Strangers Series 1 – The DVDfever Review – John Simm

Strangers puts Professor Jonah Mulray in the tragic situation of his wife having died, but under what circumstances and what has she been up to? That’s what he’s about to find out and which has been kept under wraps prior to broadcast, so no, I’m not letting on either.

If I did tell you, then that might make you think there was no reason to watch, but then in any event, this is a drama starring John Simm, and if THAT doesn’t draw you in, then I’m not your friend anymore…

Before watching this, I figured the title was Strangers because they’ve lived apart for so long, as she’d spend several weeks at a time in Hong Kong and he always promised to go over there, but like Mr T and John McClane, he doesn’t like to fly.

Early on, he encounters Lau (One Child‘s Katie Leung), a protestor, who we see throwing paint at the car in which HK International Chief Executive Xo is being driven, while he also needs help from British Consulate official Sally Porter (Emilia Fox), but I don’t want to name any other characters and their part in the drama because that’s for you to find out when you watch it.

However, it’s safe to say that everyone seems to know Jonah’s business better than him, making him rather like Sam Tyler in Life on Mars when he was a fish out of water. Add in plenty of twists and turns and you can see that as this comes from the writers of the recent Liar, brothers Harry and Jack Williams.

As the series spans over eight episodes, it’s very slow-paced, but it drip-feeds the information to you, mixing in flashbacks about Megan, so every time we see her she’s in flashback scenes, and he’s left expressing, “I KNOW MY WIFE!”, but just how well did he know her?

Naturally, you won’t get ALL the answer after just one episode, but you’ll get plenty to get your teeth stuck into. I’d love to visit Hong Kong at some point, too, so if anyone wants to take me along, just say the word 😀

John Simm is superb, as usual, as the anguished widower, and there’s good support from everyone else, but again, I don’t want to single out specific characters or actors since I went into this only knowing the basics, and it’s best you don’t know any extra plot about it.

Naturally, you will get some answers by the end of episode 1, but also more questions… and now I just want to see ALL of it!

That said, I’ve also seen episode 2 which unpicks the plot at a similar pace – taking in more characters as it goes – and adds the same amount of intrigue but is even more gripping, so I’m looking forward to the remaining six episodes very much.

As an aside, I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but there’s occasional background music that’s not dissimilar to the regular background score in The Shining. As I type, I’ve only seen the first two episodes, and the music comes up shortly after the first ad break in the second episode as the camera pans across a night-time view of Hong Kong.

Hmm… scouring China, looking for answers to a mystery? Is this Shenmue: The TV Series?

UPDATES: (and for each episode, I’ll not give spoilers, but I will presume you’ve seen all the previous ones)

Episode 3: This showed you just can’t trust the police, even though we knew that already. We also saw some great chemistry as Jonah and David were working together in order to solve the mystery.

And we can’t have enough of Lau and Becky (Kae Alexander) 😀

Episode 4 showed we’d reached a bit of a mid-series lull that’s common in a lot of dramas, as they run for eight episodes but you realise they could’ve been shot in 6. We still have two concurrent storylines, as Jonah tries to find out what happened to his wife, while Sally wants the same with her husband, and everything’s feeling like it’s treading water a little. I will stick with it, though, as I love the locations.

Episode 5 was much the same as it rather jumped back and forth between the present day and when Jonah married Megan, only really coming up with some goods towards the end. As Weasel tells Wade Wilson in Deadpool, it “might further the plot”.

Episode 6: Again, it’s all getting a bit twisty-turny, and giving us another generally mediocre episode. However, it is amusing that the prison set, based in the UK, is now doubling for a Japanese prison, although to go with the tone of the drama, they’ve darkened the lighting in the scene.

Episodes 7 and 8: Naturally, I’ll give no spoilers about anything in these final two episodes, and all I’ll say is that it mostly comes back up to scratch after the drama has lost its way for a number of episodes, and could easily have been cut down to 6, although it has been nice to see the gorgeous city of Hong Kong grace our screens for a full eight weeks.

It’s also good that during this whole series, after Megan shuffled off her mortal coil at the start of episode one, it wasn’t the end of Dervla Kirwan, as we saw her in a number of flashback scenes. Flashbacks have been done well in this, compared to say, BBC’s The Cry, where the constant to-ing and fro-ing confused everyone back and forth like a yoyo.

Further down, below the cast list, you can see screengrabs of the surrounding pages of the UK Metro newspaper from Monday September 10th, the day the series premiered on ITV. They look fantastic!

Strangers beings on Monday at 9pm, and then will be the ITV Hub. You can pre-order the series on DVD, ahead of its release on February 19th.

Strangers – ITV Trailer

Episode 1: 8/10
Episode 2: 9/10
Episode 3: 7/10
Episode 4: 6/10
Episode 5: 4/10
Episode 6: 6/10
Episode 7: 8/10
Episode 8: 7/10

Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Producer: Matthew Bird
Writers: Mark Denton, Jonny Stockwood, Marston Bloom, Federico Fernandez-Armesto, Adam Gyngell, Harry Williams and Jack Williams
Music: Raffertie

Jonah Mulray: John Simm
Megan Harris: Dervla Kirwan
David Chen: Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
Lau: Katie Leung
Sally Porter: Emilia Fox
Arthur: Tom McInnery
Becky: Kae Alexander
Daniel Tsui: Tom Wu
Michael Cohen: Anthony Hayes
Felix Chong: Thomas Chaanhing
Kai: Jason Wong
Wilfried Chow: Christophe Tek
Dr. Margot Due: Yennis Cheung
Venus Chong: Rebecca Yeo
Martin: Nicholas Bailey
Emma: Rosalind Halstead