In 2018 Netflix released a rather dull adaptation of Harlan Coben’s Safe starring Michael C Hall. Outside of a good theme song it was the sort of dime a dozen procedural that you will have seen if you’ve turned on British TV at all in the last 20-years. I didn’t approach Netflix adapting another of his works with a lot of hope but I did see that it appeared to have caught on in the UK zeitgeist with it consistently appearing in the overall Netflix top 10 since its release. Was this adaptation any better?
In certain ways yes. The first three episodes are delightfully bonkers and much more engaging as a result then Safe ever was. What starts off as a basic story of a hooded stranger approaching family man Richard Armitage and telling him a devastating secret turns into to a narrative involving embezzlement, murder blackmail, a naked teenager found in woodland and the head of a decapitated alpaca. All this is completely ludicrous, but the cast sell it with just enough of a straight face to make it work. Unfortunately, after episode 3 it proceeds to sag for large sections of the section of the season turning into the exact kind of middle of the road procedural as Safe. It ends with one of the worst finales I’ve seen in recent TV that completes the narrative transformation from entertainingly nonsensical to nonsensically stupid. That said having finished Amazons Hunters this week at the time of writing that season more has two final twists in the finale that are even more ridiculous and truly must be seen to be believed.
The Stranger ended up being very disappointing. It was never great TV but started off with just enough momentum to keep the viewer interested before devolving into “generic UK police procedural.”. It plods along for a lot of the middle section before revealing an ending that’s embarrassingly preposterous even for something that started off as ridiculous as this. It’s a lot better than Safe but it’s only recommended if you like insane pop boilers or UK procedural.