Sunday, January 14, 2024

TV Series review: Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once is a TV series based on a novel of the same name by Harlan Coben. When Maya Burkett’s husband Joe is killed brutally in an apparent mugging gone wrong, which Maya witnessed, she is shocked to see him appear on a secret nannycam a day or so later. Is he dead? Why can’t the family get the death certificate? Maya’s military past also rears its ugly head and comes back to haunt her when a whistle-blower makes her life a misery. Detective Sergeant Sami Kierce leads the investigation into Joe’s death while hiding what could be his own devastating health issues. His partner is pregnant, and they are about to tie the knot. Meanwhile the Burkett family’s considerable wealth has sinister origins that the matriarch and her remaining children are keen to cover up, as well as the secrets from their past. Was Joe the ‘good guy’ everyone says he was?

The cast includes Joanna Lumley, Richard Armitage, and Adeel Akhtar, and these actors were the drawcards for me. Joanna Lumley never disappoints and her portrayal of Judith Burkett, the grande dame (living in a truly grande maison where I could be very happy) is superb. She gaslights her recently widowed daughter-in-law and one gets the feeling she is trying to get custody of granddaughter Lilly by having Maya declared an unfit mother. She does grande dame very well, outraged grande dame even better, and grande dame caught in the act of a crime superbly. It’s worth watching just to see her performance. I first saw Adeel Akhtar in Sherwood and he was outstanding. He is fabulous here as the aging detective hiding his anxiety over the wedding and impending fatherhood coupled with his blackouts, visions, history of alcoholism, temporary paralysis, and headaches. He is partnered with Dino Fetscher, his polar opposite – a health nut and fitness freak, and annoyingly optimistic. The two of them together make a hilarious team.

I wish I could rave about Richard Armitage’s performance, his presence being one of the reasons I watched this series. Perhaps I still have fond memories of his performance as John Thornton in 2004 North and South. I also loved his portrayal of Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit. In this series, I have no idea why he even showed up on set. There was utterly no chemistry or dynamism in his relationship with Maya (woodenly performed by Michelle Keegan). The two in scenes together appeared to be uncomfortable with each other. Keegan’s performance was a waste of time. Sure, she is very skinny and looks good for the camera, but she mostly pouted, postured, and stared as her acting repertoire. I found her quite boring, expressionless, and unemotional. Not helicopter pilot in the thick of battle material.

Is it worth watching? Hmm, it depends if you want to go the extra mile and are prepared to sit through eight episodes to finally unravel the Burkett family’s dark secrets stretching back into the past, their pharmaceutical negligence in medication testing, what actually happened to Maya in Afghanistan on a helicopter mission, and the truth behind Joe’s killing. The scriptwriters dole out snippets piecemeal so things might be confusing at first, but it does all come together in an incredible reveal that draws every loose thread back into the tapestry. The plot is dark, twisted, sinister, very clever, filled with cover-ups and deception, and ends with a bang, literally. The penultimate scene is shocking and unexpected and when you see it, you decide that there was no other way. Joanna Lumley’s performance here is priceless! So is her expression caught on camera…

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