Micheal C. Hall of Dexter fame has returned to television in the new Netflix mystery Safe. But Hall’s character in Safe couldn’t be any farther away from the sociopathic serial killer he played in his glory days. This character is an average, everyday father named Tom who must work his way through the secrets of his small English town to find his missing daughter. Joining him is Sherlock actress Amanda Abbington, who in this series plays a detective herself. Safe is a classic structure mystery story that reminds me of an updated Agatha Christie novel — this time involving a rowdy teen pool party. But while I love Agatha Christie, I can’t say the same for this series. Safe was just too…. well… safe. Agatha Christie was innovative when she wrote her crime novels, while Safe feels like a familiar story with the names and locations replaced. In fact, I feel like I’ve seen this somewhere before…
Oh ya — What was immediately noticeable to me about Safe was its resemblance to another contemporary British murder mystery — Broadchruch. The structure of the show is much the same; a crime in a small town, a duo of above average instinct questioning the town’s many residents, a murky past, a random connection to the crime, a million red herrings. But again, Broadchuch was a new idea when it came out. It improved the pacing of mystery stories, incorporated contemporary narrative and storytelling elements, had stunning cinematography, and was lead by David Tennant.
Safe doesn’t have quite as much going for it. While the acting in the lead roles is good and convincing, I think it lacks in its supporting cast. There’s a entire subplot devoted to a family in the neighborhood that not only seems incredibly unrealistic, but it also drastically changes the tone of piece. Anytime the show cut back to this family it was almost comedic, but not quite comedic enough to seem intentional. It became a confusing part of the show for me because I just couldn’t tell what they were going for.
Perhaps if they would have intentionally intercut a comedic subplot I would have been more interested in the story. Not only was I not invested in the characters to begin with, I felt there was very little reason to ever be concerned for any of them. The stakes just never felt high enough. This was what Broadchurch had going for it — when a child shows up dead on a beach of a quiet coastal town, you know something seriously wrong has happened, and you want to know why. Here, a teenage girl went missing, and right from episode one, I couldn’t help feeling this was of her own accord.
I don’t think Safe was inventive at all, and this is where a show fails for me. I have access to a million other things to watch right now, give me one good reason why I should watch yours. Give me something I haven’t seen before. I’ve seen Safe before, and I’ve seen it done much better.
Final Rating: C