The Stranger tv series 2020

The Stranger

2020 - United Kingdom

The Dark Secrets of Family and Friends

The Stranger Review by Matt Owen

The Stranger is a mystery mini-series based on the novel by Harlan Coben and adapted for television by Danny Brocklehurst. While the original book was set in New Jersey, USA, the show instead focuses on a tightly knit community in Northern England. When a mysterious stranger appears in town and starts to blackmail citizens with their darkest secrets, a web of conspiracy begins to unravel, leading to deadly consequences. Eerie, suspenseful, but occasionally melodramatic, The Stranger paints an engaging tale of interpersonal relationships, explored through a cluttered yet intriguing branch of mysteries.

Hannah John-Kamen - The Stranger
Hannah John-Kamen

The show's narrative is packed with characters, but the plot primarily centres on the successful lawyer and father, Adam Price (Richard Armitage). While attending one of his son's football games, Adam is greeted by a mysterious stranger (Hannah John-Kamen), who shares a troubling revelation about his family. Although he doubts the stranger's tale, when his wife mysteriously disappears, Adam is forced to face reality.

Meanwhile, trouble brews elsewhere in town. After Adam's athletic son Thomas (Jacob Dudman) and his friends throw a party in the woods, one of their fellow students is found naked and unresponsive. Other issues crop up at the local university when students' private photographs and information are leaked online by an unknown source. As two local detectives, Johanna (Siobhan Finneran) and Wesley (Kadiff Kirwan) begin to investigate, they stumble upon a string of other unsettling crimes around town. The Stranger constantly piles on new characters and subplots episode after episode, and by the halfway point, the narrative starts to feel a bit crowded. Thankfully, the story ties up coherently toward the end of the series, it just takes some time to get there.

Siobhan Finneran and Kadiff Kirwan in The Stranger
Siobhan Finneran and Kadiff Kirwan

If his long list of popular projects is any indication, novelist Harlan Coben obviously has a knack for creating suspenseful stories. Considering that Coben was directly involved with the production of the show, you can rest assured that the core mystery of The Stranger is well-written. Despite being somewhat cluttered with subplots, the show is paced well, so it never becomes too confusing or overwhelming.

That said, some aspects of the story feel significantly underdeveloped, seemingly shoehorned into the show for artificial suspense as the main plot unfolds. It doesn't help that key characters occasionally make massive leaps in logic, often to help move the story along. Similar to other shows based on Coben's work, such as Safe or The Woods, The Stranger can be predictable at times and fall victim to genre tropes, but it's still a competent story with some true surprises along the way.

Paul Kaye in The Stranger
Paul Kaye

However, the true surprise of The Stranger is the exceptional quality of the acting, as the majority of the cast does a wonderful job selling the suspense. Richard Armitage offers a performance worthy of a protagonist as Adam Price, appearing both empathetic and heroic when needed. Siobhan Finneran and Kadiff Kirwan also share some vibrant buddy-cop energy in their roles as Johanna and Wesley, adding a bit of levity at points. Additionally, Paul Kaye stands out as the troubled constable, Patrick Katz. Apart from some awkward line delivery every now and then, the strength of the cast is commendable, especially in the more emotional scenes.

Dervla Kirwan, Anthony Head and Jennifer Saunders also star in 'The Stranger'

The Stranger works well as a tense, character-driven mystery, although it can be a bit cheesy at times. In a story all about truth and deception, every character has a secret to hide, leading to exciting twists and turns. While not every subplot is granted a particularly satisfying resolution, the overarching mystery should be gripping enough to propel viewers to the end. The solid acting performances help elevate Coben's existing story, although fans of the source material will likely have some gripes with this adaptation. Overall, it's a worthwhile mini-series if you already enjoy the genre, as it rises above the expected quality of your average made-for-television mystery.

Published on August 8th, 2023. Written by Matt Owen for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

Truth Seekers

When a team of part-time paranormal investigators team up to uncover and film ghost sightings across the UK, they begin to uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon for the entire human race.

Also released in 2020

Castlevania

Adult animated dark fantasy action series based on the Japanese video game series of the same name by Konami. When his human wife is burned at the stake after being falsely accused of witchcraft, Dracula declares all the people of Wallachia will pay with their lives

Also starring Richard Armitage

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

How many post-apocalyptic science fiction stories are both tremendously heartwarming and uplifting, and perfect viewing for the whole family?

Also released in 2020

Vanity Fair

Historical drama miniseries based on the 1848 novel of the same name by William Makepeace Thackeray

Also starring Anthony Stewart Head

Dracula

Transylvania, 1897: A British lawyer is summoned to meet a new client who resides in a dark foreboding castle. Count Dracula plans to move to England, but first he needs to feed...

Also released in 2020

The Great TV series

Satirical comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia's history.

Also released in 2020

Death of an Expert Witness

Anglia Television's first adaptation of a P.D. James novel finds Adam Dalgliesh investigating the murder of a forensic biologist

Also tagged British Crime Thriller

DEVS

When a young computer engineer becomes embroiled in the mysterious disappearance of her boyfriend, who vanished on the first day of his new job at Cutting edge tech company Devs, she begins to suspect that his disappearance may not be as clear-cut as it seems. (Contains spoilers)

Also released in 2020

Warrior Nun

When an orphaned teen wakes up in a morgue she discovers that a divine artefact has been embedded in her back. The powers it gives her means that she is now the Halo-Bearer for a secret sect of demon-hunting nuns

Also released in 2020