Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

The Sympathizer, a super-stylish spy drama from HBO and A24, debuts in April

Published Feb 15th, 2024 7:05PM EST
The Sympathizer on HBO
Image: Hopper Stone/HBO

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

When it comes to my streaming tastes, I’m a simple man. Spy dramas of almost any kind are my sweet spot, and there are so many reasons for a fan of the genre like me to get excited for HBO’s upcoming espionage thriller, The Sympathizer. The show, which debuts on April 14, is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the main character of which is a North Vietnamese spy who’d been spying in South Vietnam and then relocates to the US. The Sympathizer is also backed by A24, and it features a talented cast of newcomers as well as veterans like Robert Downey Jr. and Sandra Oh.

All of which is to say: The Sympathizer looks to be about as close to a streaming slam-dunk as these things get.

HBO dropped a new trailer for the series on Thursday, in addition to finally announcing the show’s premiere date after teasing us with a first look at it last year. And, if you ask me, part of what makes spy stories like this one so great is the way they embrace the duality and shades of grey that dominate the hall of mirrors in which spies live and work. The Sympathizer‘s unnamed main character, “The Captain,” for example, is a conflicted double agent — a man who wears two faces and who needs to pick one, he’s told at one point.

Robert Downey Jr., meanwhile, is on hand as several distinct characters: He plays a California congressman, a movie director, and a CIA officer (which, come to think of it, reminds me of his character’s iconic line in Tropic Thunder — “I’m just a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude”).

The Sympathizer on HBO
Robert Downey Jr. and Hoa Xuande in HBO’s “The Sympathizer.” Image source: Hopper Stone/HBO

As for me, the moment I knew I would be devouring every second of this show came during a particular scene when The Captain is asked by a kind of hippie-looking American about his time “over there” in Vietnam: “So, did you kill anyone?”

This is around the time, by the way, when The Captain is embedding in a refugee community in Los Angeles. He draws out his response to the question with a sort of dramatic flourish.

“With my own hands? … No. No, I never killed anyone.”

The American continues: “We were all marching. We were on your side.”

The Captain’s eyes widen.

“Really! And which side was that?”

“Uh … the side of the Vietnamese people.”

“The people in the north? Or the people in the south?”

“Well, all of them, I guess.”

The Captain chuckles. “I guess we all look the same after all, right? … I mean, I could be Viet Cong for all you know. A spy… how would you know?”

He lets the silence hang there.

Then he laughs, conspiratorially, laying one hand across his chest. “I’m not, of course! I love America!”

Check out the new trailer for The Sympathizer below.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.