James Nesbitt, Cush Jumbo, and Richard Armitage star in Netflix’s latest water-cooler crime drama Stay Close. Based on the novel by Harlan Coben, the series sees the lives of a photojournalist (Armitage), homicide detective (Nesbitt), and a wealthy bride-to-be with a secret past (Cush) collide when they become embroiled in the same mystery. It’s a show where everyone has their own dirty little secrets to hide, and rug-pull cliff-hanger endings dare viewers to watch one more episode to see what happens next. The first impressions of the series hint at the beginnings of a gripping thriller that weaves together multiple characters and timelines to create an intoxicating mystery. Everything else about the opening episodes, however, is lacklustre and leaves a lot to be desired.
The trouble with Stay Close is that it’s too familiar. Despite the plethora of unexpected twists, this series manages to feel identical to every other crime drama that’s been thrown out in recent years, and not a particularly great one at that. The writing and dialogue are blunt and on-the-nose with the sole purpose of delivering as much exposition as quickly as possible (regardless of how natural or believable it sounds) and fleshing out the assortment of key players. As it stands, each of the main characters is presented as a one-dimensional entity, all of whom – except for Nesbitt’s surly detective – are largely unlikeable.
To its credit, the series does attempt to inject a degree of personality by incorporating a tinge of neo-noir. The bluesy soundtrack that accompanies some sequences is a fun, if inconsistent addition. But, like everything else at this stage, it doesn’t mesh quite right. There’s a tonal disconnect between the noir beats and more conventional TV drama elements, with the result being rather disjointed.
Stay Close has the names and storytelling formula to dominate workplace discussions. The problem is it’s just not very good. There’s of course time for the show to get better, but the opening two episodes don’t give a great first impression.