Across the first episode, we don’t actually see much of Roper; primarily, we hear of him by reputation, and reputation alone. The murder of Sophie Alekan is attributed to his machinations, and it tears apart the entire world of our protagonist, Tom Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine; his business associates in Cairo are shown to be thugs and brutes, indulging in their own frequent bouts of violence. We can see the dedication with which Olivia Coleman’s Angela Burr pursues him, throwing all her resources at ensuring his capture, and describing him as “the worst man in the world”.
So when Roper eventually does appear, we expect to hate him. We almost want to hate him. But we can’t, not really. Laurie’s performance is charismatic in the extreme; from his first introduction – “Hello, I’m Dicky Roper” – there’s a sheer, infectious charm about his character. Laurie does a very good job of winning over the audience immediately; primed though we are to hate him, all of that is done away in an instance.
I actually mostly disliked The Night Manager – Tom Hiddleston struck me as uncharacteristically flat, mainly because the only character he was given was a fairly tired fridging/revenge plot – but one thing I loved was Hugh Laurie’s performance as the villain of the piece.