TV Critic Niamh Brennan argues that the new Netflix series Safe is fun, familiar and reliable
Whilst Netflix’s latest original series Safe featuring Michael C. Hall and Amanda Abbington was released to the world at the beginning of May to primarily good reviews, there was something not quite right about it that I couldn’t quite place my finger on until I had finished binge watching the series. Safe tells the story of Tom Delaney (played by Hall) and his 16-year-old daughter Jenny who goes missing one year after the death of his wife. In this time, Delaney has begun an affair with detective Sophie Mason (Abbington), who ultimately becomes the lead detective on Jenny’s missing person’s case.
I was surprised by Safe from the offset. Initially, this was due to Hall’s bizarre English accent. Knowing him primarily from American crime drama Dexter, it is jarring to hear such a recognisable voice be presented so differently to what was expected. His accent is undeniably English, and it is one of the better attempts I have heard from an American, but in a series set in a gated community just outside of Manchester, it’s geographically un-locatable. It doesn’t quite match the environment. It was by no means bad, but it wasn’t right either.
Whilst watching, I enjoyed it thoroughly from start to ending. Typically, I pride myself on my ability to guess the outcome of detective and mystery dramas, putting together the pieces quicker than the characters can and getting unbelievable frustrated when I come to the correct conclusion. But this was never the case for Safe, each time you feel certain about the course of events there is another plot twist and more surprising reveals. This made the show intense and exciting,
As a particularly binge-worthy show, you don’t realise what the series was missing until you get to the end and wonder where certain plot threads ever went, or why certain aspects of the show were ever really relevant. Whilst at the time sub-plots about a potential teacher-student affair, and the suspicious new detective were intense at the time, it was hard to see why they fit into the grander scheme of things at the end of the eight-episode run. Often it seems to be that the writers were trying so hard to put viewers off the final reveal that they introduce bizarrely suspicious situations to simply disregard them further along the line.
Additionally, at times it seems overly theatrical. Characters’ reactions don’t quite match up to the action. Often this is in hyperbolic reactions to ordinary events, such as an entire death cover up for an apparent drug overdose, or the plot leads up to a dramatic reveal only for it to be a simple domestic misunderstanding.
But certainly, it is the above aspect that makes Safe what it is; it is set in a gated community, and has the feel of a gated community, separated from the realities of the rest of the world. It is not just a crime drama, it has aspects of domestic drama’s that so often include theatricality and sub plot’s that doesn’t fit the initially sinister expectations that Safe presents itself with. Whilst it is odd if you have begun watching with certain expectations of a genre, this certainly does not make it a bad show, it just involves slight reorientation.
I would recommend Safe to anyone to watch; it is fun, familiar, reliable entertainment. In retrospect however, it does appear to present itself as something more than it is. Whilst I went into it expecting some impossibly complicated mystery, it was essentially a domestic drama. My advice to anyone preparing to watch it in the future would be to enjoy each episode as they are given to you, but to keep your expectations for the series to a minimum.