All the reasons why ‘Safe’ is your new favorite Netflix bingewatch
Where were you this weekend? We know where we were – glued to the TV screen watching Netflix’s latest bingeworthy show Safe. Created by novelist Harlan Coben, the Netflix Originals series stars Dexter actor Michael C. Hall as a widowed father and pediatric surgeon whose daughter goes missing from their bourgeois UK neighborhood. On the quest to find his daughter, the character uncovers the dark secrets of the people closest to him.
Safe is Coben’s second quest into TV following the UK series The Five and once again, he’s taken his pulpy crime credentials and applied them perfectly to create a proverbial page turner that left viewers unable to look away – the eight episodes were over in a flash. To mark the show’s release (and convince any of you who have not yet watched it), here are all the (spoiler free) reasons Safe is the new best Netflix bingewatch.
On initial impressions, Safe seemed like it could’ve been the new Broadchurch – Jenny (Amy James-Kelly) disappears from a party, her father Tom (Hall) is left in a state of anguish, and the incident deeply affects the community as the police investigate the case. However, as The Guardian pointed out, with the scandals, lies, and deceit that unfold, it soon starts to look more like Desperate Housewives. There are the Marshalls who have a lot to hide, Jenny has reasons to resent her father, we’ve got an ex-Londoner who’s up to no good, and then there’s the Chahals who have more than their fair share of baggage.
“What Safe does have – by the shovel-load – is plot. As you would expect of an idea from prolific and super-successful American crime writer Harlan Coben . . . it floors it straight from the off, then twists through chicanes and hairpins to leave you hanging on for dear life.” It’s a plot-driven drama that gives soap opera twists and turns with a slick crime thriller production, delivering on the promise from its opening episode – the story of a man’s descent into chaos that threatens to unfurl the dark and sinister secrets of several families. It avoids sloppy or drawn-out action like other recent crime thriller releases and draws us in by building momentum within the first two episodes (like any good page turner would draw us in with the first 50 pages). “It’s a highly watchable, semi-pulpy serial loaded with reveals, clues, and cliffhangers,” wrote Variety.
Ultimately, the quality of the script really helped the series along, keeping it sufficient to the story without playing it out with extensive conversation. The storytelling cleverly weaved the many relationships together without making it feel too busy; there were many things going on – character studies, family dramas, criminal thriller plots – and yet it never made a mess of itself, delivering well-paced twists that felt right.
The show is held up with a strong core cast, including Amanda Abbington (Sherlock) who is excellent as Tom’s current girlfriend and the local police chief Sophie. Mac Warren does a fantastic job at tapping into his darker side as Tom’s wary and sardonic best friend, while James-Kelly (Jericho) leads a strong cast of young actors as the rebellious teen and central figure to Tom’s torment. However, the standout performance has to be Hall, whose leap into a British role has left many debating his attempt at an English accent. It’s kinda synthetic, kinda nondescript, but definitely not the worst we’ve heard and any criticisms that can be made about his dialectic attempts can be forgiven by his overall performance as a man whose descent into a real-life nightmare takes him to dark places. Per Variety, “Hall brings a worried, intelligent gravity to the central role, and if the drama doesn’t stretch the actor’s range in its opening hours, we know he’s capable of much more, should later installments of Safe require a wider variety of emotional colors from him.”
Playing it safe
Of course, Safe doesn’t come without its criticisms. Some say the show fits into a tried and tested crime thriller formula – in other words, it plays it safe (scuse the pun). However, it was never pitched as a fine-tuned drama that focuses on deep nuance. As Variety noted, there are reasons why Coben’s Safe is popular like his novels, in that “any deficiencies in character development are usually overshadowed by the satisfying tick-tock nature of the plot and the interlocking mysteries threatening upscale people who find themselves spiraling into trouble.” It’s a satisfying bingewatch and sometimes that’s just what you need from a pulpy thriller.