For a series whose plot elements include remembering and forced forgetting, Citadel barely attempts to create recall value.

The Prime Video show has been releasing one episode each week since April 29. The sixth and final episode that came out on Thursday clears up some of the secrets teased in the beginning while pointing to the next of several spin-offs. Citadel: Diana, set in Italy, precedes a chapter revolving around Indian Citadelians. Directed by Raj & DK (The Family Man, Farzi), the Indian branch stars Varun Dhawan, Samantha and Sikandar Kher.

The existing Indian connection to Citadel, is, of course, Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Sporting a low voice bordering on a purr and displaying her athletic side, Chopra Jonas thrives in a series that often feels like a better-produced, less schmaltzy version of the Bollywood fare she swapped for Hollywood.

The show has been created by Josh Applebaum, Bryan Oh and David Weil and directed by Newton Thomas Sigel (he shares directing credits on one of the episodes). The main executive producers are the Russo brothers, whose reputation rests on zippy action sequences rather than emotional heft.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Citadel (2023). Courtesy Amazon Studios/AGBO.

Citadel revolves around competing independent spy agencies. The one named Citadel claims to be maintaining world peace, like the fictitious Impossible Missions Force from the Mission: Impossible movies.

The other, Manticore, represents various regimes who like to see the world order disrupted. It’s headed by British diplomat Dahlia (Lesley Manville), who achieves more mayhem simply by picking up the phone than anybody else in the show.

Citadel has a method to deal with errant or inconvenient agents. A procedure called backstopping erases memories with the prick of an injection, but apparently not enough for operatives to have flashbacks in coherent sequences. Another prick of the needle and voila! The memories return, almost intact.

Among those backstopped are Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and his colleague Nadia Sinh (Chopra Jonas). Following a failed operation, Mason has a new name and identity, a wife, Abby (Ashleigh Cummings) and a daughter. Summoned back to work by his handler Bernard (Stanley Tucci), Kyle struggles to become Mason again, which means reuniting with Nadia. These spearheads of Citadel were lovers too, adding a layer of frisson to a professional collaboration.

Richard Madden in Citadel (2023). Courtesy Amazon Studios/AGBO.

Mason and Nadia both have secrets that are revealed through non-linear storytelling. Somebody in Citadel is a spy, working for Manticore – hardly difficult to guess, given Citadel’s small roster of regulars. Why the betrayal? The last episode duly reveals this detail, causing disquiet over the efficiency of these alleged masterminds.

Without sharp writing or character sketching needed to distinguish itself from numerous other espionage thrillers, Citadel survives on its casting choices.

Jonas Chopra, in her second global platform after the American show Quantico, lends an air of smoky mystery to her heroine. Nadia is a beauty-brains-brawn package, evident in the moments when she is an eyeroll away from telling Mason how to conduct himself during a critical mission. Richard Madden’s frequent glowering doesn’t help his poorly sketched character.

The most noteworthy performances have nothing to do with the action. Stanley Tucci, as the sly and wry Citadel handler, and Lesley Manville as his ruthless adversary, bring serious craft to the art of spycraft. These veterans give Citadel a semblance of purpose, rather than the contrived ardour between Nadia and Mason and the increasingly wearying question of who is backstabbing whom.

A recurrent visual gimmick of flipping shots upside-down suggests that nothing is what it appears to be. The world has apparently been turned on its head. But the stakes are too low, the writing and direction too vapid and the leads too dull to make Citadel memorable.

Citadel (2023).