‘The Recruit’ Character: Owen Hendricks, Explained – Why Did Owen Want To Part Ways With Max And The CIA?

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Netflix’s 2022 spy thriller, “The Recruit,” in addition to taking us on a thrilling ride, paints a very scathing picture of the work culture prevalent in one of the most coveted intelligence agencies in the world, the CIA. We get to witness the kind of pressure the employees are put under. They workday and night in stressful conditions without any sort of incentive. The riskiest job is to be involved in any capacity with clandestine human operations. Be it an asset, or a case officer, everybody knows what the risks of getting involved in such work are, and the worst part is if one gets caught, no one takes responsibility, as it is a matter of national security. Owen Hendricks had decided to join the CIA, and people didn’t understand why he was doing so. His ex-girlfriend and roommate, Hannah Copeland, had joined a law firm, and she was living a comfortable life. Owen, on the other hand, had brought his doom upon himself, but he was doing it on purpose. Owen was well aware of the implications of being associated with the CIA, but still, there was an incessant need inside his core to go to the battlefield. So, let’s analyze firstly why he wanted to do that and, secondly, what changed during the course of his operation, which made him come to the conclusion that he didn’t want to be a part of the CIA anymore. 

Spoilers Ahead


Why Did Owen Hendricks Join The CIA?

Everybody had told Owen to think twice before joining the CIA. His friends had told him that it might look fancy from the outside, considering how the espionage world is glorified in the films, but the dangers were real. Moreover, there was no reason why somebody would choose not to join a firm when the perks and working culture were much better there as compared to the CIA. But Owen was a rebel, and he did exactly what the others told him not to do. It had only been a few days since he had joined the CIA when he found a graymail message that looked authentic, and he realized that the person sending it had some leverage in reality. Max Meladze had threatened to reveal state and CIA secrets if she wasn’t instantly released from the prison in Phoenix, where she was being held for committing murder on American soil. Owen had realized that Max Meladze had something to do with an operation that was conducted by the CIA in 2009 in Belarus. Owen had found out that the CIA officer who was involved with Max operated under a pseudonym called Shelby Shaw, but her real name was Dawn Gilbane. Owen did go to Yemen to meet Dawn Gilbane without any prior knowledge or experience in the field. He was almost killed there, and he put all his cards on the table, which in the spy world was the worst thing anybody could do. He didn’t know anything about Dawn, but she got to know that he was snooping on matters that could jeopardize her position.

Owen didn’t even know that for CIA officials and other government officials, a black passport was issued by the state, which gave them diplomatic immunity. Owen was clearly an overachiever who was desperately seeking validation. He wanted to prove himself each and every day. His father had died on the battlefield fighting for his nation, and that is why his mother had told him not to join the army. Working in the legal wing of the CIA was the closest he could come to being on the battlefield and fighting against the enemy. Owen didn’t realize that he was self-sabotaging himself. What he was doing had long-term consequences, but he was quite smug about it and was in no mood to pay any heed to any advice. He was not in touch with his mother, and their relationship had gone sour. It had impacted Owen in an adverse manner. He had grown to be a selfish man who cared only for his own interests. He was working for the CIA for all the wrong reasons. He was running away from himself and his past. Working for the CIA gave him a sense of purpose and an adrenaline rush that made him forget his problems for that moment. What Owen didn’t realize was that he was not treating those problems but just trying to put a veil over them, expecting that they would fade with time. But instead of fading out, those problems clutched at him even harder. Owen’s constant need for validation might be because he feels emotionally isolated, which would have triggered some sort of insecurity inside him. Owen might be wanting to win the approval of others subconsciously, and maybe that is why he was more than willing to put himself at risk without even thinking twice about the ramifications it might entail.


What Did Owen Realize About Max At The End Of ‘The Recruit’ Season 1?

In the 8th episode of “The Recruit,” we saw that Owen wanted to go back to his home and end his nightmare. Max obviously wanted him to be there, as she knew that she wouldn’t be able to go back to her homeland without Owen’s help. Max thought that Owen got stressed out because he saw such violence for the first time in his life, but it was not entirely true. Owen’s problem ran much deeper than what Max had perceived it to be. He told Max that, no doubt, he was shaken after killing a guy with his own hands, but that was not why he wanted to put an end to his adventure and part ways. He realized that Max, in her struggle to survive, had stopped feeling any kind of remorse for her actions. There was an absence of empathy in her and she killed people like it was some normal chore. Owen feared that one day he would also become like Max. He got scared when he saw his own reflection in her eyes. All his life, he had been trying to cope with the death of his father, and his mother’s attitude had made his life even more difficult. Owen always believed that Max and he were on the same boat and going through something similar in their lives, and that’s why he wanted to save her. Even in the end, when she had gone to meet Lev Orlova, Owen risked his life and entered the facility because he knew that if Max died, he would also lose a part of himself. When Max pointed a gun at him, he told her that he empathized with her, as he thought that beneath her ruthless exterior, there was a scared girl who had gone through a great deal of suffering and was bearing the guilt of doing things she shouldn’t have. He thought that Max was alone and in desperate need of a person who understood her and accepted her for who she was. Owen realized that Max had become a prisoner of her own insecurities. She was so deep in the swamp that it was impossible for her to retrace her steps.

Owen walked off in the end, but fate had some other plans for both of them. Once again, they found themselves together when they were kidnapped by Nichka Lashin, a.k.a. Karolina, and taken to an unknown hideout. We will get to know in the upcoming seasons of “The Recruit” (though Netflix hadn’t confirmed it at the time this article was written) if Max is still alive and if Owen is able to escape the captivity and return back to the United States of America. 


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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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