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The Problem With Netflix’s Harlan Coben Adaptation


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Summary

  • Fool Me Once is currently the #1 show on Netflix and follows Maya as she investigates her husband’s murder and uncovers a larger conspiracy.
  • The show’s subplots, such as the secret half-brother and the alcoholic detective, don’t contribute much to the overall story and feel wasted.
  • A major plot hole involves Maya’s friend Shane, whose mysterious actions are never explained or resolved, leaving audiences confused.


Warning: Spoilers for Fool Me Once.Currently at the #1 spot on Netflix’s top 10 TV shows, Fool Me Once has captivated audiences since its release earlier this month. The show follows Maya Stern (Michelle Keegan), a widowed mother whose husband, Joe Burkett (Richard Armitage), is murdered in a brutal park crime gone wrong. Or at least that’s what the audience is supposed to think. When Maya sees him on a nanny camera with their young daughter, she’s determined to get to the bottom of it. After the evidence of what she witnessed is stolen, she’s unable to prove what she saw and, therefore, appears more and more unhinged in the wake of her husband’s death.

Also, reconciling the murder of her sister Claire Walker (Natalie Anderson) months prior, Maya appears to be at the center of something bigger. When the police investigation continues to turn up nothing of substance, Maya takes matters into her own hands against the advice of Detective Sergeant Sami Kierce (Adeel Akhtar). In short, Joe killed Claire because she would expose the nefarious coverups of Burkett Pharmaceuticals, his family’s Big Pharma company. When Maya finds out, she kills Joe. When Maya confesses to Joe’s family and vows to expose them all to the world, they kill her. However, not before she managed to livestream the entire interaction, ultimately destroying their company.

While such a premise might appear intriguing on its surface, the Harlan Coben adaptation lacks the necessary depth for a truly compelling story. With only eight episodes, Fool Me Once is an easily bingeable show and a good TV series to watch when you’re bored. However, the initial allure ultimately falls apart once audiences look past its surface-level appeal. While the series has plenty of issues, from its disjointed dialogue to its overused character tropes, the show’s subplots and plot holes take the cake.

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The Fool Me Once Subplots Don’t Help the Narrative

Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once

Release Date
January 1, 2024

Rating
TV-MA

Seasons
1

A compelling subplot can help move a story forward and make the narrative more intriguing by developing its characters. Unfortunately, the subplots sprinkled throughout Fool Me Once don’t help its main story. The most egregious subplot involves Claire and a baby she put up for adoption before ever meeting her husband. However, he knows about the child who is now grown, lives in the same city, and works at the center where Maya’s niece plays soccer, which all feels a bit too convenient.

Furthermore, no reason is given as to why Claire acted in such a way, nor is there any explanation as to why she didn’t welcome him into the family after reconnecting with him before she died. If her husband had known about the situation all along, keeping such a secret would have made no sense. As a result, Claire’s children stumble upon the existence of their half-brother after her murder, which leads to nothing of substance. The series wasted so much time on Claire’s secret child and then did nothing with it.

In addition to the secret half-brother, the show offers another subplot that provides nothing to the overall narrative of the series. A recovering alcoholic whose fiancé is about to have a baby, Kierce begins to experience unexplained episodes that cause him to black out for stretches at a time. As a result, he begins to exhibit odd behavior as he tries to cover up his developing issue. Because of this, his boss assigns him a new wide-eyed partner and openly discusses the possibility of his relapse.

Kierce hides his problem from everyone but his sponsor, who always seems available to talk. When he finally sees a doctor, he’s told his issue is serious but isn’t offered any real explanation about his condition. In the end, it’s revealed his medication, made by Burkett Pharmaceuticals, has been causing his episodes and making him hallucinate his sponsor, who is actually his deceased former fiancé. So, he doesn’t really have a problem; it’s simply the defunct meds Burkett Pharmaceuticals is knowingly pumping out to the public. The detailed subplot ultimately distracts from the overarching narrative and wastes an opportunity to develop a possibly interesting character.

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Fool Me Once Has a Major Plot Hole

By far, the weirdest and maybe biggest plot hole in the series involves Maya’s closest friend, Shane Tessier (Emmett J Scanlan), who served with her in the army and is currently in the service. From the very beginning, the show portrays him as a possible foe in disguise and hints that he might have been involved in Joe’s murder.

At one point, he can be seen lurking in the shadows outside Maya’s home just after placing a tracking device on her vehicle. After that, viewers are never offered an explanation as to what he was doing or why he was doing it. The audience never sees him observe the tracker, nor do they witness him tell anyone else about it. At no time after that is it ever addressed again, which makes no sense.

While the series might be a binge-able hit according to Netflix, its problematic execution is challenging to overlook, especially when there are so many other British crime dramas out there worth watching. All episodes of Fool Me Once are currently streaming on Netflix.

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