Hello! I am TTM (formerly known as TalksTooMuch) and I will be recapping Harlan Coben's The Stranger from the Red Production Company for your reading pleasure. Why me? I'm glad you asked! I have recapped both of Harlan Coben's series on Netflix (The Five, Safe) and multiple series from the Red Production Company. I love them both and the shows are always a good time. One quick note: I spoil shows like a mothertrucker. One hundred percent The Stranger spoilers up in this recap, so be aware. Without further ado, let's roll into The Stranger S1:E1.1!
A little heads-up, I am planning to do a sort of binge recap of The Stranger; I've found other times my back and forth method of recapping Netflix shows can be a bit of a disaster *coughRussianDollcough* and I hope to avoid that here.
We open on a gloomy downtown London street which looks like the set from Apple Tree Yard, Bridget Jones Diary and Unforgotten series one. We travel from there past the woodland to an open area where a group of people are gathered in a ragged circle around a burning flame. It's very Where The Wild Things Are.
Everyone is drinking and having a great time, save the naked teenager frantically through the woods running away from an unseen terror.
A note about credits: why does a LLAMA feature so heavily? That has to be the most sinister looking llama / alpaca I've ever seen, as in the only sinister llama / alpaca I've ever seen.
*The scoring and soundtrack is always excellent on Harlan Coben's shows, I choose to believe he's involved somewhat in direction, if only because they sound about as English as Michael C. Hall. Meaning: not at all.
HEY! Siobhan Finneran??!! Yay!! She's been in a tonne of other shows I've recapped, from my beloved Happy Valley from Sally Wainwright (and Red Production Company) to Unforgiven also from Sally Wainwright and starring the awesome Suranne Jones to The Moorside.
Speaking of Suranne Jones, looks like we've also got Shaun Dooley from Gentleman Jack! Yay! Love his work too. You will have to forgive me, Richard Armitage is new to me but I was recommended a number of shows to check out his work; I'll check them out after The Stranger! ALSO: the writer / producer is Danny Brocklehurst, some of the best Red Production Company shows have had his touch, although I am also partial to Nicola Shindler's work. Oh wait, she's here too, never mind!
WOOOOOOO JENNIFER SAUNDERS WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
We're back! We're in the car with Adam Price (Richard Armitage) entertaining children Thomas Price (Jacob Dudman) and Ryan (Misha Handley) with an off-key rendition of "Dancing In The Dark" by Bruce Springsteen.
*Did you know I had no idea that was about sexual congress until I was well into my 40s? Zero
They're on the way to a football practice, but oh ho, it's Dads v. Lads as Doug Tripp (Shaun Dooley) informs Adam. Guess who gets to be a crappy goalie in his everyday clothing? Wooo!
At least there's beer after, Tripp and Adam lick their wounds over a pint until a call from Adam's wife Corrine Price (Dervla Kirwan whom I know from absolutely nowhere. That's very unusual, yay, England's got another actor on the books, that's awesome!). While chatting, he notices a beautiful woman in a baseball cap who seems to be watching / listening.
He scans the area as he chats, there's a shaggy young man looking at cars in the carpark and Coach Bob (No Name In IMDb) has 26 items on the agenda to be discussed. The attractive woman follows Adam inside after he hangs up, sitting too close and staring at him in a totally normal way for broad daylight in a pub full of children.
This is The Stranger (Hannah John-Kamen and I know her from Happy Valley series one! I've no idea why she's not more well known, she has a screen presence that's impossible to look away from), she doesn't even have kids in football. Instead, she's there to drop truth bombs on an unsuspecting Adam. "You didn't have to stay with Corrine when you found out she was pregnant" from a stranger gets his attention right skippy.
The woman tells Adam that Corrine lied about being pregnant and losing the baby two years ago, that's why he stayed and he didn't need to do that. Adam wants to know: who are you??
Okay, this goes way beyond someone stalking your Facebook page. The Stranger has details about their intimate daily lives, the lack of sex, the fact that Adam didn't see his wife naked in that time period. How could anyone know that?? And why would this person just trot that information out? What's she after?
Was Adam on the verge of leaving his wife and this brought him back into the fold? Are we going to find out?
