‘Safe: a teenage party and the house is clean?’
Safe is the latest thriller from Netflix and it’s set in a wealthy gated community because it’s where you might live to feel safe, but what if the dangers are from within? This is the premise, as an update on the old suburbia trope, where it all looks perfect but everyone is harbouring festering secrets including, in this instance, a dead body in a freezer. I have to say, I grew up in suburbia and never had any idea that all of this was going on. There I was, watching Butterflies while my father washed the car or loaded it with his golf clubs and my mother baked cakes (seriously), happy as anything. How could I have not known? We did have a big chest freezer in the garage, but I can’t remember ever properly checking it out. I am a fool.
Created by the American crime writer Harlan Coben, this is set in Britain, yet it doesn’t feel British in the way, say, Broadchurch did. Instead, it feels very American, which may be due to its American star, Michael C Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), who employs a British accent so effortful you want to pat him encouragingly on the arm and say, ‘Well done for trying. Good on you.’
He plays Tom, a widowed surgeon with two daughters, the eldest of whom, Jenny, is a teenager playing up in a teenage fashion because in dramas you don’t ever have teenagers who aren’t playing up in a teenage fashion. There’s some kind of law, I think. So he’s worried about Jenny, who is dating an older boyfriend, Chris, and, as he tells his best friend Pete, if it comes to it, he has the technology in place to intercept her texts. ‘Everybody is entitled to their secrets,’ protests Pete, because the script is workmanlike.
The community includes a detective, Sophie, played by Amanda Abbington, who is the best thing in this by far, even if you do wonder how a detective (whose estranged, no-good, drunken husband is living in a caravan in the garden) might afford to live here. There is also a clandestine affair (Tom and Sophie), a French teacher who may be having sex with an underage student, and Jenny’s friend, Sia, who is also a teenager playing up.
Sia’s parents are going away for the night. ‘No parties!’ instructs her father. Next thing you know, droves of teenagers are arriving and then they are drinking and smoking and doing drugs and playing beer pong. (That’s an American thing, right?) But it goes horribly wrong and at midnight Sia phones her parents, who race home, by which time the house is… spotless. Not a single can, not a single bottle, not a single beer spill or ring pull to be seen, anywhere. Seventy teenagers attended, we will later learn, and the kitchen sparkles to show-house standard. Suck it up, you might say, but I can’t, because such inconsistencies strike a dark fury in my heart. If you can’t be bothered to pay attention, why should I?
This is story-driven rather than characterdriven, which is sometimes OK, but at least get the story right. And it wasn’t just the spotless house. Jenny and Chris go missing after the party and Tom is being driven out of his mind with worry. It’s discovered that Pete picked her up, so now Pete is UNDER SUSPICION, but he says he always told Jenny that if she was in trouble and needed a lift, to call him, so he collected her from the party and brought her back – and CCTV footage confirms he dropped her at the gates into the community.
But why? Why at the gates into the community when Sia lives within the community? And why am I the only one asking this? I only watched two of the eight episodes but it was enough. It can whirr on, in its mechanical way, without me.
On to the fourth series of The Bridge, which opened horrifically – a woman gagged and buried up to her shoulders is then stoned to death – and ended horrifically, but otherwise it was business as usual: another underground extreme political group; a millionaire with a fabulous house who obviously has a secret; a major murder investigation (the dead woman was head of the Danish Immigration Board) with just a couple of cops working on it.
The trouble is, I’m much more interested in the personal lives of Saga, who is suffering in prison for her mother’s murder, and Henrik, whose daughters have yet to be found, than I am in anything else. I would also ask, as seems to be my habit: we’re seven years down the line and no one has yet clocked that Saga is somewhere on the autism spectrum? Still, it’s four stars, because Sofia Helin is so magnificent as Saga, and it’s the final series, and I need to know how it all ends.
Now I can return to my own concerns. Was my father really playing golf… Or was he having a clandestine affair with Enid from the tennis club? I’m truly worried about this now.
Amanda Abbington and Michael C Hall in Safe