sun 16/12/2018

Strangers, episode 2, ITV review - conspiracy theories multiply | reviews, news & interviews

Strangers, episode 2, ITV review - conspiracy theories multiply

Strangers, episode 2, ITV review - conspiracy theories multiply

Hong Kong locations may be the real stars of this tortuous thriller

Mystery in the orient: John Simm looks for answers in Hong Kong

You might consider it odd that a man whose wife spends half the year in Hong Kong without him hasn’t managed to get around to catching a plane from Heathrow to visit her in the Far East, but that is the case with Jonah Mulray, the stressed-out protagonist of Strangers. Jonah’s excuse for his marital negligence is that he’s “scared of flying”.

In last week’s opening episode, he was forced to conquer his terror of leaving the ground by the traumatic news that his wife Megan (Dervla Kirwan) had been killed in a road accident. As soon as he arrived in Hong Kong, everything looked exceedingly fishy. The police were shifty and uncooperative, and Jonah had barely unpacked his suitcase when he was attacked by a burglar in his hotel room. But there was more. He also discovered that Megan had been married for 18 years to David Chen, a former Hong Kong policeman (Anthony Wong), and was still married to him at the time of her death. And they had a teenage daughter called Lau (Katie Leung, pictured below).StrangersAll a bit of a shock to the system, almost as much as the confused, terrified phone message his wife left him just before she died. This ended with the unmistakeable sound of a gunshot, which rather scuppered the official theory that her death was accidental.

Jonah is a dowdy university professor with the social skills of a stunned halibut, but his anger and confusion have goaded him into staying in Hong Kong and trying to get to the bottom of these sinister shenanigans. John Simm plays him with a kind of self-righteous petulance, so that every conversation he has with anybody always ends up with him bawling at them as if they were an especially unhelpful customer services operative who keeps asking him for the third and fifth characters of his password.

Still, the plot continues to thicken quite intriguingly. The fact that Megan’s body has somehow vanished from the morgue, while the sneery police chief has brazenly edited the gunshot from Jonah’s phone message and told him he imagined it, offers much for conspiracy theorists to chew on. With help from Lau, Jonah has discovered Megan’s secret apartment above a disused restaurant, where she’d stashed two American passports in the name of Walker, one for herself and one for Lau. Evidently there is much murkiness behind the scenes as elections loom for the post of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. An elderly tycoon called Xo, who lives in a plush skyscraper with epic views of Hong Kong harbour, is in the running, but seems to be involved in some racket about using land intended for social housing to build luxury condos instead. Equally unsavoury is rival candidate Shibao, whose escutcheon is besmirched by dabblings with drugs and prostitutes.

Being sucked into all this is Sally Porter (Emilia Fox), who works at the British Consulate and is engaged to a hotel manager called Ben (Christian Contreras). Except she isn’t any more, after (a) Ben leaked Consulate information stolen from Sally to smear Shibao in the local newspaper and (b) he was found dead in the bath. Sally is hoping that slobby Australian journalist Michael Cohen (Anthony Hayes, pictured left) might be able to shed a few glimmers of light in the gathering gloom. Meanwhile Lau is on the streets protesting against candidate Xo, and has tumbled into a relationship with Becky (Kae Alexander), an ex-jailbird with a bunch of secrets up her sleeve.

It’s all a bit too much too soon, with major plot events whirling past like roof slates in a hurricane. With six more episodes to go, lord knows where it’ll all end up. However, the location shots of Hong Kong are wonderfully atmospheric, as they roam between teeming backstreet markets, leafy hilltop villas, raucous mahjong dens and scintillating panoramas of the skyline and the always-busy harbour. It makes a welcome change from those TV-drama standbys, Westminster and the City of London.

It’s all a bit too much too soon, with major plot events whirling past like roof slates in a hurricane

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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