relief is provided by Aarti Mann as Violet and Colton Dunn as Lester, the two C.I.A. lawyers who spend all their time cooking up schemes to torpedo Owen’s career. Kristian Brun is a hoot as another lawyer, Janus Ferber, who pops antacids like candy and falls in “the least I know camp,” hoping that will keep him out of trouble. 

Kaylah Zander as Amelia Salazar and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Walter Nyland in The Recruit (Photo Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

Nyland (Vondie Curtis-Hall) sees Owen’s potential and, if not a mentor, at least becomes a protector. One agent Owen needs protection from is Gilbane (Angel Parker) who seems to have an agenda involving Max. 

The C.I.A. is the source for unending films, TV shows, and series. Because so much of what the agency does remains secret, the public continues to be fascinated by spies. The Recruit takes an interesting twist, placing someone not used to the action front and center. And do C.I.A. agents and attorneys work against each other? Who knows? But presenting that as a plot line makes for a compelling series, one that has been renewed for a second season on Netflix.

Top: Noah Centineo as Owen Hendricks in The Recruit. Photo Credit: Philippe Bossé/Netflix © 2022

About Charlene Giannetti (696 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.