Stupid, cheap, and overly convoluted, this Netflix Original series is one of the flattest takes on the "small-town crime-mystery" subgenre that I've ever seen.
In terms of its general concept, think Broadchurch, Top of the Lake, or The Sinner. This series needles at the discovery of a suburban community's twisted secrets after a shocking act of violence galvanizes the local police force into descending into the belly of the beast. In this particular case, the investigation and intrigue is kicked off by the beheading of an alpaca, the brutalization of a naked teenage boy, and the arrival of a mysterious woman with a penchant for exposing the truth behind life-shattering lies.
Unfortunately for Netflix subscribers everywhere, this synopsis of the show's premise makes it sound far more exciting and intelligent than it actually is. The Stranger executes this classic formula of small town deceit and deception without even a fraction of the grace possessed by the slew of other aforementioned series. It commands none of the charm or wit of Broadchurch, little of the intrigue and weight of The Sinner, and not even shred of the satisfaction or power of Top of the Lake.
True, perhaps it might be a bit unfair to compare this fledgeling series to such critically acclaimed programs as Broadchurch—which in and of itself is like duking it out for the best coming of age drama and pitting, say, Stranger Things against Riverdale.
Perhaps if popular bloggers and a&e reviewers had been a bit more candid about this summarily uninspired and lukewarm mystery, I would be similarly more inclined to take a step back and show the series a share of mercy. In a vacuum, away from lofty comparisons with shows that do this subgenre its due diligence, The Stranger is fine, I suppose.
Sure, the writing is dumb, flimsy, and repetitive. Yes, the plot is dimpled with more holes than swiss cheese. And of course, the twists and turns of the series are practically impossible to predict, which as flattering as that may sound for a mystery series, is actually an egregious error, considering that the big reveal can is a product of miraculous guesswork and thus has practically no satisfaction value for the audience.
That being said, as a cheap guilty pleasure mystery to half-watch with your parents after a long day or play while you're doing homework, The Stranger is an adequate, albeit largely stupid, solution to your Netflix search. The cast is a fairly talented and even passionate group, headlining with the star power of Richard Armitadge, who do what they can with a very problematic script.
However, considering that this is a project launched for a platform like Netflix, which boasts such beloved properties as Stranger Things, Bojack Horseman, The Haunting of Hill House, and Narcos, this new addition to the Originals catalogue signals a sharp decrease in quality and care that is part of a far larger trend in what kind of platform Netflix is shaping up to be in the great Streaming War.
In fact, once the dust settles on this battle for the future of entertainment, the line-up of contenders and victors looks to comprise of the following:
Amazon Prime (Good Omens, Carnival Row) will helm the most intellectual and innovative series, Hulu (Broad City) will boast fantastic comedies, Disney will hold the door to our hearts with its nostalgia, and Netflix will be reduced to the fast food service of streaming.
True, I may be jumping the shark here, but if the funding of such series as Haters Back Off, The Ranch, Chasing Cameron, and now The Stranger are anything to go by, Netflix looks to be taking the easy victory in the Streaming War with the gradual release of more shoddily written, cheaply made, and quickly pumped out titles to hold onto its ever-precious viewership statistics.
Nevermind that we're being served B-list versions of ideas that we've seen executed with so much more value. The objective is no longer about keeping the audience satisfied and inspired, but rather about keeping us in our seats and not quite bothered enough to switch to another platform.
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- The Stranger (TV Series 2020– ) - IMDb ›
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