Here we go, another television adaptation of a bestselling book. Yet, One of Us Is Lying has a surprising depth of narrative and characters.
The new series on Netflix is inspired by Karen McManus’ novel of the same name. The smart girl, the athlete, the princess, the criminal and the school spy all walk into detention together – but only one of them makes it out alive.
Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, Nate and Simon all get sent into detention at Bayview High. When Simon dies, the police start an investigation that changes their lives. Due to Simon’s gossip blog in school, he is not very popular. The group couldn’t be any more different – only Cooper and Addy are in the same friendship group, Nate is a loner that gets the blame because of his criminal record and Bronwyn on the other hand tries to keep her reputation as an excellent student. Their secrets come out one by one after Simon dies. Who could be to blame?
There is something fascinating about the detention trope. Following how total strangers become closer through external circumstances was an enormous success with Breakfast Club. This new adaption of that storyline works well in a contemporary environment.
Each of the characters has a strong background story and the narrative represents the complexity of straight and queer relationships equally. Although the series came up with a lesbian love story that wasn’t in the books, it develops quite authentically within the story.
The soundtrack establishes the modern atmosphere and caters to the Gen-Z generation with recent chart songs in the background. Furthermore, the actors carry the story very well, keeping in mind that many of them are just starting their careers. Their chemistry as a friendship group works especially well on the screen. The difficulties of the groups’ quest to find the murderer is thrilling to watch, and the story successfully draws in the viewer’s attention with their personal struggles amongst the drama.
While series like Riverdale and Euphoria attract audiences with their appealing aesthetic, One of Us Is Lying stays mediocre in editing and set design. However, the canted angles and the quick pace intensify the mystery experience, and the clear structure of the episodes makes it easy to watch and follow.
With only eight episodes the series qualifies as an amazing excuse to stay in to binge-watch it, alone or with friends.
The series does stay loyal to the general storyline of the book but like many TV adaptions, not everything is the same. Some character arcs are changed – compared to the book, Janet, Simon’s friend, and Maeve, Bronwyn’s sister, play a more key role overall.
Some storylines are forgotten completely after a certain point. Likely due to the lack of screen time, not every arc can be followed but starting one and forgetting about it halfway through is clumsy. When one of the characters has a coming out at school, for example, the viewer only gets to see the reaction of the parent and not the school peers.
The open ending makes it clear that the creators are hoping for another season. Some romances are still unclear, and some mysteries are still unsolved. It is disappointing to see that the main plot has been stretched out to accommodate further episodes.
Overall, it is an enjoyable watch in between the everyday trials and tribulations of real life. It is great entertainment, especially for the ones that like coming-of-age high school series. But don’t expect anything life-changing.
Feature image picture: Peacock