My annual social media Lent is coming up. From Ash Wednesday I will abstain from Twitter for the next 6 and a half weeks (until Easter Sunday), allowing me to recalibrate a little and concentrate on other things. Such as my blog – or RAnet. That means I need blog fodder. Almost four weeks have passed since The Stranger launched on Netflix. Enough time to assume that most fans and readers have watched the show and will not be spoiled by the discussion of the show. Moreover, some more in-depth discussions have already started in the comments. Last weekend, for instance, we got into the intracacies of the “bar scene” in episode 4 of TS, talking about the casting, costuming and directing of that particular scene and how we, as women
of a particular age reacted to that scene.
However, it would probably make more sense to start at the beginning. So anyone who’d like to discuss TS with me, you are welcome to write your observations, reactions and opinions in the comments. I know I am kind of launching into this without announcement. But by doing this episode by episode, I hope you can follow along and catch up with individual episode if need be. I’ll also try and summarise every episode at the beginning of each review post so we know what we are talking about.
Hm, I may need to rewatch the show for that. The hardship!!! However, the discussion will probably focus on the plot… eh… Adam. Anyhow, I hope you’ll join me and share your thoughts either here – or your own blog, if you are blogging, too.
The Stranger – Episode 1 Recap
Prior to the trailer, TS starts with teenagers at a bonfire party, culminating in a naked boy escaping through the dark forest. The plot then begins with the Price boys driving in the car to the football club where younger son Ryan is trying out for the A team. While at the club, daddy Adam briefly speaks with his wife Corinne on the phone. She is away at a teachers’ conference while Adam looks after their sons. In the clubhouse, Adam is approached by “a stranger” who reveals a devastating secret to him: His wife faked her pregnancy a couple of years ago. He is shocked and disturbed.
Once back home after football training, Adam can’t resist checking the details the stranger passed on to him, and sure enough, his suspicions are confirmed – there is a credit card payment for a fishy website called Novelty Funsy, and the ultrasound scan of the miscarried baby does not quite match the ones of his two sons. Meanwhile, Adam’s elder son Thomas heads out to the bonfire party with his friends.
The next morning, police woman Johanna investigates a bizarre crime scene of a decapitated alpaca in the city centre. With her DS, she drives to a nearby alpaca farm to confirm where the animal came from. On their return trip their attention is attracted by some pieces of clothing in the forest. They follow the trail of clothes and find a naked body. The young man is still alive.
Adam meanwhile looks after his day job – he is the legal advisor to an obstinate tenant who refuses to move out of a house that has been earmarked for demolition. Upon his return, Corinne arrives back from her conference and Adam receives confirmation that the mysterious credit card payments are for a website that provides fake pregnancy products. He immediately confronts Corinne. She does neither deny nor explain why or what she did, only hinting that there is more to it than he thinks. The Prices spend the night in separate bedrooms.
The next morning Adam observes Corinne taking a phone call outside the house. She later suggests to Adam that they talk later that day after a school awards ceremony where she will explain all. However, Corinne never shows to the event. Adam receives a text message asking for some time apart.
The episode ends with Thomas revealing the decapitated alpaca head in his cupboard.
Episode 1 – Discuss
So, first of all – I have watched the first episode about three and a half times. Twice on my own, once with hubster, and finally today a quick run-through for the sake of the recap where I fast forwarded through a lot of scenes, focussing on Adam mostly.
I couldn’t help it… My first response to the show at the very first viewing was – WOW! I remember that I was fully engaged during every minute of it – even the scenes and story lines that Richard did not feature in. Granted, I was most interested with the “grown-up” arcs, not least because anything involving drugs and other goings-on with teenagers makes *this* mama really worried. But having said that, I think the first episode was very effective in establishing the storylines and the characters. Hence the show spends most time following Adam (Richard Armitage) – as a father, as a lawyer and as a husband. Then there are the two police officers who also are presented as round characters – the middle-aged senior officer Johanna (Siobhan Finneran) approaching retirement who has just decided to split from her husband, and her much younger partner, a gay black man. Adam’s son Thomas also gets a good bit of screen time with his friends, making him more than just secondary. Other secondary characters include first and foremost Dervla Kirwan as Corinne, Stephen Rea as obstinate tenant Martin, and Jennifer Saunders as Johanna’s BFF Heidi.
So, the first watch was highly exciting and addictive, so much so that I basically binged the whole show. On second and subsequent views, I found the episode not quite as fast and exciting anymore – only natural, as a lot of time was actually spent setting up the characters and the various story lines: Johanna waking up in bed to her snoring husband; Johanna meeting Heidi in her café; observing the teenagers at their bonfire party; visiting Dante in hospital…
RA is the natural focal point from the get-go. Not only for fangirls, I might add. The show is really good at setting him up as the perfect family man who obviously has great rapport with his sons, both the “difficult” almost grown-up older son, but also the younger lad who needs a different kind of care than a young adult. I found the casting really great, with Thomas definitely matching the tall, dark, handsome vibes of TV-dad Richard, and younger boy Ryan more a mirror of his blond, curly-haired TV-mum. They all have great chemistry together, and found Misha Handley (Ryan) very natural and convincing. Jacob Dudman as Thomas was also great.
