The Stranger begun with a nighttime shot of a quiet community. The camera panned through a town, then a tree-lined neighbourhood, then a ceiling of trees interrupted by a bonfire around which teens danced. Through the woods, a naked teenage boy ran. There was a quick shot of an alpaca.
At its core, The Stranger is about a closely knit community with secrets -- not exactly a groundbreaking premise. It is, however, an exceptionally well-done, twisty tale, which is why I decided to do these recaps. Having already binged watched all eight episodes, I can now sit back, rewatch it, and put together one loose thread at a time without the stress of first time viewing (Where is she? Omg, is he going to shoot that kid?).
Adam Price (Richard Armitage) is a successful lawyer who lived in an idyllic town with his wife Corinne (Dervla Kirwan) and their two sons Thomas (Jacob Dudman) and Ryan. His quiet life was interrupted by a stranger (Hannah John-Kamen) who approached him after a dads and lads football game and told him his wife faked a pregnancy. The only detail the stranger gave was a Visa charge to a company called Novelty Funsy.
Adam was appalled to discover that there indeed was a charge to Novelty Funsy at around the time of Corinne's last pregnancy, which supposedly ended in a miscarriage. Adam raised a query with the bank, and the bank sent over the ISPs of the companies under the umbrella organisation of Novelty Funsy. They were sites for fake weddings, fake injuries, and fake pregnancies.
Adam did the next logical thing and confronted his wife. Corinne did not deny that she faked a pregnancy but she insisted there was more to the story. She was, however, not yet ready to tell the whole tale. All she was able to give Adam was the name of a woman she met who also faked her pregnancy, Susanne Hope.
The next morning, Adam saw an agitated Corinne on the phone with someone. Corinne later promised Adam that she would tell him everything, at dinner, after the awarding ceremony at the school where she taught and where their boys studied.
That was, of course, not going to happen. Corinne was not at school. It was Adam who stepped up and accepted her award as Teacher of the Year. Back at home, Adam got a text message from Corinne saying that she thought they needed time apart. She asked him to look after the kids and not to contact her.
At around the same time Adam's life was unravelling, DS Johanna Griffin (Siobhan Finneran) has decided to divorce her husband of 26 years and retire from the police force. She was called in by her much younger partner DC Wesley Ross (Kadiff Kirwan) to a case of a beheaded alpaca with human bite marks. Not far from the alpaca scene, the partners found a trail of clothes that led to a naked, unconscious teenage boy.
The boy, Dante (Brandon Fellows), was a schoolmate of Adam's son Thomas. Thomas, his girlfriend Daisy (Ella-Rae Smith), his best friend Mike (Brandon Fellows), Dante, and a host of other teens were at the bonfire in the woods. Mike did not at all look well the day after the bonfire. Inside Thomas's closet was a garbage bag with the severed head of an alpaca.
What I realised after having watched all eight episodes of The Stranger is that this pilot packed a lot; it is lovely to be able to go back to it and see the careful clues the writers included. It is a testament to how good the series is that all these threads were woven together in a coherent and thrilling way as each episode unfolded. I am going to include as much information as I can in these recaps so they may be a bit longer than my usual recaps. I am genuinely excited about deep diving this series and I thank everyone who would join me.
■ 'Because now you know she's a liar.' Hannah John-Kamen packed disdain, deep-seated anger, and even some concern in her first conversation with Adam. In the Stranger's eyes, Corinne was definitely the bad guy. Yet later, Dervla Kirwan delivered Corinne's heart tugging, 'It hurts, doesn't it?' Adam stopped trusting Corinne because of her lie. At some point in the past, Corinne stopped trusting Adam, too.
■ The Stranger also made Adam question the paternity of the boys. Corinne insisted they were his children.
■ The Stranger also somehow knew that Adam was considering leaving his wife before the pregnancy.
■ The Stranger was working with a blonde woman, and they had a gray car.
■ Tripp (Shaun Dooley), Adam's neigbour, friend, and the father of Mike, told Adam that a kid got into the A team because his father was helping the football coach, Bob, find a job. Bob lost his job six weeks previously. Tripp: 'When it comes to looking after ourselves and our kids, then, we're all corrupt.'
■ Bob was shown to take the football club very seriously.
■ I liked that little detail of Adam seeing the discrepancy in the time stamps of the ultrasound images.
■ Some companies do not bill under their real names for discretion, according to the guy at the bank.
■ Adam was lawyer to an ex-cop named Martin Killane (Stephen Rea) who was fighting a developer from demolishing his home. Martin was the only left in those arrays of homes; all the other houses appeared ready for demolition.
■ Thomas's girlfriend Daisy was the daughter of another teacher Vicky, and sister to young Ella. Vicky did not know why Ella was quite upset and behaving differently.
■ Johanna and her friend Heidi (Jennifer Saunders) have been discussing taking a trip to the United States. Heidi seemed particularly excited about it.
■ At night, the Stranger watched Heidi close up her café.
■ Wes thought there might be a connection between Dante and the beheaded alpaca. However, the bite mark did not match Dante's teeth so someone else bit the poor animal.