Being an avid fan of Michael C. Hall from his years playing Dexter Morgan, the blood pathologist and “serial killer you root for” on Showtime’s “Dexter,” I was pleased to stumble onto a recent interview he did with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. Trevor was asking him about his new project, “Safe,” where Hall plays a British Doctor whose daughter has disappeared after a weekend party. I hadn’t heard a thing about the development of this series, but I thought to myself, “Ok, an actor I love, and a British mystery? Sign me up!”
I binged this series’ 8 episodes in less than a week. It was gripping, and I can say with confidence that Michael C. Hall’s performance – and accent – more than make up for his turn as JFK on Season 2 of “The Crown” (which we’re going to pretend never happened). But to truly flesh out more about the show, I needed to turn to someone I could trust for a real conversation about “Safe.” So, allow me to re-introduce this Todd Flora’s America veteran Stephen Colbert-Style: Once again, I’m joined by my closer-than-we-were-in-high school buddy, and crazy talented lady looking to produce your next film, Krisd Mauga!
Before I get to some questions for Krisd, let me provide a little more of the show’s context: The setting for the oxymoronically titled “Safe,” is a posh gated community in what I take to be the north of England. Michael C. Hall plays Tom Delaney, an established surgeon, whose wife has recently died, leaving him a widowed father of two girls. He dates the town’s Detective Chief Inspector, Sophie Mason, with whom he was beginning to forge a romantic bond BEFORE his wife, Rachel, passed away. Tom’s eldest, Jenny, is not happy with Hall’s character for reasons we find out later surround his absence during his wife’s death.
The crux of the story is Jenny’s disappearance. One evening, Jenny heads out to a party, where she is to meet her boyfriend, Chris. There are scenes of teenage partiers and beer pong, and the next morning, neither Jenny nor Chris have returned home to their families. Flashbacks help provide clues throughout the series. Meanwhile, another drama is unfolding. The town’s high school French teacher, Zoe Chahal – who is also Chris’s mother – has been called to question for evidence found in her classroom locker. The evidence strongly suggests an intimate relationship with a student. She is bewildered and claims she’s been set up. … and then the onions begin to peel for 8 delicious episodes where more town secrets and personalities are exposed and examined. I’ve left out plenty for readers who have NOT yet given “Safe” a viewing, but on to my discussion with Krisd.
TODD: Krisd, I have several questions for you to get us going. I hope you’ll challenge me just as much or more. Here goes:
As much as I love Michael C. Hall, Tom didn’t seem like an entirely developed character. I think it wasn’t until the 2nd episode that I realized he was NOT a stepfather to the girls, but their actual dad. Would you agree? Or do you feel we were presented with enough of an idea of who Tom is?
KRISD: To be honest, I had to rewatch episode one after I finished the series to answer this question. I had watched as soon as “Safe” premiered and then didn’t go back for several days. It was once I began episode 2 that I was truly brought into this series, with my husband and I binging episodes 2-8 in one day. I am glad I had to rewatch episode one as the connections to how it all played out when I came back to binge episodes 2-8 had their answers in the pilot. As for your question whether it takes until episode two to realize if the daughters are his, there is some credence to that as he refers in conversation to the girls as “Rachel’s daughters”. He then calls in worry and refers to himself as Dad and his relationship with his younger daughter seems a bit closer. In the middle of the episode “Jenny” challenge in tears phoning “Tom” as Dad. I feel that was intentional to keep us from understanding the dynamics of Tom and the relationships in full for us to dive deeper into each episode.
I do have to agree that “Tom” is not a fully developed character. We don’t truly have a complete idea of who he is other than a concerned father, desperate to find his daughter. He is a doctor, a good guy, a man with remorse but able to move on (as he already has a girlfriend) other than that his character is not fully developed and I tend to believe that is usually with reason so that they can then have a 2nd season and dive deeper in his, Pete’s and the Tom’s daughter’s characters… there is clearly more to be developed that they are most likely saving for later. It leaves everything open ended if they continue with the series and if not then it’s simply done.
TODD: The Pete and Emma side story was a heartwarming break in the middle of all this ugliness. It’s quite a curiosity, considering it didn’t have much to do with the rest of the story. Do you think it was primarily a device to introduce an objective, new detective to town that didn’t have a lot of historical loyalty to Sophie?
KRISD: Yes, exactly. Emma’s character is a peculiar one leaving us to question what her true intentions are for being there? They did a great job, making us question who she is and why she is there until they let the cat of the bag of her personal intent. The development of her character establishes her ability to behind her partners back to discover truths. The relationship between she and Pete though I feel was presented so we gain a liking to him and can eliminate him as a suspect as they initially introduce him. His character was ultimately the catalyst to establish Emma and create some question of credibility.
