The Student
The Stranger
by Alexa Sambrook, 29/02/20

What would you do if you were approached by a stranger that told you information that turned your life upside down? That is the premise of Netflix’s latest psychological thriller The Stranger, based on Harlan Cohen’s novel of the same name.

Adam Price (Richard Armitage) is a suburban lawyer. On the surface he has a great life- living in a large house with his two sons and his wonderful wife who is a schoolteacher at the local school. However, after a football match he is approached by the Stranger (Hannah John-Kamen), a beautiful mysterious woman in a blue snapback, whose words batter him like a physical punch. 

With every episode more and more mysteries are revealed as Adam delves into this rabbit hole of secrets. Each character harbours a dark secret, some realistic and interesting, others bordering on ridiculous. The worst of these is hands down the the beheading of an alpaca, that is ludicrously expected to be serious but that instead comes off as a Hot Fuzz-esque gag.

The cast is large and sprawling: Jennifer Saunders even pops up for a few episodes, albeit somewhat out of place with the serious tone the drama is trying to project. There are solid performances from Siobhan Finneran and Kadiff Kirwan, inspectors investigating the various incidents across town. Kirwan’s comedy is a good contrast to Finneran’s DS Johanna Griffin who keeps up a brave face as everything falls apart around her.

Sympathy is effectively incited towards Johanna and Adam but the audience’s response to the other characters is more erratic. One of the key problems with the show is its titular character – the Stranger. The cloud of mystery surrounding her that compels us in the first episode slowly dissipates as the series progresses and we learn more about her and her motives. By the end she is merely predictable.

Everyone has a secret to be spilled. At the best of times, this keeps us glued to our laptop-screens wanting to know more, but at the worst of times, the show just becomes silly. There is simply too much going on in such a small English community that it begins to edge into Death in Paradise’s preposterousness of so many crimes happening in such a small place.

The mysteries of The Stranger can make for an unrestrainable binge-watching session; however, you will have to be able to withhold your disbelief as this show wriggles and twists in ways you thought weren’t possible.

Image: Lukobe via Wikipedia