Based on the Harlan Coben novel of the same name, The Stranger gets off to an intriguing start here, one that looks set for a twisty-turny 8 episode thriller and immediately asks plenty of questions right out of the gate. While there is an element of disbelief with a couple of plot elements, for the most part these are easy to overlook as the story continues tumbling down the rabbit-hole during this episode and ends things on a very tantalizing note indeed.
Under the moonlit sky, a group of teenagers dance together around a burning pyre. Episode 1 of The Stranger begins here and the drink and drugs are back-dropped by a naked man running, panicked, through the woods.
We then cut to 12 hours earlier with Adam driving with his two sons, Tom and Ryan. After dropping the former off at school, he takes Ryan to football. Once there, he phones his wife Corinne, who’s currently out on a school conference and updates her on the situation. When he hangs the phone up, a strange woman wearing a baseball cap arrives and tells him his wife lied about being pregnant 2 years before. As she goes on to tell him everything that happened, she also tells him to run DNA checks on the boys.
Clearly distracted, Adam drives Ryan home and sits staring at the family photos wondering if his whole life has been a lie. As he sits staring at his laptop, he contemplates looking up scam pregnancies online but instead sifts through the baby photos. After looking at the times on these, he heads online and finds a purchase on January 15th to Novelty Funsy for £387.99. After phoning his bank, he learns that this name is an alias. This brings us back to the pyre and the kids dancing that opened the episode.
In the morning, Johanna investigates a crime scene with DC Wesley that sees a decapitated alpaca in the middle of the street. From what they can see, a human may well have bit its leg too. Together, they head up to the farm and find the fence partially knocked down. On their way back however, Wesley stops the car and the duo find clothing in the woods; this leads them to the naked man, Dante, who happens to still be alive. As he receives medical attention, the pair of detectives learn that it wasn’t Dante who bit the alpaca as his teeth are still intact.
Adam arrives home after learning from the bank they can’t trace the exact company but agree to send over a list of those it may be linked to. Back home, Corinne returns but Adam excuses himself as he finds the website relating to fake pregnancies. Upon seeing the information, he takes Corinne outside to the garden and speaks to her privately.
She admits the truth about the fake pregnancy and a story involving a woman named Suzanne but doesn’t divulge everything, telling him there’s more than initially meets the eye. However, she won’t divulge quite what this is right now. As the episode nears its conclusion, Corinne is evidently missing while Adam and the other parents applaud the various students for their awards. This comes after a message regarding Dante, to which we cut to a few different flashes of what happened that night. Corinne doesn’t show up for the award though and instead, Adam grabs it on her behalf.
As he heads home, he receives a text from Corinne telling him she needs a few days and they also need to take a break. Outside Heidi’s cafe, the stranger watches from afar while Tom opens his wardrobe and finds the alpaca head in a black bag.
With plenty of unanswered questions, The Stranger leaves things on a big cliffhanger here as our various characters all fall deeper down the rabbit hole. Having not read the novel I can’t comment on how accurate this is to the source material but from what’s here, there’s a good dose of exposition delivered pretty naturally throughout the episode. This British thriller does well here to set the scene and will almost certainly become an instant binge-able hit given the good work done here. If you can look past a couple of incredulous plot developments, The Stranger is a strangely enticing series that’ll leave you desperate to hit that “next episode” button.
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