This information is a gift from The Stranger to Adam; now he knows his wife is a liar and he's free. For evidence she advises him to look at his credit card bill for a charge to "Novelty Funsies" and for advice she tells him to get DNA tests for his other two boys.
I literally said "Oh F***" out loud.
With that, she leaves and quickly. He follows her outside and takes a picture of the license plate of her car, but it's not legible.
He returns to the football meeting, no longer happy and clueless, this strange secretive truth appearing to physically weigh him down. He blurs out the meeting, reflecting back to the significant days of the pregnancy, running them over in his mind. He calls Corrine but gets her voicemail and falters.
How exactly do you summarise that for a message? "Sorry, erm, just checking: you didn't lie, fake a pregnancy, lie to me for months then lie to me about a fictional baby you lost, did you? Okay, all right, just checking, how's the weather at the conference?" Best in person.
OR IS SHE EVEN AT A CONFERENCE????
A bit of PTA-style gossip after the meeting, there were some dubious team placements, one explained by unemployed Bob (Really Would Love A Name In IMDb) putting the son of his headhunter on the A team.
Adam's a lawyer, this upsets his sense of fair play. I'm more confused about how he knew the words to a Springsteen song.
Adam gets home to stare at his fridge, covered with a note about the Dads v. Lads game and pictures of Corrine and their two boys. He attempts a Google search on fake pregnancies but instead goes to look through a beautifully organized baby box. One box for two little boys, I am legit impressed.
And. One more thing. If they aren't his by nature, they're definitely his by nurture, right?
Something about the sonograms catches his eye. The last one from the contested pregnancy doesn't have the same identification markings that the others do, showing where they were taken. I guess it would be too much to hope that it might say "Novelty Funzies". Back to the computer!
A search of "novelty funsy" shows nothing untoward, so it's to the credit card sheets and there it is! Almost 400 quid in January of 2015. Was that for the fake positive pee stick and sonogram? He calls the credit card company, is answered almost immediately and is advised that this two year old charge can absolutely looked into forthwith. Apparently some companies use names like "novelty funsy" to cover their actual purposes.
I suppose that's better than carefully itemising everything with a specific non-euphemistic name like other less discreet companies.
Adam shuts down his computer when his son Thomas asks if his friend (?) Daisy (Ella-Rae Smith) can sleep over, in the other room. Uh huh.
Adam gets a text message from his wife, it's a video of her and another woman singing karaoke about how they're gonna "break some hearts tonight." Mission accomplished, Corrine.
Ahhh, Thomas and Daisy are more than friends, but not quite as much as he would like. By that I mean he'd like to go further, but they're totally casual. SURE. She demurs.
Mike Tripp (Brandon Fellows) throws a rock at Thomas's window, then they're all three off to the bonfire we saw earlier. So who's the poor scared chappie? We don't find out yet.
The next day, Johanna Griffin (Siobhan Finneran) is awoken in the manner of so many: a snoring partner, this time all the way from the spare room.
She calls her bestie (who does not have a character name listed in IMDb but we know for sure is Jennifer Saunders), Johanna's just asked her husband Phillip (Don Gilet) for a divorce and it went surprisingly well. Someone named Wes keeps calling, so Johanna has to go.
Ah it's actually DS Johanna Griffin, she's a copper and DC Wesley Ross (Kadiff Kirwan - hey, do you think any relation to Dervla above? They're different colours but that doesn't mean anything) is her arsehole much younger and more obnoxious partner.
They're on a crime scene where omigod: someone has beheaded a LLAMA. I shit you not. That is just disturbing. There are HUMAN.BITE.MARKS on the dead llama.
Johanna and Wes are off to an alpaca farm where we quickly learn that the brutalised animal was Louie. There isn't any CCTV or security, which makes sense for an alpaca farm.
Adam heads off to see retired police officer Martin Killane (Stephen Rea. He was transcendent in The Crying Game, I should re-watch to see if it holds up) who's done a garden-variety kidnap of the development executive that is trying to strongarm him out of his residence.
The company has bought up all the other flats, Martin is right in the middle and not going anywhere.