TODD: Overall, did you like the “slow burn” (pun intended) of secrets revealing themselves as much as I did? What was a particular twist you enjoyed?
KRISD: Of course, it’s the “slow burn” that kept me coming back for more. For me to be interested and committed to shows, they need to have these twists and turns. I recommend watching episode one last or once more after viewing all episodes; it sealed the content of the show for me. Without giving it away, the end was slightly surprising but not fully as I figured it out in the last episode. The last episode was probably my least favorite even though the truth is revealed; I felt they lost their breath and space to keep it truly dynamic.
As for you Todd, what element of the show did you find flawed if any and what would be the uniqueness of this show that kept you watching?
TODD: For me, beyond the Michael C. Hall appeal, I would have to say several factors kept me glued. They include: the posh British setting, the fact that this all plays out in such a limited geographical area, and the slow peel of the onion to reveal town secrets, such as the school fire and the truth about Zoe and her student affair. I would also say I developed quite a rooting interest in seeing the awful Marshall family do literally everything wrong upon the discovery of Chris’s body, and the consequences (or lack thereof) that face them.
In addition, I recognized a couple of the other actors and was keen to continue watching their performances. Namely, Amanda Abbington – who plays Sophie – played Dr. John Watson’s wife on BBC’s “Sherlock” and had her own very interesting storyline there. She was also Watson actor Martin Freeman’s real-life partner for 6 years, and they have 2 kids together. Another is Marc Warren, who played Pete. He did a limited arc on CBS’s “The Good Wife” as show favorite Kalinda Sharma’s estranged ex-husband. He was quite terrifying there, so naturally I assumed at the beginning he would end up a villain. I was so pleased to see this not be the case.
OK – AT THIS POINT – READERS SHOULD BE WARNED THAT MODEST SPOILERS REGARDING THE SERIES’ CONSLUSIONS AND RESULTS MAY APPEAR.
So, Krisd, you alluded to how it ended, and hinted at perhaps a little disappointment. Let’s lay it out there – Jenny, it turns out, had stumbled into the big town secret. When they were young, her mother, along with Sophie and a few other friends, burned the local school out of anger toward a detestable teacher. Her disappearance is directly related to her desire to learn more about what her mother was involved in. The night of the party, Jenny leaves at some point and travels into town to a bar called “Heaven,” where Chris was supposed to accompany her to confront one of the other players in the school fire, “Bobby.” We later learn Bobby was also the high school boyfriend of Rachel, Jenny’s mom and Tom’s wife. Upon being confronted with her knowledge of the incident by a lone Jenny, Bobby keeps her prisoner for what appears to be several days. Ultimately, Jenny is saved and returns home.
In the parallel tale, we learn that Zoe the French teacher had indeed been set up to look like she was having an affair with a student, and who the culprit was. Finally, in the series concluding 20 minutes, the “coup de tragedy,” as it were, is presented when the identity of Chris’s killer is revealed in a flashback.
I know there is so much I have left out – but in the end, the theme seems to be generational cycles and what it will take to stop them from repeating or deepening the problems pent up in a restrictive community. I don’t know if there will be a Season 2, but since you raise the possibility – and if the show has the viewership numbers and Netflix in turn develops a second season – I could see the following storylines:
- Emma establishes herself as the young, kick ass Detective Chief Inspector in town. Pete helps her raise her baby.
- A large trial that puts not only Chris’s killer on trial, but in an cruel maneuver – also places burn-victim Craig (who was brave enough to try and save students from the school fire) at the mercy of the court.
- Jenny and Tom slowly patching up their relationship, or simply suffering more distance from one another as she finishes school and heads off to “University,” perhaps determined to become a plastic surgeon who works with burn victims?
- The Chahals stick together to raise young Tilly, and end up falling back in love.
- Tom and Pete buy “Heaven” and clean house among the staff, making it “a right proper” place to have a pint.
Krisd, what say you of a possible Season 2? Where do you see it going? Any final thoughts?
KRISD: I don’t know about specifics for the next season but definitely expect more development with the character relationships. Specifically, I think Tom and his daughters – more so Jenny – and possibly more backstory of his deceased wife Rachel and their relationship. I would expect the next season to rely quite heavily on a court case with Chris’s killer. I would hope to see more backstories on all the casts dynamics because you know there is so much they can build on like with Sia’s family and Chris’s family. There are so many possibilities to build from what we have seen thus far in Season One!
“Safe” is streaming now on Netflix.
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