The Stranger is yet another addition to an ever-growing list of cautionary tales on Netflix that mirrors the dangers prevalent within the cyberspace beneath the clout of anonymity. While this isn’t the quintessential techno-thriller with a lot of digital jargon or technical nuances thrown in, it is interspersed with elements of a relatable family drama to provide an interesting emotional dimension to the story.
The series is delicately packaged across eight episodes, wound well with a customary compelling hook. While there have been several social media debates already about its old-school ending, there’s enough meat in it to empty your popcorn tub through the six-hour duration. Nothing sells like infidelity or scandalous truths between a couple in web shows and the world of an advocate Adam Price refuses to be the same after a stranger shares a secret about his wife that could potentially drown his marriage. The wife mysteriously goes missing in a few days.
There are lots of subplots within the story to sustain the urgency in the storytelling. There’s a mom who realises that her daughter is into prostitution to pay her bills. Another thread is about a rave party within a college, where a severely injured, drugged student is on his deathbed. Adam Price’s wife is linked to an incident of robbery within the school premises. An elderly father is desperate to retain his house in an area that would make space for an apartment, despite the threats from a real estate honcho.
The complex narrative engages you as much it leaves you perplexed. The show presents several surprises one after the other, has that rare nail biting-quality of an old-fashioned thriller and makes it a point to touch upon a few softer issues as well. It acknowledges the secrets that could hold a marriage together (and even possibly destroy it), the lengths to which one could go to protect their family beyond the right-versus-wrong debate and how one's digital activity could haunt them till their last breath.
The show is always on-the-move, quick to jump from one subplot to the another and that’s probably where its pacy quality comes from. There are car chases, people run after each other on the streets - trains, automobiles, mysterious walks, The Stranger has it all. The drama portions are relatively underplayed, but they are the glue that holds the narrative together. Fatherhood is an undercurrent theme that plays through the show - there are carefree fathers, abusive fathers, responsible fathers whose vicious motives take the story forward.
Adam Spice’s efforts to be the doting parent to their teenage sons in the absence of their mom are soul-stirring in their execution. The Stranger is affecting because it addresses some of the most relevant conflicts present in modern-day relationships today - the supposed pressure of monogamy, commitment issues within the family, the desire to earn quick bucks sans much foresight and the absence of a genuine conversation to sort out issues. The ending has a Bollywood film-like quality to it, with the focus on familial bonds.
The women in The Stranger are powerful and not cinematic caricatures. Every character, regardless of being a protagonist or an antagonist, has a dimension that you relate with, at some point. That current day literature is finding many takers in the digital medium is a blessing for the viewer and content-creators alike (For the uninitiated, The Stranger is a visual adaptation of a book written by Harlan Coben).
The lead actors Richard Armitage, Siobhan Finneran, Hannah John-Kamen and Jennifer Saunders come up with assured performances and instil life into their distinct characters. Directors Daniel O’Hara and Hannah Quinn do well to make a show that has a lot of layers to it beneath its visceral thrills.