One of Us Is Lying is a highly binge-able teen murder mystery, but it lacks its source material’s memorable sense of character.
This review of One of Us Is Lying is spoiler-free.
One of Us Is Lying doesn’t break the fourth wall or get particularly meta, but it’s clearly aware of the innumerable other shows just like it. Based on a book by Karen McManus that combined The Breakfast Club with an Agatha Christie locked-room whodunit and a keen sense of how teenagers might act and behave, this eight-episode series, which began as a Peacock original and is now rather mysteriously a Netflix one, manages to replicate the broad strokes of the mystery without transplanting any of the depth.
It’s watchable, for sure, but that’s partly on the strength of the case, which finds misanthropic gossipmonger Simon (Mark McKenna) dying of an allergic reaction in detention right before he’s due to disseminate a treasure trove of secrets on his blog, About That. The hook is that Simon was in the room with four other students – straight-A teacher’s pet Bronwyn (Marianly Tejada), closeted star athlete Cooper (Chibuikem Uche), unfaithful cheerleader mean girl Addy (Annalisa Cochrane), and bad boy drug dealer Nate (Cooper van Grootel). And, as the title implies, one of them is lying about what happened.
This is, obviously, a very solid setup for a murder mystery, and the show, to its credit, has a really good instinct for when to drop the next clue, twist, or reveal, which is usually just as attention is beginning to wane. But while this was all compelling in the book, too, the source material used it to build surprising and authentic relationships among the “Bayview Four” and their immediate friends and family, weaving a fairly intricate tapestry of high school dynamics in which everyone appeared to be an arch cliché just to prove, eventually, that they were much more than that. And while the TV adaptation has some of this, it doesn’t have enough to permeate the gloss.
While the show’s an obvious binge candidate, it’s a shame that it doesn’t linger in the memory more, that it can’t commit to a more interesting or challenging approach. The framework is there, but the priorities are a little skewed in this adaptation, making it worth the watch, but not worth thinking about too much afterward.