Stay Close–Stars of The Hobbit join Cush Jumbo in British mystery series

Review by C.J. Bunce

Two former Dwarf actors and a duo of song-and-dance hitmen named Barbie and Ken?  Netflix’s eight-part British mystery series Stay Close can’t be as strange as that, right?  Or maybe it can.  The series centers on a former strip club dancer who made herself disappear after evading a stalker, only to have her past catch up with her a decade later as her wedding date to a new man closes in.  Played by Cush Jumbo (Torchwood, Vera, The Good Wife), the series’ lead is Megan Pierce, a woman pursued by an ex-fiancé played by The Hobbit star Richard Armitage and a cop played by The Hobbit star James Nesbitt.  Meanwhile the cops realize men have been disappearing during an annual celebration in this beachside town.  A coincidence?  All the players seem to own some part of the secret in this modified adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel.

That includes the great Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, The Riches) as lawyer and friend to both Megan and the cop’s girlfriend Lorraine, a more layered character than the rest in the story, played by Sarah Parish (Blackpool, Broadchurch).  Further adding to the drama (and fun) is the partner of Nesbitt’s cop: his ex-wife, played by Jo Joyner (Doctor Who, Murdoch Mysteries). 

The only distraction in the series are hitmen Barbie (The Pale Horse’s Poppy Gilbert) and Ken (Mayday’s Hyoie O’Grady).  At one point they strangely and inexplicably break out in song together, like cast-offs from Glee.  Viewers never get their backstory, why they relate to each other so oddly, and why they were selected for this job.  It’s weird and just doesn’t flow with the tone of the rest of the series, as if the creators were trying to add some kind of Quentin Tarantino flourish.

Blackpool’s oceanfront and the site of the giant “Dream” statue in St. Helens make for compelling background images for the show (although the novel was set in Atlantic City).  Saved in the final episode by a great payoff, Stay Close is an above average police procedural in a sea of British dramas that may seem to all blend together.

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery.  I wouldn’t place Stay Close among the best of the genre, but as middle of the road mysteries go, it’s toward the top and well worth your time.

So I’d peg Stay Close down the ranks from top series Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Zen, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, Shetland, MarchlandsLightfields, Grace, Professor T, Hinterland, Traces, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Ordeal by Innocence, Unforgotten, Glitch, Mystery Road, The Bay, Wild Bill, and the first season of Sherlock, but probably better all-around than Quirke, Requiem, The Gloaming, The One, The Tower, CollateralRoadkill, The Salisbury Poisonings, A ConfessionDublin Murders, The ABC Murders, The Pale Horse, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Thirteenor Broadchurch

Count it as recommended mystery viewing.  All eight episodes of Stay Close are now streaming on Netflix.

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