Noah Centineo’s graduation from “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” teen heartthrob to adult (but still boyish) action hero is off to a slow start, as he follows his supporting role in “Black Adam” with “The Recruit,” a junior spy yarn that, as a Netflix series, feels like a particularly tired twist on that very well-worn genre.
Centineo plays Owen Hendricks, a just-starting-out CIA lawyer who somewhat inexplicably gets drawn into a complex international espionage plot that sends him bouncing around the globe and puts him in considerable danger. Owen becomes the go-between to an incarcerated femme fatale named Max (Laura Haddock of “Da Vinci’s Demons” and more recently “Downton Abbey: A New Era”) who seems to be several steps ahead of him, and everyone else, as the former agency asset threatens to leak its secrets unless she’s exonerated of her crime.
Created by Alexi Hawley (“The Rookie”), the series also features Owen trying to balance his professional responsibilities with some semblance of a personal life, which includes obviously conflicted feelings toward his roommate Hannah (Fivel Stewart), who awkwardly happens to be his ex as well.
Although Centineo is convincingly confused as he stumbles from one perilous situation to the next – managing to survive encounter after encounter with people who seem a lot more skilled and prepared than he is – the supporting roles, beginning with Haddock, actually dominate the series. Indeed, the most interesting character is a more worldly colleague (Kaylah Zander) who is so eager to parlay her CIA experience into a TV talking-head gig that she’s built a studio in her home so she can practice her delivery.
Other than that, “The Recruit” comes across as a slightly whimsical but mostly generic vehicle to showcase Centineo (who also receives an executive producer credit), without zeroing in on why his gruff boss (Vondie Curtis Hall) keeps entrusting him with such treacherous and pivotal assignments. Either more senior agents/lawyers had the day off, or the CIA really wants to reach a younger demographic.
Granted, good spies and reliable attorneys can be hard to find, especially when trying to wrap both vocations into one. But as “The Recruit” inadvertently reminds us, good TV series are too.
“The Recruit” premieres December 16 on Netflix.