Strangers continues to try its hardest to be mysterious and compelling, but it’s simply neither, and should be much, much better than it is.
Blimey, it’s difficult to like ITV’s Strangers. And I really want to! It has an exotic far-flung setting and all kinds of potentially intriguing mysteries and John Simm playing a confused everyman who doesn’t know how phone chargers work. But I just don’t give a ****, and Strangers Episode 3 didn’t really do much to convince me I’m in the wrong here.
The show makes the common mistake of twisty genre fiction, which is to pile on questions without providing any answers in the hopes that the primal, lizard-brain urge to know everything is going to keep people invested. I’m sceptical of that approach, in no small part because the questions raised by each episode don’t actually tend to be that interesting.
They could be, I’m sure. Mild-mannered British academic Jonah (Simm) has arrived in Hong Kong to discover his wife, Megan (Dervla Kirwan), has been murdered and the police are covering it up. She had a secret husband, David (Anthony Wong), who according to Strangers Episode 3 was mustered out of the police force due to corruption, and a secret daughter, Lau (Katie Leung), who’s a political activist with a new lesbian lover, Becky (Kae Alexander), who someone is cajoling into spying on her.
Meanwhile, Jonah’s buddy at the British consulate, Sally (Emilia Fox), has had her sleazy partner offed, her sleazy boss (Tim McInnerny) is up to something, and in Strangers Episode 3 she was approached by the potentially-sleazy Faraz (Ryan McKen) about some juicy information. Lots of sleaze, then, but not much else.
It’s a strong cast, this. And they’re delivering game performances. The problem is in the writing, which has almost everyone behave idiotically, or irrationally, or in some other way that makes them remarkably difficult to like or be interested in. Strangers is trying so hard to be clever that it’s only managing to look dumb. Maybe next week some real plot will kick in. Then again, maybe not.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.