Back to the investigation of the alpaca murder, Wes spots something on the side of the road as he and Johanna are driving back to the city. It's an orange jumper but also stripped bark on trees that lead them deeper and deeper in the woods.
They follow a trail of discarded clothing to bare foot footprints to finally the naked young man we saw running. He's alive!
Adam's almost home when he gets a call from the credit card company about novelty funsy, it's an umbrella company and there's no way to tell exactly what type of fun. He'll send the list of IP addresses to Adam via email.
Sure, because the average person knows exactly how to research an IP address.
Corrine's home, hai! You look different! Is it the giant question mark over your head? She's home early too, just in time for Daisy's mum Vicky (Jade Harrison) to pop 'round with Daisy's sister Ella (India Brown), whom Daisy was supposed to be watching.
Ella's been acting unusually lately, Corrine offers to try talking to her and we hear about another boy Dante Gunnarrsson (Kai Alexander) who didn't make it home last night.
That is our naked runner in the woods.
Adam reviews the list of IP addresses, which are links, so I'll stand down. FOR NOW. One leads to a website for purchasing Fake Pregnancy products, and the fat is in the fire.
He asks Corrine for a word in the garden, cutting directly to the chase. Did she fake her pregnancy?
What he really wants to know more than that, though, is whether or not the boys are his? She swears yes but then watching her fumble for a way to subvert or lie further is banal in its evil.
An explanation starts, she tells a story about a woman named Suzanne Hope who regularly faked pregnancies. None of this relates to Corrine and Adam, who just wants the truth.
Corrine says no.
She'll tell him when she's ready.
What? None of this makes sense. How does this relate to young Ella, crying in a room while staring at her phone? What about Dante, barely alive in a hospital room. How could a possibly faked pregnancy have any connection to teenagers and their shenanigans?
Dante walked away from the group at some point in the night, after hanging out with Daisy. Wes and Johanna brainstorm at the hospital, I have my back up against snotty young Wes almost as much as Johanna does. Unfortunately, he does seem to have the open mind of the two, he figures Dante being in the woods must be connected to Louie, the poor murdered alpaca.
In this scenario, Johanna is the Danny Glover character.
Adam watches Corrine sleep then wanders the house, trying to figure out why his life has fallen apart.
(Pure supposition on my part)
Johanna pops over to see her bestie Heidi Doyle (Jennifer Saunders - yay, thank you credits!!) at her bakery, they're going on a trip across the US as a retirement and divorce celebration! Maybe!
Adam spies Corrine emphatically talking to someone on the phone outside. She comes in and offers an explanation at supper that night after the school awards presentation.
What does THAT mean??
Even weirder, Dante has been identified in the hospital and is being cared for, but was not the person who bit poor Louie. That person was missing a tooth. I hope Louie kicked it out of whoever it was.
It's time for the school awards ceremony, Adam comes in solo looking for Corrine and finds the Tripps instead. Wow, looks like Doug Tripp married up, his wife Becca (Jemma Powell) is gorgeous, asking Vicky Hoy why Ella's stopped talking to her daughter. Something happened but nobody knows what it is.
I don't think Corrine is coming this evening; I think she's on the run.
They open the awards ceremony with a statement about Dante while we watch everyone who was at the bonfire try keeping their faces straight.
Corrine and Vicky are both teachers at their kids' school, which is why it's doubly weird she didn't show up, triply when Corrine wins the award for best teacher. Now everyone's looking for Corrine, so Adam accepts it on her behalf while their kids look at him, puzzled.
The kids from the bonfire all look weird during his speech, so does Bob the Coach (IMDB, my kingdom for a hint) but Doug Tripp, Becca Tripp and Vicky are unconcerned.
Adam freaks his kids out even more in the car, asking them angrily if they know where their mum is. Adam gets a text from Corrine's phone requesting some time apart and then we look in their son's closet where Thomas has poor Louie's head stashed.
Heeeey, why is The Stranger staking out Heidi Doyle's bakery? Is she going to drop some half-truths on her too and WRECK HER LIFE for no discernible reason?? We'll find out more next time, because we're oot!
Until then, cheers!