sun 16/12/2018

Strangers, Series Finale, ITV review - Eastern promise goes unfulfilled | reviews, news & interviews

Strangers, Series Finale, ITV review - Eastern promise goes unfulfilled

Strangers, Series Finale, ITV review - Eastern promise goes unfulfilled

Hong Kong mystery gets across the finishing line at last

Chuckle-free zone: John Simm as Jonah Mulray

After seeming to spend an interminable amount of time wandering around in a daze and blundering up blind alleys, Strangers finally gathered its wits and cantered towards the finishing tape with a renewed sense of purpose in the final two episodes. One couldn’t feeling that if two or three of its eight instalments had been surreptitiously hidden behind the dustbins round the back of ITV Mansions, few would have been any the wiser.

In the end, university professor Jonah Mulray (John Simm, revealing an aptitude for morbid dullness which he’d previously kept to himself) got most of the answers he’d been looking for about the death – well, murder – of his wife Megan (Dervla Kirwan). In the final frames, he even seemed to have uncovered incontrovertible proof, written in her own hand, that she really had loved him more than her other husband, the former Hong Kong copper David Chen (who was shot in the back by the surly assassin Conrad Davies last week).

Strangers, Series Finale, ITVBut frustratingly, many of the hints and clues dropped by sibling screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams early in the story eventually proved to be diversions rather than the main event. It had seemed originally that Strangers was going to be covering an ambitiously broad geopolitical canvas upon which the story of billionaire tycoon Xiadong Xo (Kenneth Tsang, pictured right), his ambition to be elected Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and his involvement in a shady property development scheme, was going to play out. Into this would feed the activities of lethal criminal networks from the Hong Kong underworld as well as the nefarious schemes of the British consular officials who were playing their own private strategic game. Casting Tim McInnerny as the contriving consular bigwig Arthur Bach was like standing on a rooftop with a megaphone and announcing that perfidious Albion is up to her old tricks again.

But if we were expecting a kind of State of Play on the China Station, what we got was more like The Missing with half the horsepower but treble the exotic scenery. Logically perhaps, since The Missing is another Williams brothers product. In the event, Xo was indeed key to solving the riddle of Megan’s death, and to the traumatic past of her daughter Lau, but the organised crime angle was little more than local colour, while the political aspect boiled down to a plan by the Brits to blackmail Xo which was so rickety that even Theresa May might have thought twice about supporting it.

Strangers, Series Finale, ITVConsular gofer Sally Porter (Emilia Fox), who’d spent the entire series looking fraught and about to have a breakdown, at least had the decency to appear thoroughly shamefaced when her inglorious role in the Megan-and-Xo business was finally exposed. She also had the good sense to scarper back to London before the Chinese authorities slapped on the handcuffs. The darkest horse of the lot proved to be Rachel Hargreaves (Raquel “Downton” Cassidy, pictured above), but the initially promising character of Lau and her anarchic passion for street protests remained disappointingly undeveloped.

Nonetheless, the Hong Kong locations remained watchable even when the action wasn’t, and Strangers did manage to generate an undertow of mysterious melancholy which proved mildly hypnotic. In the end though, it promised more than it delivered.

Not so much 'State of Play' on the China Station, more like 'The Missing' with half the horsepower but treble the exotic scenery

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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