Fast paced and extravagantly presented, Netflix Original Safe is a crime thriller with a slowly unravelling mystery at its core. Presented with a mixture of flashbacks and fast paced present-day investigatory work, Safe does a good job keeping the show fresh and enthralling, reinventing itself with numerous well placed plot twists and teasing flashback pieces but at times has a real issue with pacing and tone. The acting is generally very good all round although some may have some issues with American Michael C. Hall’s British accent. Despite this, there’s certainly an enjoyable crime thriller here but it’s also the sort of show that’s unlikely to leave a lasting impression once you’re done with this 8 episode stand-alone series.
The story begins with a funeral for widower Tom Delaney’s (Michael C. Hall) deceased wife. Tense relations between him and his older daughter Jenny (Amy James-Kelly) cause a ripple in the family dynamic that sees her distance herself from the family. After meeting up with her boyfriend Chris (Freddie Thorp) later that night and retreating to a classmate’s house for a chaotic house party, a series of disorientating quick cuts end with both teenagers missing and numerous questions about that night left unresolved.
After a sleepless night trying to contact his daughter, what follows is a frenetically paced dual investigation – one led by Detective Sergeant Sophie Mason (Amanda Abbington) and another by Tom and his best friend Pete (Marc Warren) – to try and piece together what happened that fateful night and just where the two teens are.
It’s at this point where the show slips up a little with its early episodes. There are times where the show works well as a mystery and there’s certainly gritty and realistic moments here but despite the fast pace, it almost feels overlong at times. Midway through the show the dynamic changes slightly after a series of surprising reveals. Without giving too much away the fate of Jenny is revealed changing the dynamic of the mystery to focusing on what happened the night before leading up to current events. Nestled within this grittiness is a questionably presented, unintentional burst of comedy in the form of Sia Marshall’s (Amy-Leigh Hickman) family in a sub plot that should be just as tense as the rest of the series but comes across as comedic and awkward. Perseverence is certainly key here though as later on this plot line does improve and becomes much more serious and integral to the main plot line.
Although Safe’s story and character work is generally very good all ro, some of the camera work is questionably presented too. There’s a fair amount of shaky-cam shots too and although this is fine for static scenes, for the more action-heavy moments that involve running and fighting, this does pose a particular problem; at times it’s difficult to really work out what’s going on in each scene. Thankfully these moments are firmly routed to the first half of the series with a second half much more grounded in its approach.
For the most part Safe’s story is very much rooted in realism but the incredulous soap opera sub-plots and numerous secrets adopted by almost every character unintentionally make this feel much less gritty than it perhaps should be. Given the number of profanities and violence showcased here, Safe does feel tonally confused at times but some well worked plot twists and curve balls keep this one fresh and exciting. If you can get past the opening few episodes, Safe opens up and becomes much more rooted to thriller territory as Tom and the police race around the gated community trying to piece everything together.
How much enjoyment you’ll get out of Safe really depends on how gritty and realistic you like your crime thrillers. There’s certainly enjoyment to be had here and the mystery is intriguing enough to keep you watching, even if the dynamic changes somewhat midway through. Some exaggerated characterisation and some jarring shaky-cam scenes do detract a little from the overall appeal of the show and those looking for the next big hit like Broadchurch certainly won’t find it here. Having said that Safe is still an enjoyable, engrossing watch throughout its 8 episodes and worth watching if you can look past some of its flaws.