You know the story.
Superhero psychologist with early on-set Parkinson’s publicly saves the life of a teenager, meets a detective while hanging out with sex workers down the pub, is immediately hired as a consultant on a murder case and then becomes the prime suspect. Oh and he’s played by Poldark (aka Aidan Turner).
ITV latest glossy thriller The Suspect, based on the debut novel of Michael Robotham, is a semi-ridiculous, tropey but nonetheless twisty-turny ball of fun told over five episodes broadcast weekly. Somewhat in the mold of HBO shows like The Undoing and Big Little Lies, where we revel in seeing beautiful people with aspirational lives get their comeuppance, this London-set version establishes Turner’s Joe McLoughlin as a man with a perfect life.
He’s a brilliant (probably – they’re always brilliant aren’t they?) psychologist with his own private practice, several published books that are still selling well and a new one on the way which is coincidentally (or is it?) about murder among sex workers. Needless to say he has a beautiful wife (who Joe’s best friend had his sights on in the past) and an adoring daughter and after he spectacularly and implausibly saves a 17-year-old patient with a terminal condition from throwing himself off the tenth floor of the hospital he works in, he’s become a low level national celebrity.
So when a young woman is found stabbed to death, half buried in a graveyard, discovered by police at the same time as Joe and his family are having a leaf fight in said graveyard (there are reasons), and it turns out the woman was a former patient of Joe’s… and also applied to work for him just recently… and accused him of sexual assault in the past… it’s looking a wee bit suss to say the least.
And to be fair Joe isn’t helping himself here. Brought in as a consultant following his chance (not chance) meeting with young Detective Devi (Anjli Mohindra who was excellent in the recent The Lazarus Project), Joe is taken to the morgue to see the body. Not only does he fail to disclose that he recognises her, but he also memorises the door code, sneaks back in when the cops aren’t looking and then lies about it. But well-heeled murder detective DI Ruiz (Shaun Parkes) isn’t about to let that pass. He smells a rat right away. Years on the beat have taught him to think like a criminal. But maybe years of clinical psychology have taught Joe the same lessons?
It’s pretty hackneyed stuff, sure, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. The Suspect is a glossy production with plenty of talent behind and in front of the camera, including writer Peter Berry who worked on The Ruth Rendell Mysteries and Prime Suspect back in the day and more recently wrote episodes of Gangs of London. James Strong from Vigil and Broadchurch and Camilla Strøm Henriksen who has meaty crime credits in her native Norway share directing duties in a show that from our first taster feels ambitious and thrilling if enjoyably silly.
Questions of whether Joe’s recently diagnosed Parkinsons is responsible for his slightly erratic behaviour will no doubt play an important part as the show moves forward. Intriguing secondary characters are also likely to come to the fore. Joe’s long term friend and colleague Dr. Fenwick (Fleabag’s Sian Clifford), who has asked Joe to walk her down the aisle at her upcoming wedding is one who is bound to be important. Joe’s patient Bobby Schofield, who attacked a woman for pushing in a cab queue will surely be back. Then there’s the drama of Joe’s homelife with his wife Julianne (Camilla Beeput) which will no doubt come under threat. And of course, we’ll be hanging out for the case-and-mouse chase with our cop duo.
We’ve seen many variations of this sort of thing, but there is a pleasure in familiarity and we have no doubt The Suspect will come with plenty of hefty rug pulls as the plot develops.
The Suspect airs on ITV on Mondays at 9pm. Each episode will be available on ITV Hub after broadcast.