IS “THE STRANGER” REALLY WORTH ALL THE HYPE?
The Stranger is just a lot of missed opportunities, one after another.
It would be really nice if we lived in a safe world where you could blindly trust your family, friends or even your neighbour but that’s not reality. “The Stranger” really dives into the ideation of paranoia and pushes viewers out of their comfort zone and reminds them that their friends and family could harbour harmful secrets. In this drama mystery, no one can really be trusted.
The trouble all begins with a young woman (Hannah John-Kamen) approaching Adam Price (Richard Armitage), a lawyer and family man with two sons and a wife. He was at a soccer meet for one of his son’s when she came up to him. She tells him that his wife Corrine (Dervla Kirwan) was lying to him all along; she faked her pregnancy and his kids might not be his. She said all of the evidence is in his bank statements, all he had to do is look for the details about a company called “Novelty Funsy” to find out the truth. Adam didn’t believe it at first but when he thought back to their life together, he remembered very questionable moments that gave him pause, moments that he glossed over at the time.
In truth, Adam was quite distant from the situation. He never saw Corrine’s belly during that period and he wasn’t there for her ultrasound appointments, so he didn’t take careful notice of the weird things she said or did. Still, he had a nagging feeling that maybe the woman was telling him the truth. So, once he confirmed the information she told him, he couldn’t deny it any longer. Corrine lied to him. She really faked a pregnancy, maybe a wedding, and a miscarriage all in some sort of a skewed effort to trap him in a relationship so that they could return to a time when the two were happier. Knowing this, he confronts her with his suspicions and she doesn’t deny it. She only asks for time to share the whole truth with him when he is less angry, so he waits.
Days pass and still there’s no word off when she’ll return. He seeks the help of his friend and neighbour Doug Tripp (Shaun Dooley) to search for Corrine with no result. He even takes the help of his client and former police officer Martin Killane (Stephen Rea) in searching for his wife but reaches a dead end, so finally he reports to police that his wife has been missing for several days and continues to look for her. In an effort to discover the truth, and find Corrine, he uncovers the scheme of the unknown woman who approached him and another young woman who was helping her. They are blackmailing people in his community and whispering their hidden truths to their loved ones, shattering lives along the way, and somehow everything is connected to Corrine.
As Adam searches for his wife he begins to suspect everyone and in turn his sons do the same. When his oldest, Thomas (Jacob Dudman), searches for his mother with his friends Daisy (Ella-Rae Smith) and Mike (Brandon Fellows), they accidentally instigate a chain of terrible events. Only officer Johanna Griffin (Siobhan Finneran) can solve the case.
“The Stranger” on Netflix, is like many popular series that are airing now, this story is adapted from a book with the same name, but this time, the story is made by Harlan Coben. The novel was well received with many reporting how suspenseful and engrossing the story is, but the TV remake doesn’t quite hit the mark.
To be fair, there is a lot that’s good about the show. Initially, the story inspires the same mood as the British series “Marcella” which was also very great at drawing viewers in with suspense. The mystery and story development follow the same lines at first but as the story continues and nears its end (actually in episode 7), the narrative seems to unravel and it becomes dull.
At the beginning of the series, we see a teenage boy running in the woods naked. It seems like someone is following him and as he runs, he has psychedelic trips, and we see flash backs to the events of a party that he just left. The party scene looks almost demonic, the teenagers are backlight with an ominous red and orange light, there’s drinking, and many of them clearly look delirious. Doesn’t that sound cult-like or at least insidious? Unfortunately, the writer completely missed the mark in making that moment darker than it could have been because the truth about the party is actually quite a bore. A lot of that happens throughout the show.
In the final two episodes of the season, the writing feels rushed and lazy. It feels as though the goal is just to fill in the gaps of plot holes and not necessarily to add content with a purpose. Take for instance the discovery of what happened to Corrine. We learn that someone Adam would have never suspected, did something to Corrine but that moment felt so blunt; viewers never get the opportunity to sit with the realization. Adam kills this person out of pure rage at their denial and unbothered attitude yet that moment is entirely overlooked. How did Adam feel after? Did he go mad with terror or shock from what he’d just done? How did he get away with it? None of these questions are answered. Instead, we’re abruptly hurried to 6 months forward where everybody acts like nothing happened and Adam stands unscathed.
“The Stranger” is just a lot of missed opportunities, one after another. Perhaps the genius of “Marcella” or other psychological thrillers like “Mindhunter” and “Sherlock” is that they never come to a complete resolution, they always maintain a bit of a riddle or a shock long after you’re finished watching. They appeal to your curiosity while answering questions pertaining to a character’s motivation; the writers even go as far as making you feel as if you are experiencing moments along with a character but they never tell you how it all ends or if they do, it’s done in a very clever way. “The Stranger” does the exact opposite.
In the end, a chilling story about how we will never be able to fully know our families and friends in their entirety turned into a dull story about how white men basically get away with anything. You would think that since the first 7 episodes build up to a shocking disclosure, the ending would be a bit ingenious, but it’s not.
I would have liked to see more character development so that bombshells would have landed better. For instance, a murderer is revealed, but the explanation given to why they committed the crime feels uninspired, boring even. Also, personalities like Mike with his rich humour and great one-liners, should have been given more attention.
On the whole, the show is just passable but that’s all. The build of excitement and anxiety is for nothing; ultimately the climax is unimaginative. So it’s safe to say that maybe “The Stranger” isn’t sustainable enough for a second season. Maybe the Brits had the right idea in ending series while they were ahead … you know, before it became stale.