Created by: Harlan Coben
Featuring: Michael C. Hall, Amanda Abbington, Marc Warren, Audrey Fleurot, Hannah Arterton, Nigel Lindsay, Laila Rouass, Emmett J. Scanlan, Amy James-Kelly, Amy-Leigh Hickman, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Louis Greatorex
Why is it that now pulp stories are being made directly into limited television series every writer now thinks they are Lynda La Plante or Jimmy McGovern, able to turn their attention into creating something that is original but ends up not only being reductive but repetitive of other better as well as slightly more believable material. I was actually looking forward to this new crime drama “Safe” (2018), with a main actor I liked in Michael C. Hall as well as a character actor that has made some excellent television as well as a great actor in Marc Warren who always judges his performance by the material he is given. I also held out hope that writer Harlan Coben might create something unique as well as a must watch, with a good story as well as some interesting situations. I don’t envy these types of genre shows especially when there have been some great ones produced not only in the UK (possibly the best example is “Broadchurch”), but of course in Scandinavia that routinely produce some excellent original narratives that always seem to directly comment on the undercurrent of social issues that exist within that part of the world using the Scandi-Noir framework. When these shows miss the mark then they really need to be called out especially when the narrative is based on previous incidents as well as some unbelievable coincidences and illogic decision making that few people would make, let alone believe. Although judging from some other reviews I am alone in my dislike of this show, there have been many positive reviews, I only started to watch it after a recommendation to me, what I found was that it comes off as a cheap imitation of much better material that is now in abundance on a variety of platforms.
The main creative behind “Safe” is best-selling author Harlan Coben, who has created a show that has at its heart is a fairly simple story of a missing person, a murder and all the elements that go along with that. It is easy to see how this was devised, in fact about halfway through most viewers should see where this headed, to a conclision that is not only ridiculous in its simplicity but if a viewer stops to understand where it is headed they should see that it relies on far too many coincidences to even start to be believebale. The only way to make this plot unfold in any coherent way is to bait and switch the narrative so that elements of the story unfold in a non linear fashion thereby dishing out important aspects of the story piecemeal otherwise the ‘twist’ as such would be given away in the first episode. Frankly this is a tool used to disguise lazy and unoriginal storytelling as well as poor choices by the writers and directors that have been made after there was a kernel of a good idea or an interesting start of a show or movie.
“Safe” focuses on Englishman Tom Delaney (Hall), a paediatric surgeon and widowed father of two teenage daughters. He is struggling to connect to his daughters as they still grieve the loss of his wife from cancer one-year prior. After his 16-year-old daughter Jenny goes missing, Tom ends up uncovering a web of secrets as he frantically searches for her.
The show has a very large cast led by American transplant Michael C. Hall and the home grown Amanda Abbington who is attempting to break out of her character actor status, attempting to lead a show from beginning to end. Hall has always had a habit of playing extremely flawed characters in both the legendary HBO show “Six Feet Under” (2001-2005) and of course as the serial killer in “Dexter” (2006-2013). I found it hard to decide why Hall made this show, as he is an odd fit here as well as having an extremely dodgy English accent, I found him a little unbelievable in this role but I can see how others may like him as a Father who is attempting to understand his family. Abbington on the other hand is one note from start to finish; I don’t think she is suited to be the lead but is better off in smaller doses in character parts, much like her previous role in “Sherlock” (2010-2017). The highlight for me was Marc Warren as Tom’s best friend and confidant who is one of the few honest and proper characters in the show, he has a revelation that he takes on board far to easily which only adds to the issues of the show. The rest of the cast is rounded out with a variety of actors who are far to good for this pedestrian piece of television, but my favorite performance is from the always great Nigel Lindsay as Jojo. He is just a comedy genius as a Father who makes the wrong decision every time he comes up against a problem, he lit up the screen every time he appeared, I wish he had have been in the show a lot more, it may have made the eight episodes much more bearable.
The idea behind this series is a very good one in my opinion, to have a story that for the most part takes place within a gated community means that those living their are able to be studied within a close knit community – it is not an original idea though, it has been done before in other television shows and movies, so from that idea the plot and narrative needs to not only hold together but more importantly be original. There are ideas about personality as well as what it means to have trauma in life as well as how to handle that in a way that leads to healing. It is unfortunate that the series has been hamstrung by an unoriginal as well as flawed narrative that undercuts the main story so much that one cannot exist without the other. In any good story the narrative should not create the story, but compliment it, but that is exactly what occurs here, the weakness is that if this were a linear narrative this show would be over in twenty minutes not stretched out over eight long episodes.
My other main issues are the inconsistent motives and decisions made by almost all the characters within the show, which mostly make little or no sense at all. Almost every time someone comes up against an issue or problem there is a convenient revelation or solution handed to them which becomes again, a weakness in the narrative. There is also the issue that all of the main characters that existed and were involved in an incident almost thirty years ago still live in exactly the same area, having never traveled or moved away. This is something that I cannot wrap my head around most people move at least once in their lifetime and will normally move away from their childhood suburbs, in this show literally everyone still lives with a few kilometers of where they grew up, really, please!
Now if you are a casual viewer and do not care about being treated like an idiot this show may be for you however if you enjoy quality shows that are thought out and not derivative of other far better and skilled shows then you should wisely give this a miss and seek out something more original that will be far more satisfying and worthwhile, our time is far too short to be spent watching lazy television.
- When his teenage daughter doesn’t return home after a party, Tom Delaney anxiously combs the neighborhood and learns her boyfriend is also missing.
- Fearing a friend was involved in Jenny’s disappearance, Tom enlists Sophie’s help. Emma investigates disturbing allegations about a teacher.
- An anonymous tip leads to a frenzied chase — and another puzzling clue. Zoe draws up a list of grudges. Tom glimpses a side of Rachel he never knew.
- While Tom follows a new lead about Jenny, Sophie and Emma deliver devastating news. The Marshalls struggle to keep their cool.
- In the wake of a dangerous confrontation, Sophie warns Tom to stay out of the investigation. Tom learns that Jenny was hiding a secret.
- As a deadly fire rages, Tom frantically tracks Jenny’s phone. More details about Chris’s death emerge, and a confession tears a family apart.
- Sophie blocks Tom’s attempts to speak with Henry. While searching for Bobby at Heaven, Tom and Pete spot a familiar face.
- Tom begs for Sophie’s help getting to Bobby. Before the night of the party, a cryptic entry in Rachel’s diary sends Jenny on a quest for the truth.