HBO (Sun., Sept. 7, 10 p.m. ET)
You are warned at the start: “This is the story of a long and complex espionage case,” says Tommy Lee Jones, playing a CIA agent with the psuedonym Steve Daley. “In real life, these things have no neat conclusions and no happy endings.” So be prepared for confusion—and fascination. In the early ’60s, Daley recruits a real-life KGB defector, Yuri Nosenko, played by Oleg (Moscow on the Hudson) Rudnik. “I am good catch for you,” Nosenko tells Daley. “I give you plenty good stuff.” Nosenko tattles on Lee Harvey Oswald and on a KGB mole in the CIA. The FBI believes Nosenko. Some in the CIA believe him. But Daley doesn’t, and he locks Nosenko into a concrete bunker for three years trying to break him. In the end, the case gets slimed by CIA politics, and so does Daley’s career. But in the end, all this makes for a captivating, class production. Rudnik does a super job playing Nosenko as a sleazy, sad shlub; you’re never sure whether to believe him. Jones usually acts without changing his expression, but that makes him the perfect spy; director Mick (Threads) Jackson makes strong statements using the small, subtle shifts on Jones’s face. To give credit where credit is due: The production company responsible for making Nosenko so polished was the BBC.