Strangers

Itv,mon­days, 9pm

Heat (UK) - - The Un missables -

TV dra­mas have to grab our at­ten­tion right from the off th­ese days. BBC1’S mega-hit Body­guard is a clas­sic ex­am­ple. Its open­ing 20-minute set-piece was a mini-mas­ter­piece of ten­sion. Now Strangers, ITV’S con­tem­po­rary flag­ship drama for au­tumn, has ar­rived, and while the first act doesn’t quite have the propul­sive bril­liance of that Body­guard se­quence, it’s cer­tainly suf­fi­ciently at­ten­tion-grab­bing. In the first few min­utes, we meet hus­band Jonah (John Simm) and wife Me­gan (Dervla Kir­wan). He’s a like­able col­lege pro­fes­sor try­ing to keep his stu­dents in­ter­ested. She’s thou­sands of miles away in Hong Kong, where she works, driv­ing in a state of ob­vi­ous dis­tress, while in the mid­dle of leav­ing him an im­por­tant voice mes­sage. In the blink of an eye, an­other ve­hi­cle smashes into hers and she’s dead.

This isn’t a spoiler, it’s the ini­tial premise of the story. Dis­traught Jonah has to over­come his fear of fly­ing to visit Hong Kong for the first time and deal with the af­ter­math of his wife’s death. So far, so in­trigu­ing. What really snared me, though, is what hap­pens once he’s told by the sus­pi­ciously brusque po­lice about the cir­cum­stances of Me­gan’s death. (And this is a spoiler if you haven’t yet watched episode one.) Turns out she has an­other hus­band and fam­ily in Hong Kong. Hus­band One’s meet­ing with Hus­band Two (An­thony Wong) is a tri­umph of dra­matic awk­ward­ness, due in no small mea­sure to the un­showy nat­u­ral­ism of the su­perb Simm. With its clear in­ti­ma­tions of a big­ger con­spir­acy, in­trigu­ing con­trast be­tween the late Me­gan’s two lives, and the at­mo­spheric neon-lit set­ting, I am fully hooked.

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