A bland and predictable opening hour didn’t get Strangers off to a great start, but there’s some potential in the premise.
The new ITV drama Strangers – courtesy of producers Jack and Harry Williams and new scriptwriters Mark Denton and Jonny Stockwood – debuted tonight with a sedate, predictable opening hour. The show, which was filmed on location in Hong Kong, concerns professor Jonah Mulray (John Simm), a typically Simmian fish-out-of-water whose wife, Megan (Dervla Kirwan), is killed in a car crash while working abroad.
You can tell Jonah and Megan loved each other very much because when he remembers her it’s always in filtered lovey-dovey flashbacks as they doze on the couch and passionately kiss and oh, how tragic. So it’s understandable that the news of her getting T-boned by a truck comes as a bit of a shock to him – enough for him to conquer his fear of flying and jump on a plane to Hong Kong to identify her body and see what she was up to over there.
Turns out she was up to quite a bit, including being married for 20 years to a local, David (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong), with whom she has a rebellious teenage daughter, Lau (Katie Leung) – and we know she’s rebellious because we meet her spraying graffiti in rebellion against an oppressive Chinese government.
For all the fuss that has been made about Strangers, I’m really not seeing the appeal. The premise is thoroughly played-out, and its Hong Kong feels just like anywhere else; almost everyone conveniently speaks English, and Simm’s pitch-perfect everyman blundering is constantly undercut by convenience. Yeah, sure, the story needs to move along, and admittedly it does so at a decent clip, but the feeling of a man being lost in a dangerous alien environment just isn’t there – not yet, at least. There’s some promise in the setting, and by episode’s end the simplistic plot has been complicated enough that there’s reason enough to tune in next week. But the premiere didn’t offer much beyond the setup for a been-there-seen-that thriller, albeit with a refreshingly cosmopolitan cast.