RA really shines in the confrontation scenes, both with the stranger and with his wife, when he has to convey both suppressed anger and outright fury at having been deceived. Both his major scenes with Corinne are very convincing, and I appreciated the decision to make Adam extremely angry, on the verge of volatile, when Corinne refuses to explain her actions. Adam’s anger is immediate, raw and confused and Armitage really draws the viewer on his side with his emotional outburst. So much so that I basically missed Dervla Kirwan’s nuanced acting in that scene. On second and subsequent viewings, once you know how the show ends and why she doesn’t want to talk immediately, you start to notice the little things: her refusal to talk has more to do with fear than with anger or denial. She is afraid of actually addressing the fact that the reason for her faked pregnancy will also bring another secret out in the open, and the subsequent discussion (which she had successfully avoided by faking the pregnancy in the first place) will now have to take place. What might have looked as callous or dismissive at first viewing, conveys much more detail the second time round: there is a sadness to Corinne that Kirwan expresses very subtly – in a slight pause, or the tiniest glance into the mid-distance. The same applies to their second and much calmer confrontation the next morning. What might have looked almost callous on first viewing, gains much more weight when you watch it with prior knowledge of the plot. When Adam says he has lost trust in her, Corinne replies “it hurts, doesn’t it?“. The question tag really stood out to me on first viewing. It confused me. Why is she phrasing it like that? It of course became clear in episode 4, but again, Kirwan really gave it a spin by loading it with subtle sadness that doesn’t only confuse the viewer but also Adam. Armitage here kept his response at just the right level of confusion without giving away how much Adam really recognises or understands what she was hinting at. RA reacts with great detail expressions. No words are needed. And in hindsight you can see how he begins to wonder whether she knows about his affair. Loved it.
Let’s talk a bit about Armitage’s look in this show. Such a spectacle!
Yes, I like details like that. The jury is still out on whether this is a prescription that Armitage wrote into the script himself 😂, or whether we just had a costume department that is on the ball. Yes, it’s time for the presbyopic lenses. Happens to most of us at around middle age. 🤓 I found it a lovely detail that makes Adam more relatable. Because – a dad bod he has not.
Even if he claims he does. I find this a rather attractive package for a middle aged family man. Also:
But to get back to the look and style – I enjoyed the casual style of Adam. Once again, it felt right – nothing too fancy, with windbreaker, jeans and shirts, and even a tracksuit at home, the perfect attire for a father of two (pre-) teen sons. I was surprised how good RA looked in other colours than just black and blue. The red polo shirt was very nice on him.
I can’t say I am as convinced of the costumes provided for Corinne. In fact, I think there were some rather sledge-hammer style decisions going on there, putting the wife and mother into rather dowdy, pale pink mom trousers and giving her a hole-pattern, fluffy knit jumper. Then there was that turquoise dress that went slightly longer than her knees – apparently the work wear for female teachers in English private schools, judging by an equally frumpy outfit for Corinne’s colleague and friend Vicky? (This observation I will come back to in a later post once we get to episode 4.) It just kind of made me think that Corinne was made to look older and less casual than her husband who even attends to his client in jeans and shirt…
Police officer Johanna Griffin OTOH looked *real* and great. (I kept double-taking because O’Brien’s severe look kept coming back to me.) And I loved Heidi’s funky style – very much the slightly crazy café-owner with a café as stylish as herself… And can we also mention the Price’s residence here? There were only quick first glimpses of their house – but oh, that stylist made it a gorgeous family home. The garden was beautiful but I can take it or leave it.
Too much work – I don’t like to get my fingers dirty. But the dining area with the floor-to-ceiling windows and the sleek white kitchen? Big win, especially because it doesn’t look like a showroom but has photos on the fridge and a mess on the counters.
So episode 1 gets a big thumbs up from me – for introducing us to almost all the characters (some held back for more surprise later on) and establishing the plot. Yes, there is a lot going on here, which I haven’t even all mentioned in the recap: the stranger dropping her first bomb, the Price family life, the secret in Corinne’s past, the tenant who refuses to move out of his home, the colleague who has trouble with her pre-teen daughter, the teenagers who are partying under the influence of drugs, the mystery of the boy who was hunted through the forest, the curious story of the decapitated alpaca, an almost-comic police duo, a police officer who is splitting up with her hubby, her friend, the funky café owner, the gregarious neighbour, the busybody football trainer… Too much? I’d say a lot of it is deliberate overload to distract us, yet give us some extra info about the characters, their work, their life and their environment.
The strategy definitely works when you watch the show for the first time. You are busy dealing with
Richard Armitage’s overwhelming handsomeness taking it all in. The questions only really pop up when you watch again. Such as: When stoned Mike takes the alpaca for a walk into the city centre, why is there no CCTV footage? I mean, nowadays there is hardly *any* urban area that does *not* have CCTV on shops and banks or traffic spots. How come no one saw him decapitating the alpaca, in a city centre? And how did he manage to decapitate it anyway`- it’s hardly a one-chop job?Likewise and with hindsight we know now that Corinne’s text message was not sent by her at all: But how did the sender actually know the password to Corinne’s phone to send that message? I mean, don’t all people lock their phone with a password these days? Possibly nit-picking questions, but that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? You can enjoy a show immensely – and still want to pick a few holes into the plot just to see whether you are cleverer than the writer 😉.
There is probably so much more to discuss, but for the sake of getting the discussion started, here is the post. What is your take on the first episode of TS? Any agreements with me, or disagree? Other points of interest? Let me know in the comments!