Split across four episodes, ITV’s latest drama Cheat is the perfect example of a show with a strong premise but poor execution. With numerous plot holes and an unsatisfying ending, Cheat fails to wrap up its story in a satisfying manner, further accentuated by a host of unlikable characters at the forefront of this thriller.
After a tantalizing opener involving a glass partition and two women in a prison, the story begins with unsatisfied wife Leah cheating on her husband with a man named Stephan. After catching them in the act, one of Leah’s students Rose begins manipulating and interfering with her teacher’s life and from here, chaos ensues. This is brought about mainly after Leah fails Rose on her test, assuming she’s been cheating with her work.
From here, the thriller jumps back and forth through time, showing us key events to come before slotting back into the present day with a newfound understanding of what’s going to happen. All of this builds up to the promise of a climactic finale that never really arrives.
In a bid to try to be clever, Cheat’s time-hopping narrative winds up being its biggest Achille’s heel. As we’re shown numerous events to come, including a murder and the subsequent imprisonment of one of the women, the finale rolls round with little momentum and nothing more than a curiosity to see how all the pieces slot into place. It makes for quite the underwhelming watch which is a real shame, especially with how this one begins.
I said during my episode reviews that Cheat reminds me a lot of Liar. Like ITV’s sister thriller, Cheat’s story leaves numerous unanswered questions and weird character motivations that feel inconsistent to what we’ve seen before. All of this leaves the prospect of a second season wide open whilst the show-runners have been pretty vocal about this being a stand-alone piece, making the ending even more damaging.
Stylistically, there isn’t an awful lot to cling to here. The camera work is suitably grounded but uninspiring, the editing leaves a lot to be desired and the aforementioned time jumps do more harm than they do good. If this was a straight forward, cohesive narrative that flowed in a straight line, Cheat could well make for an enthralling watch but unfortunately all the tension dissipates around the middle of the second episode. It’s a shame too but Cheat has little substance to it compared to other, much more exciting, choices in this genre. A shame for sure but Cheat is unlikely to be a thriller remembered for very long.