There’s a lot of nonsense to navigate in this mediocre thriller, despite its decorated cast.
Rooted in black lore, the thriller of the variety “your past catches up with you” is well worn. So how do you reframe it in a way that is both fresh and familiar, so as not to alienate an increasingly impatient audience? Herein lies the challenge of any new entry into the space, and one that Netflix’s latest collaboration with Harlan Coben, “Stay Close,” ultimately fails, despite a decorated cast led by Cush Jumbo and James Nesbitt, even. if their performance is the best thing about the playoffs.
In “Stay Close,” Jumbo plays Megan, a suburban mother of three whose previous life as a stripper named Cassie, as well as the lives of those she thought she left in the past, return to haunt her, threatening to ruin her. the perfect current reality that it has created for itself. The story comes down to it: Once a popular dancer, one of Cassie’s clients (Stewart Green, played by Rod Hunt) became dangerously obsessed with her, an obsession that turned extreme when she began dating an ambitious photographer. named Ray (Richard Armitage). Green mysteriously ends up dead and Cassie disappears.
But is Green really dead? And if he is, did Cassie (or Ray) kill him? The answer to the questions that haunt almost every episode eventually comes. Spoken but never seen or heard anywhere, Green might just as well be “Unnamed One”, whose spirit looms large. “He’s back,” the show repeatedly informs us, and he’s looking for Cassie. Once the victim of Green’s violence, traumatized, she left town; although, because the geography of the Blackpool series is not properly defined, it is not clear if it simply changed its name and moved a few streets, or to another borough, jurisdiction, town or even country. It is an unfortunate oversight, which weighs on any understanding of the issues of the series.
Cassie’s exit plan is rushed, which means she ghosts everyone she knows, including the love of her life Ray and Lorraine (Sarah Parish), a colleague and confidante.
Seventeen years later, Cassie lives as Megan, a mother of three engaged to Dave (Daniel Francis), a beefy guy with a secret of his own; Ray is a mess, slurring himself like paparazzi for hire; and Lorraine has cancer, with only a few years to live.
Detective Broome (Nesbitt) and his partner Cartwright (Jo Joyner), an ex-couple currently investigating a series of cases of missing men, including Green, are quickly introduced. (By the way, Broome is also caught up on an affair with Lorraine – a relationship that becomes central to the main investigation.)
There’s Harry (Eddie Izzard), a shady, drug addict associate of Megan, and possibly her legal counsel; Kayleigh (Bethany Antonia), Megan’s oldest child, whose prying eyes inevitably put her in danger; Del Flynn (Ross Boatman), a father determined to find his missing son while caring for his hospitalized wife in a coma; Barbie and Ken (Poppy Gilbert and Hyoie O’Grady), a pair of bounty hunters hired by Flynn, whose sadistic methods – amid sudden, offhand song and dance routines – place them in an entirely different series; and Goldberg (Jack Shalloo), a high-ranking copper that Broome and Cartwright report to, also with a secret of his own that impacts cases his detectives are working to solve.
Abundance is certainly on the way. However, contrary to what seems to be popular belief, the unnecessarily convoluted and intertwined subplots propelled by flashbacks, MacGuffins, dei ex machinis, and the misadventures of a multitude of characters, don’t naturally translate into plot or suspense. .
There is more tension in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Three-Handed Rope” (1948), or in Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ariel Dorfman’s play “Death and the Maiden” (1994), than “Stay Close “can’t tear off its tiring cliffhangers and swings. sons, scattered throughout an eight-episode season.
It’s not located in one location, but a club called Vipers is at the center of the main plot. Considering the type of male clientele the establishment typically attracts, it’s such a crass name that any initial expectation of a distinct, smart, delicately complex story, style, or structure should fade as quickly as Cassie. ran away. And getting through the season becomes a chore.
The ongoing investigation into the fate of several missing men stabilizes ‘Stay Nearby’, especially as bodies begin to pile up, including that of potential rapist Carlton Flynn, despicable future father Guy Tatum and others, all last seen during the local Carnival (“an easy night to make someone disappear”) in consecutive years. This possible realization by detectives Broome and Cartwright suggests a pattern. Maybe it’s the work of a serial killer, they think.
One suspect after another is insane, with the exception of Ray, who leaves enough traces that it is difficult to exonerate himself. But is he the killer? Who knows. Or maybe the question to ask is if all of this matters. The jarring tone changes are more like questions about whether to take the show seriously or not. Although his schlocky and remarkably visible score is still present to dictate how the viewer should feel.
There is an attempted commentary on the defamation of sex workers, gender-based violence against women and girls, and vigilante justice, all of which could have benefited from further rewrites of the script. But, in the end, “Stay Close” sticks to all the native clichés of the worn-out history of the past of a protagonist who returns to haunt him, disrupting a newly created idyllic existence; just when Cassie thought she was out, they brought her back inside!
It’s the kind of series made for binging, jumping from cliffhanger to cliffhanger like a trapeze artist without the agility and lyricism. And while it’s atmospheric, it’s just not convincing enough to get addicting. But fans of Harlan Coben Netflix’s previous collaborations should comfortably relax in this one.
In August 2018, the author signed a five-year deal with Netflix to bring 14 of his novels to the streamer as a series, and “Stay Close” follows other Netflix originals created by Coben “Safe” (2018), and, in 2020, “The Stranger,” “The Woods” and “The Innocent” – each a medium breeze that is content to be nothing more. “Stay Close” doesn’t try to be different and is equally forgettable.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction to be gained from the last two episodes as they awkwardly solve its many mysteries, even if it is a self-congratulation for getting this far on the show. But it takes a laborious path to get there, and by the time the gift is completely unwrapped, in a long confession heavy on exposure, the surprise is, if not anticlimactic, then just plain silly. It’s the kind of tabloid fodder that Lifetime Network shows are made of, with the Netflix imprint.
Grade D +
Netflix will air all eight episodes of “Stay Close” on Friday, December 31.