The Five on Netflix has a lot going for it. Harlan Coben created it. It’s from Red Production Company and produced by Karen Lewis – the same folks who bring us Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley. The star is Tom Cullen, a big selling point.
Here’s the tweet that made the Tom Cullen connection for me. I also noticed a bunch of tweets about how good the music is from The Five and I can swear to that fact. Superb soundtrack.
— Tom Cullen (@tom_cullen) September 15, 2017
This mystery tale is about a missing kid, Jesse Wells. He disappeared as a 5 year old. On that day, he was told to go home and stop trailing after his big brother Mark (Tom Cullen) and his 3 friends. The friends were Danny (O-T Fagbenle), who grew up to be a cop like his dad; Pru (Sarah Solemani), who became a doctor; and Slade (Lee Ingleby) who now runs a shelter for homeless kids. Mark is now a solicitor.
Mark and Jesse’s parents were played by Geraldine James as Julie and Michael Maloney as Alan. All these characters were played by different people at younger ages, because when the story begins it’s been 20 years since Jesse disappeared. Many flashbacks to 20 years ago are included.
Although a serial murderer named Marosi (Rade Serbedzija) confessed to killing Jesse, there’s never been a body. One day a woman is murdered in a hotel room and there’s a match to Jesse’s DNA. Is Jesse alive?
The murder is assigned to the cop Danny and his partner Ally (Hannah Arterton). Because Jesse’s blood was found on a bandage at the scene, the whole set of friends whose lives were changed forever on the day Jesse disappeared get involved in various kinds of sleuthing. The four friends run all over half of England searching for clues, some of which are illegally obtained and unusable by Danny.
Each of the four friends have helpful strengths. Slate is the go-to guy who handles everything. Danny has all the inside info from the cops. Mark relentlessly chases down every possibility. Pru doesn’t do as much investigating, but her knowledge as a doctor is what helps them finally break the case.
The Five is a ten episode series. If you’ve ever read a novel by Harlan Coben or watch other TV series he’s written, you know he reveals the facts slowly and with many convolutions. Everyone seems suspicious, the clues don’t make sense, another crime appears with DNA from Jesse. Characters and connections add up as the episodes roll by.
Danny’s father Ray (Don Warrington) investigated Jesse’s case 20 years ago, but he has Alzheimer’s. Ray lives with Danny, his wife Jennifer (Lorraine Burroughs) and their 3 kids. In addition to Ray’s Alzheimer’s, Jesse’s case files from 20 years ago are missing.
Interpersonal drama is interspersed with the painstaking accrual of clue after clue. Pru is married to Stuart (Jonathan Kerrigan) and has a daughter. She doesn’t love her husband. She loves Mark. Mark is obsessed with the possibility that his long lost brother is alive and doesn’t have much bandwidth for confessions of love from Pru. Pru is an addict, which doesn’t help matters.
Karl (Martin McCreadie) is a fellow cop working with Danny and Ally. Karl won’t leave Ally alone, distracting her from her work. Ally is a good cop. She’s as quick as Danny in working out the case. In terms of female characters Ally was definitely more interesting than the damaged Pru.
Jesse’s parents Julie and Alan want to be in on everything, often getting in the way. Even after 20 years, you can almost see their grief.
It’s near the end before the things you need to know to make the pieces of the puzzle fit are all revealed. In terms of mystery storytelling, The Five is masterfully written.
The actors are all excellent. The direction, all by Mark Tonderai, included lots of quick cuts and static filled flashbacks, adding to the pace and the tension. As I mentioned, the music choices shine.
If you enjoy a mystery with lots of plot twists and false leads, you’ll love trying to stay one step ahead in The Five. Beware, the ending is incredibly saccharine; thankfully it only takes a few moments for the story to wind up.
Here’s a trailer. The series is available on Netflix.