Random Acts of Mayhem
Episode 1 of Nine Perfect Strangers begins with a series of different people heading to a retreat called Tranquillum, deep in the heart of Cabrillo, California. These guys and gals are spending 10 days there, trying to fix up their lives through some much-needed R&R.
There’s a litany of different problems these people are dealing with, and in episode 1 we only really taste a fraction of that.
Francis is stressed about her book deal, Napoleon and Heather have relationship problems which are a little better disguised than the Gen Z couple of Jessica and Ben. Their big drama comes from needing to hand over their phones – which seems like the end of the world for Jessica.
There’s also Tony, who winds up most of the folks onboard for the retreat, while Lars is a little more restrained and sceptical. In fact, he reads through his contract and has a lot of questions regarding blood taking and the lack of advertising for the resort.
It turns out Lars has his own secrets, smuggling a phone out in the woods which Zoe just so happens to see while out wandering alone. With so many characters to play with, the one who’s sort of overshadowed here is Carmel, who’s allegedly there for weight loss but we’ll circle back to that one later on.
With the wellness program beginning, “warden” Masha arrives to meet everyone individually. First up is Francis, who’s clearly carrying around a lot of demons. She sits on the bed and starts sobbing, but abruptly stops when Masha shows and gives her some words of encouragement. She watches everyone on a series of monitors too, acting incredibly creepy.
Given the no-phone rule, all of our players make their various final calls to reveal they’re going off the grid. Just as they do, rumours are abound as to what Masha’s purpose is and what they need to do.
Masha eventually brings them all together and promises to help all 9 of our strangers to leave Tranquillum as better people. However, none of them are particularly pleased with Masha taking things from their bags – including wine and chocolate. Masha, as we soon find out, is actually from Russia. She was apparently shot dead in a parking garage but was revived by Yao, one of the workers at Tranquillum.
Masha wants to bring the same cathartic release for everyone else, to allow them to die (metaphorically I hope!) and become better people. And how will Masha do that? Well, as she tells Heather, she intends to “f*ck with them.”
The Episode Review
Nine Perfect Strangers looks like it’s going to be a very interesting and engaging series. The premise is absolutely fascinating while each of these characters have unique tropes and character arcs that I’m sure we’ll see more of across the coming episodes.
That’s to say nothing of the performances either, which are all completely on-point. Melissa McCarthy is completely restrained here and finally, instead of the wacky forced slapstick from Ghostbusters and beyond, she actually shows off her acting prowess – and the show is all the stronger for it.
There’s a lot of interesting characters in this pot and as Masha prepares to bring all of this to boil, we’ll have to wait and see what flavours we’ll be given for our main ensemble. In the meantime though, Nine Perfect Strangers bows out with a solid opening chapter.