This review contains spoilers.
1.6 You Can Never Go Home
When we last left off with Kiss Me First, things had become quite a bit more complicated for Leila and Tess. The supposed cult was now an actual cult with uniforms, pills and a basecamp, and in order to rescue Tess, Leila had to face off against Tippi – a true believer.
All of that madness somehow goes more or less unacknowledged in this finale, which leaves us on a cliffhanger and fails to answer any questions it posed throughout the six episodes.
Tess goes to Jonty, who promptly takes her to the game’s creator for information. They talk in riddles for a while, and we’re treated to Tess’ never-before-mentioned theory that Adrian is her son. This Tess is nothing like the spaced-out, broken girl from the house, but has gathered some of that old gumption on the way home to London. She, like all heroines in a teen thriller, refuses to go to the police because… reasons.
We find Leila in some sort of enclosed space, hooked up to medical equipment and adorned with an overloaded sense band. Adrian, appearing as his avatar despite Leila not being inside the game, torments her with the perceived truth of her mother’s death. Murder, rather than assisted suicide.
A mysterious guy comes to the house with knowledge of what’s happened to Leila, and takes Tess and Jonty to a flash building in central London. There, we find out that Leila is wanted in connection with the various deaths, helped along by Tippi’s twisted evidence. Is she being framed, or has Tess accidentally befriended a dissociative murderer?
After more riddle speak and a whole lot of Leila telling Adrian to f*ck off in various patterns, she gets naked and makes a pass at her virtual tormentor as a last ditch effort to get free. When she wakes, she’s in her maths teacher’s old house and finds evidence that someone had been watching her.
The real hero is Azul, who hides the evidence, forces some answers out of Leila and reunites the girls all within five minutes. For those keeping track, that’s more than anyone else has managed in six episodes, and all the while he was running a cafe with one waitress stealing out of the till and another frequently disappearing. He then tells them to scarper. I like Azul.
Leila and Tess go back to the house and we get a weird hacking montage complete with voiceover, flashbacks and techno music. It’s truly bizarre. Leila tells Adrian to confront his mother, the real object of his wrath, and we leave Kiss Me First with a boat-load of unanswered questions. Adrian is taking things to a new level, he tells Leila on the phone, and he’s coming for her.
So… what? What or who is Adrian, and why does he want to kill people? What happened to the co-creator of the game? What the hell was that house last week? How can Adrian hack into phone lines and lampposts? It’s fine for finales to leave some threads loose, but absolutely nothing was resolved here. Despite being confronted with it multiple times, Leila never even came to terms with her mother’s death – surely the whole point of her arc?
Now that all six episodes have aired, the biggest issue for me is the schism between what the show wanted to do and what it wanted to say. The first half of the series, and for that matter the promotional material leading up to it, seemed to want to create a show about female friendship, mental health and our relationship with modern technology.
What it actually wanted to do, however, was create a surreal world in which a crazy AI kills Azana’s most wayward players and lures the rest to a mediterranean island that makes no geographical sense in relation to the rest of the show. It wanted to talk about the gamification of life, but without actually tying it back to modern day concerns and behaviour.
There’s no sense of the world’s interaction with Azana outside of the main characters, not even with supporting characters like Leila’s co-workers or Jonty. How many people use the game, and if its ‘millions’, as the company says in this episode, then why are there not more signs of its integration into society? The series might have been going for a ‘near-future’ vibe, but it may have gone too far.
What if we had seen that the internet of things had progressed to the point where our homes and streets were so connected as to allow for an entity like Adrian to watch you wherever you are? Even that small thing would have patched a lot of holes.
Instead we’re all Jonty, completely baffled by the techno thriller that’s somehow landed in his living room. We could have done with more Jonty in general, actually, as he provides a dose of realism and cynical humour that was sorely missing in last week’s outing.
Life is trivial drudgery, and Adrian wanted to find someone as into the virtual world as he was. That’s it.
Kiss Me First had some interesting moments and some underlying themes that could have been fascinating if better executed, but despite often being shot well and collecting a good bunch of actors, the show’s writing was too often convoluted and oddly vague, arriving at moments, relationships and wild conclusions without any due buildup.
Maybe a longer episode count or tighter storytelling could have fixed these problems, but as it stands the show was a tonally disparate brainstorming wall that never quite knitted together its characters and ideas. The drudgery of life continues, and Azana failed to save us.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Witch Is Coming, here.