Stay Close is structured for binge-watching but fails to sustain interest

STORY: Megan Pierce (Cush Jumbo), a suburban mother, is all set to marry the man she has been dating for 16 years but is jolted back to her shady past when a card with no name or sender ID arrives at her doorstep.

REVIEW: Harlan Coben has a multiple series deal with a leading OTT platform for his books; ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Safe’ are huge successes on the platform. But ‘Stay Close’ is not as gripping or thrilling as these. Instead it feels familiar, having used clichés and plot points from a whole lot of similar thrillers.

The plot revolves around a suburban mother who is all set to marry the man she has been dating for 16 years but is jolted back to her shady past when a card with no name or sender ID arrives at her doorstep. Back from her hen night, she is forced to revisit a life that she has left behind after changing her name. Coincidentally, a man goes missing on that same night; from the exact same place where another man had also gone missing 17 years ago. An unsolved cold case that continues to affect the detective Michael Broome (James Nesbitt), he picks up on the lead of this new missing persons’ incident to uncover a pattern of crimes. With twists and turns linking each character of the series, the story unfolds into a chaotic thrill set up and ends with a surprise. It’s written with the aim of making a binge-watch, uncovering new complex details about every central character.

Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, and Eddie Izzard bring star power to this story set in Britain. Jo Joyner and Sarah Parish deliver decent supporting performances The story is originally placed in the USA in Coben’s book by the same name but moves to the UK for the web series. As protagonist Jumbo gives it her all and Nesbitt bites into the part of a part cynical, part-exasperated experienced police detective. Armitage has little to do on his part. In its attempt to create binge worthiness, this series unduly complicates plot points and raises drama levels which only makes it all feel a little jumbled. Surprisingly, the weakest link here is geography, as a woman taking on a new identity and moving away would be more convincing in the vast United States than Britain. With visual inserts of a Ferris wheel and a town with a jetty; and laidback suburbia supposedly placing the protagonist in two entirely different lives is unconvincing. Add to that, a bizarre dancing, flouncing double act that is sinister and murderous, and you wonder if the show’s creators might have tried a little too hard to make it gripping. As a story, despite introducing a menagerie of characters, ‘Stay Close’ doesn’t keep you invested in their journeys.

As is often seen with British TV, the cops are the easiest to relate to, and here too they are reasonable people. Every other character, including the impassioned mom, have a tendency to overreact or be underwhelmed with their behaviour. With a thrill a minute written into the plot, naturally, people act fast and twists pop up at all corners, including a strong room in the basement to hide a person; but most don’t add up or feel credible. This crime drama that is well-lit and slickly produced has the scale of an ambitious series, but it doesn’t have the story to hold your interest through eight episodes. While one doesn’t see the end coming, arriving at it gives you a sense of déjà vu like we have seen all of this (and more) play out before.

This one is strictly for Harlan Coben fans and for those that like watching dramatic thrillers.

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