REVIEW: Strangers (S1 E8/8)


If you’ve stayed the course with Strangers these past two months, then I salute you. Unfortunately your reward for such unwavering loyalty was paltry this week, when the final episode sought to wrap everything up as awkwardly as possible in record time – a show suddenly conscious of it’s diminishing timescale after dawdling around for several hours like a reluctant teenager procrastinating on a homework essay.

Suddenly every plot strand was closed down with an air of desperation, much of it done off-camera and requiring the viewer to fill in the blanks. We re-entered the fray after last week’s conclusion without missing a beat. David was definitely dead after all, which I give the writers at least one plus point for keeping him that way. The evil Conrad, who had been built up to be the venomous henchman of the show with all his kidnappings and arsons, was suddenly – and hilariously – neutered immediately by the writers. Rather than give chase he decided to exit the crime scene with David’s body, inexplicably relying on the fact that Jonah was “just a lecturer” and would cause no further issues (have you not been watching the show Conrad? Jonah is basically James Bond now). And that’s the last we ever see of him. Conrad’s fate was deemed too unworthy of film stock, so we get told later in third person he was caught trying to escape the country, and that he has helpfully revealed all to the police, despite being supposedly a cold-blooded professional hit-man. He’s not the final character in this show to meet such an ignominious end.

No, that would be Xo. Revealed in last week’s episode to be the ultimate villain of the piece, Xo was removed from the game halfway through the episode when he decided to hang himself. Initially my spidey senses were a-tingling that there was enough time left to have this as another Triad/Bach fit-up but no, it was never explored further than being a genuine suicide. Why did the most powerful businessman in Hong Kong kill himself when he has an army of lawyers and presumably infinite means to weather the ensuing storm? It made little to no sense – and if it was a more human mechanic like shame that drove him to his end, the audience certainly weren’t privy to it – a letter is mentioned in passing after the fact, and again in third person as an aside from Bach, but that’s it. There was no final scene for Xo, just a quick slug of whiskey and the old heave-ho. Not really the most satisfying end for the show’s big bad.

But with Xo out of the picture and thirty minutes left on the clock were we going to get any closure at all? Jonah certainly hoped so, rolling up to the consulate and demanding protection for him and Lau before setting about filling in journalist Michael on the whole story like he was a mini-Snowden. A time-filling interlude follows that eventually leads the pair to find video footage of Megan’s blackmail meeting with Xo. The film links Xo’s actions with Rachel – Michael’s ex-wife – that was played up like a shocking revelation but her character had always been consistent as being beholden to her boss from the first episode. It felt clunky and awkwardly fitted, and did the following scenes no favours when we were supposed to believe Michael blackmails her with the evidence in exchange for full custody of their child – which of course was a hackneyed set-up for a secretly recorded confession.

A hasty montage follows where Rachel and Arthur are arrested (the latter because Sally – now for some unexplained reason back in the UK – had conveniently kept a diary on his nefarious doings) and so anybody left alive involved in Megan’s murder is finally behind bars. Rachel has no real reason for supporting a rapist and murderer like Xo, other than “he was like a father to me”, and her meeting with Jonah in prison reveals little else about her involvement in the murder of her best friend other than it had to be done to protect Xo. What could have been an interesting and nuanced plot-line about how a Westerner perverts the practical stoicism of Hongkongers into an amoral attempt to save face just isn’t present here and the whole conversation feels perfunctory and flat, other than to set up a beat at the end of the episode about who Megan truly loved (Jonah apparently, but would you trust anything she wrote at this point??).

We wrap up with Becky forgiven and back in Lau’s arms, Michael re-united with his daughter and Jonah FINALLY back in the the UK. It feels like a ridiculously long time since he first got on that plane, but we haven’t really learned anything about him through this process, and any character development that was evident wasn’t explored in any meaningful way – although the same could be said for poor old David Chen lying on a slab somewhere who got very short shrift when his own complex background wasn’t really dug into either. It’s just a few examples of the poor writing on the show, or maybe more generously that for a debut effort the writers simply had too wide an expanse to work with effectively. Strangers never really understood what it wanted to be, and as a result will go down as one of the year’s great missed opportunities.

Andy D










16 thoughts on “REVIEW: Strangers (S1 E8/8)”

  1. I watched ‘Strangers’ for 3 episodes but then decided that it wasn’t worth the time and effort. I feel vindicated by your review – thank you for sticking with it. Such a pity to see John Simm wasting his talent on this inferior stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I gave up on this during Week 4 when I realised I didn’t care about any of the characters.
    Pity, it held great promise being situated in a great location.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Managed to stick with this (I’ve started, so I’ll finish…!).
    Underwhelming, as you say. So glad we’ve had these really helpful reviews to ‘chaperone’ us through it all.
    Amongst all the loose ends preremptorily tied up, maybe I missed this – Megan’s body disappeared from the morgue – was there any mention of finding it, or what had happened to it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was recovered by the police and then cremated without the family’s permission I think a few episodes back – in the final scene between Lau and Jonah at the temple that’s whose ashes they are scattering.


  4. Are KillingTimes having a ‘Worst Drama of the Decade’ category this year?
    Thanks Andy for your humorous & unrelenting dedication to writing this series reviews, so that we mortals didn’t have to watch it. Apologies to those that enjoyed Strangers.
    Is there a second series in the offing? (Joking)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank goodness that’s over.

    As you say, Andy, the final ridiculousness was that steely businessman Xho, faced with a whiny lecturer and a dopey young girl, would give up everything and hang himself.

    And if we were meant to be moved and relieved when Jonah found the note from Megan – well, tough luck, mate, we didn’t care. (Plus, no-one with less than perfect vision would have been able to read the note on screen anyway.)

    I suppose the message of the series was meant to be that we never really know anyone, however close we are to them, and that everyone is keeping secrets. Well, ‘quelle surprise’.

    I would call Strangers waste of great talent, but to be honest there wasn’t much on display. We can only wonder what else much worse must be festering on the slush-pile, that this was someone’s idea of a worthwhile project.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can only imagine it was the Williams’ brothers connection that got it made, but not everything they lend their hand to turns to gold. Also it looks like they’ve renamed it for international sales (“White Dragon” instead of Strangers), which is never a good sign.


  6. Happy as I am that my McInnerny Rule remains intact, I found Strangers to be utter drivel and a complete missed opportunity. It’s almost as if the majority of ITV writers have forgotten how to write. When compared with BBC drama such as Line Of Duty, Bodyguard, and The Cry, ITV seems more concerned with filling the required 8 episode gap in their programming than actually delivering quality television. With the exception of Unforgotten I’m struggling to think of the last ITV crime based drama that I truly found to be exceptional. Given the location, Strangers could have been a brilliant 4 part or potentially 6 part series. As it was it fell into the category of Instantly Forgettable.


  7. I saw somewhere that White Dragon was the original title of the series (indeed, it’s a ‘White Dragon Production’), but the producers were persuaded to change it when they discovered what ‘white dragon’ is slang for. Google it if you dare, but be warned you’ll need a strong stomach. If they’ve changed the title back for international sales, perhaps that reflects the response they’ve had to the series…

    Liked by 1 person

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