Review: The Five

Lee Ingleby, O-T Fagbenle, Sarah Solemani, Tom Cullen in The Five

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.

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.

Don Warrington, O-T Fagbenle in The Five
Come on, Dad, have a lucid moment!

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.

Sarah Solemani, Tom Cullen in The Five
Can we talk?

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.

21 thoughts on “Review: The Five”

      1. christopher swaby

        just finished the series. i have mixed feelings about it. im not sorry i watched it but i dont think i would recommend it to anyone. that said, if you say something is worth watching, i watch it. that wont change.

      2. It wasn’t a bad series. And I suspect i’d have watched it anyway – our tastes seem to align. it likely would have come up as suggested viewing based on the other programs I’ve watched on Netflix. You turned me on to “Last Tango in Halifax” for which I will be eternally grateful.

      3. Have you two watched THE FALL with Gillian Anderson as an British cop temporarily to Northern Ireland to try to clear a murder case. Soon its clear it a serial killer and she gets sucked into a psychological mind game with the killer to see if she can catch him. Hes Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Gray) and kinda creepy in this and married with a daughter. It is crazy good.

  1. It’s great that you’ve finally got this over in the US! It was one of my favourite series of last year. So well written and really did keep you guessing til the very end. Brilliant cast too. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Solemani (try and catch ‘Him & Her’ if you get a chance!)

  2. Okay, I must have missed something, because I got to the end, and I still can’t figure out who murdered Annie Green. It was the Porter people? And how did Jesse’s DNA get into the recording studio murder scene?
    I kept having those, “What did I miss?” moments. But the reviews are really good so maybe it’s just me.

    1. I don’t remember who murdered Annie Green, but I do recall that one of the cops who worked with Karl (aka Jesse) planted his DNA on the scene to confuse things. I think it was written purposely to be confusing, to make various characters appear guilty as the episodes went by, just to keep you wondering.

    1. Really? I didn’t catch her murder either. But what I don’t understand was what were they going to do about the supposedly “high profile” murder of Newman to which Slade confessed? Seems like all the anticipated (and it makes sense) press of a pop star with a secret life as a sex slaver wouldn’t just go away.

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