Despite the fact that it's stacked with a decent cast, featuring the likes of Richard Armitage, Jennifer Saunders in a rare dramatic role, Hannah John-Kamen, Stephen Rea and Paul Kaye, 'The Stranger' barely makes itself worth knowing.
From the very first episode, it's painfully evident that 'The Stranger' is going to be one of those shows that will consistently try and pull the wool over your eyes and misdirect you at every possible turn. To be clear, this isn't the same as a mystery with a complex plot or something like that. No, what 'The Stranger' does is lay out the pieces of the story and puts a big red marker around them so that you won't forget them.
About 15 minutes or so into the next episode, you're probably on your way to figuring out the rest of the series and it's not before long that, yes, it goes exactly as you'd expect. It doesn't help that the actors, talented as though they may be, barely push themselves out of any kind of comfort zone. It's not great stretch to imagine Richard Armitage in an everyman role, nor is it hard to believe Stephen Rea as a cantankerous old git. Likewise, dropping in Anthony Stewart Head as a sleazeball property developer is, again, not that hard to imagine.
Really, that level of unimaginative casting is indicative of 'The Stranger' and its major problems - that it's all so obvious, and so telegraphed, that it's hard to stay watching it. By the end of the third episode, even if there are twists and turns aplenty, it's not interesting enough to keep you going. In the same way that you grow to expect some kind of twist, it's hard to get excited about it. Moreover, the direction throughout isn't nearly sharp or inventive enough to keep a bland script in the air.
'The Stranger' might hold some kind of interest to fans of Harlan Coben's work and are desperate to see it adapted to screen, but really, there's far better on offer than just this.