"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Fool Me Once: Double Stunning Ending

Whew, a wild and woolly Fool Me Once, and I defy anyone to predict the ending.  It's the latest Harlan Coben novel (2016) to be adapted to the screen, by Danny Brocklehurst, and up on Netflix yesterday, New Year's Day, where I binged it.  Yes, I watched all eight episodes, and what a pleasure it was to a watch a TV series that way, in which the episodes are like chapters in a book, where you can read as many as you want, at whatever pace you choose.  That used to be the defining hallmark of streaming, but it's rare indeed these days, and kudos to Netflix for starting off the year this way.

I should also say that I haven't read the novel, but I did read in the Radio Times that the stars said the TV adaption had "unputdownable" changes from the novel.  That's a good word.  I couldn't stop watching the series, and I can't think of any reason to put the series down, in the colloquial sense of the phrase.  In what follows, I'll tell you what I really liked about the series, and then what I would have liked the ending to be (which, again, is not a put down).

[And spoilers follow ... ]

My favorite character in the series was DS Sami Kierce.  Years ago, I wrote somewhere about what I called "the defective detective" on American TV -- Columbo was a schlep, Barnaby Jones an old geezer, Rockford lived in a beat-up trailer, you get the picture -- and Sami is the best rendition that I've seen of that in years.  He blacks out frequently,  the docs don't know what's wrong with him other than it's very serious, and he may not have long to live.  But he doggedly pursues the case, and it turns out that the greedy big pharma company responsible for most of the murders is also to blame for Sami's condition, due to the bad medicine they're putting on the market.  Adeel Akhtar does a memorable job as Sami, not surprising, given that he was equally memorable as Wilson Wilson in the British version of Utopia (much better than the American version, by the way).

Michelle Keegan, whom I haven't seen before, does a fine job as Maya Stern, the central character in the story, who delivers two surprises near the end: She's the one who kills her husband (because Maya realizes that Joe killed her sister, who was investigating the pharmaceutical company dishing out the bad medicine, a company owned and run by Joe's family).  And she sacrifices herself at the end -- literally, letting another member of the evil pharma family, Joe's younger brother Neil, shoot her with the loaded gun she deliberately left in plain site on the coffee table, so that the murder and the whole preceding discussion would be picked up on the camera she got placed in the room, so the whole world could see it happen in real time on the Internet.

Now that was one stunning ending indeed.  But here's what I think I would have preferred: the gun was loaded with blanks. Neil could still have been brought up on charges of attempted murder, and the diabolical mother (well played by Joanna Lumley, as always) would still have spilled out her self-incriminating story for the world and the police to all hear.

Now, I get that Maya was tormented by the bad call she made years earlier when she was in the military.  But she clearly loved her little girl Lily, and surely that would and should have given her an overpowering motivation to live.

But, hey, I'm a hopeless sucker for at least somewhat happy endings, and Fool Me Once was plenty appealing and commanding, just as it was.


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