Fool Me Once – Review

Worth seeing: for episode 7 - and Adeel Akhtar and Dino Fetscher's police partnership
Featuring:Michelle Keegan, Richard Armitage, Adeel Akhtar, Anthony Howell, Charlie Cain, Craige Els, Daniel Burt, Danya Griver, Dino Fetscher, Emmett J Scanlan, Hattie Morahan, Jade Anouka, James Northcote, Joanna Lumley, Laurie Kynaston, Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings, Marcus Garvey, Natalie Anderson, Thea Taylor-Morgan
Key crew:David Moore, Nimer Rashed, Jessica Taylor, Daniel Brocklehurst, Harlan Coben
Length:50 minutes
Broadcast date:1st January 2024
Country:UK, US


Death seems to follow Maya (Michelle Keegan) around. Months after her sister was shot dead during an apparent burglary, her husband Joe (Richard Armitage) is gunned down at the local park.

He’s from a wealthy family, who’ve made their millions from selling questionable pharmaceuticals and there’s a whiff of corruption about everything they do – not least the quiet dominance of the scenery-chewing family matriarch, Judith Burkett (Joanna Lumley), as she holds court in their mansion.

When Maya returns home, one day, she watches secret security camera footage to see what her daughter and the nanny got up to in her absence – and sees that they received an unexpected visit – from Joe.

Haunted by her experiences as a military helicopter pilot, she tries to balance her life as a one-parent family with carrying out her own investigation of how a dead man appeared on her security footage, while the local police team of Sami (Adeel Akhtar) and Marty (Dino Fetscher) try to join the dots to see whether there’s a link between Claire and Joe’s murders – and whether the Burkett family is hiding any darker secrets that could help them find the answers.


The first of 8 episodes gets off to a cracking start, bursting with plot and spraying questions around like a garden sprinkler.

But as the many characters are still being introduced, it becomes clear even within the first episode that the series will be full of cliches, dramatic short-cuts and incoherent plot twists.

The dialogue is on-the-nose clunky and the production design looks like it’s done for a school production; the inside of the police station appears to be a school hall with a few randomly placed tables, and apart from the main characters, no-one ever looks up from their desk, even when there’s a blazing row going on.

Adapted from Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name, the initial episode sets up the prospect of an intriguing mystery, but as the episodes progress, the plot spirals into increasing nonsense, as every new character hides a secret or secretly harbours a motive, or is sidelined by a great conspiracy – or isn’t.

It’s always slick – with pretty people, smart clothes, grand properties, prestige cars – but the story never really manages to move forward, so embedded it is in the past; they seem to be more interested in the fate of people we never met than those who turn up in more recent flashbacks. And most of the characters, not least those at the heart of the main story, are tremendously annoying and unpleasant

Adeel Akhtar and Dino Fetscher’s police partners are the only characters you’d want to spend any time with – they should be given a spin-off.

The narrative is full of red herrings as elements of the plot take an unexpected turn – and are then completely forgotten. And there are characters who pop up and then serve no purpose other than to drag out the story. Nothing feels right or seems at all believable.

Hopes are raised that it might finally be worth sticking with when Episode 7 includes a couple of plot twists that raise the eyebrows and make you wonder whether the problem was just trying to stretch it out to 8 episodes rather than 6. Adeel Akhtar’s narrative arc comes to an unexpected but convincing conclusion, making you reassess everything you’ve seen about him.

But it all collapses into incoherence again with a bloody denouement in Episode 8 that feels completely unnecessary, out of keeping with the rest of the story and not the kind of theme you’d want to be promoting for a prime-time drama. And the coda, set 18 years later, where all the characters look exactly the same – apart from perhaps a sprinkling of talcum powder in their hair – seals its fate as one of the least convincing wastes of time.

Fool Me Once? I’m not sure the fool is who they think it is.