This review contains spoilers.
“I thought I could get away with it,” Alastair told Joanna last week when she asked him why he took risks at the start of their affair. What else does Alastair think he could get away with? Colluding with his wife to cover up their son’s death, and framing his ex for child abduction, evidently.
Those are the conclusions episode two’s shock ending left us to draw. The second instalment of this four-part story made clear that Noah’s abduction is a fiction. There really are two Joannas, and two Alastairs. Creating this scandalous story was “the right thing,” to do, according to Alastair, “the only thing that makes sense.”
What really happened to baby Noah? Filling in the gaps, presumably an accident or otherwise while the family car was pulled up at the side of the road en route from the airport. When Joanna threw up on the balcony at The Cottage, with Noah swaddled in her arms, was he even there or had his body already been hidden?
The final twist that the abduction—revisited multiple times byThe Cry’s looping, experimental timeline—had been fabricated by the parents cast everything we’d already seen in a different light. It shifted the drama into thriller gear. Now, we’re not only watching the grief and despair of two people who’ve lost a child, we’re also watching two conspirators try to keep a terrible secret.
Before that revelation, episode two was a conventional game of hunt-the-suspect. A case was steadily built case against Alexandra. She was in the vicinity at the time of Noah’s disappearance. She had no alibi because her daughter, perhaps a deliberate move by Alastair, was staying with her grandmother. She drinks too much, and stalks Joanna online – all things Alastair knew and used to his advantage. Noah’s baby bootie found in Chloe’s room must have been the final flourish in a cruel and selfish plan.
A plan that we already know is destined to fail. Joanna and Alastair don’t get away with it. We’ve seen her on trial, and the crowds waving ‘Justice for Noah’ placards outside the courthouse. Their deception is going to unravel – exactly how is the job of the remaining two episodes to tell.
Both Joanna and Alastair are good liars. When she concealed the bib, shoplifted that SIM card and secretly tracked the online chatter, she showed resourcefulness underneath her obvious grief and distress. He though, is a professional. Alastair’s a PR man before he’s a grieving father, and this episode showed him determined to get away with it.
Alastair’s language reveals him to be a man who sees everything as a campaign, both press and military. When he told Joanna that Alex had had Chloe “for long enough” and it was “only fair” they took her next, it showed his view of the world as all about winning and losing. The press may seem like the enemy, but to him they’re an asset. His enemy is Alexandra and by framing her for Noah’s abduction, he’s killing two birds with one stone.
Alastair’s insistence on presenting the right face to the world makes sense in the light of the lie. He’s stage managing it all in an attempt to outwit the police and the public. Joanna has become a client whose public perception is his to control. He’s coaching her performance and conducting her like a maestro. “The tide can turn against us in an instant,” he reminds her. “The world needs to see your pain.”
His cynical words and selfish actions make Alastair the villain of this piece (did he really kill three birds with one stone by selling Noah’s story to that journalist to make his difficult work problem go away? And where did Joanna’s bruises come from?), but everything he says about the public thirst for personal tragedy rings unflatteringly true. In cases like these, we do expect pain. Getting to look into the eyes of the crushed victim is all part of the deal.
The Cry is telling a sensationalist thriller story, but not a weightless one. It has serious points to make about the media circus surrounding high-profile cases, and about the voyeuristic role the public plays. Alastair and Joanna have committed a terrible act, but, as the cacophony of social media comments in episode two showed, we’re all slobbering for a chance to jump to conclusions and pass judgement on strangers. If Alastair’s plan were to have worked, he’d only have had the public to thank.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.