Not worth it

February 25, 2024

To say that this thriller failed to thrill would be an understatement

Not worth it


etflix’s latest series, Fool Me Once, is an eight-part thriller centred on deception and betrayal. The cast is led by Michelle Keegan as Maya Stern and Richard Armitage as the deceased Joe Burkett. The supporting lineup features Joanna Lumley, James Northcote, Hattie Morahan, Adelle Leonce, DänyaGriver, Daniel Burt and Natalie Anderson.

The series tries hard to enmesh audiences in a web of mystery and suspense, setting high expectations from the outset. However, beneath its glossy exterior lies a narrative plagued by inconsistencies, gambits and a script so poor it borders on insulting. While the production quality shines through with its visually pleasing aesthetics and cinematic shots, the story falls flat.

All eight episodes fail to live up to their promise of delivering gripping drama. From the moment Maya discovers her supposedly deceased husband, Joe, alive and well on nanny-cam footage, the plot takes a nosedive into complete absurdity. What follows is a series of contrived situations and illogical character actions that leave viewers scratching their heads rather than on the edge of their seats.

The portrayal of Maya as a presumed valorous protagonist is forced and unconvincing. Despite being positioned as a strong, independent woman, Maya comes across as little more than a caricature of a female action hero. Her reckless and self-absorbed nature painfully overshadows any semblance of intelligence or rationality.

Supporting characters are no better. They are often undermined by clichés and poor writing, resulting in their performances being cringe and lacklustre at best. Joanna Lumley delivers a disappointingly inconsistent performance as Joe’s mother, Judith. Her character swerves between melodrama and farce.

James Northcote and Hattie Morahan, as Joe’s siblings Neil and Caroline, are given little to work with in terms of character depth, resulting in forgettable performances that do little to advance the plot. Meanwhile, Abby, played by Dänya Griver, and Daniel, portrayed by Daniel Burt, Maya’s niece and nephew, seeking the truth about their mother’s murder, feel tacked on. It does not fit well with the chaos of the main storyline.

The attempts at injecting twists and turns into the narrative only serve to further undermine its credibility. Fool Me Once tests the patience of its audience with contrived plot developments and groundless character actions. From Maya’s inexplicable decision to investigate her husband’s supposed death to the contrived revelations that litter the narrative, the series struggles to maintain a sense of coherence and believability.

Fool Me Once tests the patience of its audience. From Maya’s inexplicable decision to investigate her husband’s supposed death to the contrived revelations that litter the narrative, the series struggles to maintain a sense of coherence and believability. On top of that, the series is rife with clichés

On top of that, the series is rife with clichés, from the undercover reporter operating out of a nerdy underground lair beneath a gaming shop to the predictable character arcs such as the suffering father’s descent into alcoholism followed by an abrupt shift toward sobriety. Even the subplot involving a former alcoholic cop, his newfound friendship and his revelation of his sexuality feels like a tired trope. It is devoid of subtlety or genuine depth.

More so, it makes no sense for Maya to go to such great lengths to find the nanny-cam footage and the killer when she already knows who murdered her husband. Some might argue that it was to expose Burkett’s misdeeds, but if she had the evidence and a witness, she could have exposed him without risking her life. Even powerful people can’t make solid evidence disappear. Perhaps more attention to legal procedures would have made the plot more believable.

The series is packed with irrational actions. Maya’s tendency to indiscriminately share sensitive information undermines her credibility. Throughout the series, scenes of Maya and her daughter together are scarce. Maya is often depicted as too preoccupied with chasing information to attend to her parental duties.

The unexplained actions of characters like Shane, played by Emmett J Scanlan, Maya’s friend who strangely places a tracker on her car, only add to the confusion. Similarly, the abrupt cessation of the main detective’s blackouts after he stops taking his pills raises questions about his purported degenerative brain disease, a plot point left frustratingly unexplored.

The final scene, set eighteen years later, feels like a desperate attempt to tie up loose ends and provide closure to a story that has long since lost its way. The glaring lack of effort in ageing the characters leaves them virtually unchanged and adds yet another layer of absurdity to an already convoluted narrative. The inclusion of unnecessary storylines and the abrupt, nonsensical ending only serve to detract from whatever semblance of enjoyment the series might offer.

It is fair to say that the title Fool Me Once proves apt, as viewers are unlikely to be fooled into subjecting themselves to another disappointing show like this. With its lacklustre script, uneven performances and nonsensical plot developments, Fool Me Once is a let-down.

The author is a freelance contributor

Not worth it