An Okay Start With A Questionable Ending
When it comes to ITV dramas, I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with the content this channel puts out. Whilst their latest offering Manhunt served up a delicious slice of old-school investigative drama, last year’s thriller Liar completely derailed its own premise with a lacklustre plotline that undermined an otherwise promising start. Their latest four-part thriller Cheat gets off to an okay start but a questionable ending dissipates any growing mystery until that point.
The first episode wastes no time getting right to the heart of the drama. The first scene shows our two main characters separated by a glass partition. As we’re left to ponder who’s the guilty suspect, we cut back in time to see a late student arrive to a lecture taught by Leah. Brushing this tardiness off, the class ends and Leah gets a bit hot and bothered with her work colleague Stephan in the toilets. Unfortunately, an unexpected guest hears them going at it and that person happens to be Rose. She knows Leah had an affair and, after seeing a fail grade on her paper, is intent on getting her revenge.
After getting accustomed to Leah’s home-life with her husband Adam, we cut back to Rose who manages to get hold of Leah’s address through some subtle manipulation. Her power plays and manipulative stares play out further down the line in this episode and after a particularly convincing moment to the authorities about her grade, we cut forward in time to see blood stained clothes and a flustered Stephan staring at a pin-up board full of images. Someone’s been killed and the suspects? Leah and Rose.
There’s no time to dwell over this or who the victim is though as we cut back to present day where unfortunate news for Leah and Adam results in a rift growing between the two. After catching Rose out in class, the mentally unstable student turns her attention to Adam and the two share a drink together while Leah is out. After hurriedly leaving in the middle of the night, Leah begins taking pills again before finding her cat dead with its collar missing. Convinced of foul play, we then return to the first scene of the episode, in front of the glass partition, where the mystery is completely destroyed by a final reveal that shows who the deceased victim is. The only thing left is piecing together who’s responsible.
Given what we’ve seen from Liar, I’ll be extremely surprised if the most obvious answer isn’t the right one. I’d guess Leah has been set-up and the real killer is Rose who’s used her masterful powers of persuasion and manipulation to get her way. Now, this is pure speculation of course but beyond the mystery, there’s really isn’t a whole lot else to get excited about here.
The time jumps are clearly an attempt to add an injection of unusual intrigue to the show but if I’m honest, they don’t always work that well. If we hadn’t been shown who the victim is and hadn’t known who’s actually in prison now, Cheat could have kept up its mystery through to the final episode, building toward a final reveal of who’s really the cheat here. Of course, given the mystery is all but solved in its first episode, the only thing we have left to work with is piecing together the events of the night and seeing whether the police arrested the right woman or not.
Cheat doesn’t reinvent the wheel or offer anything particularly different from what’s been done before. It gears much closer toward melodramatic waters with a mystery undermined by the bizarre choice of time-jumping, answering its own questions in a way that dissipates any tension raised over the episode. Still, Cheat is an enjoyable show despite this and is at least gripping enough to watch to see what happens next. Unless Cheat offers something really drastic in the upcoming episodes, there isn’t an awful lot to get excited about here but it’s an okay slice of television that’s sure to get people talking this week.
Provisional Season Rating