Oh boy, are you in for a treat. This week, brand new to iPlayer, comes Australian drama The Secrets She Keeps. Part Girl On The Train, part Ingrid Goes West, this adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name is a seriously watchable (and only slightly ridic) six-part thriller.
The premise is this: Meghan O’Shaughnessy is a semi-successful mummy blogger. She’s ridiculously beautiful. She has a handsome sports journalist husband and two blonde children. The O’Shaughnessy brood live in a beautiful house in the Sydney suburbs and the family is about to welcome baby number three like really, really soon.
On the other side of town we have Agatha Fyfle. Played by Laura Carmichael of Downton Abbey fame, ‘Agi’ is also eight-months-and-three-weeks pregnant. However, she’s got a very different life to Meghan. Living alone in a dirty flat, Agi works in a rundown supermarket with a nasty piece of work for a boss. The father of her baby isn’t exactly involved and anyways, is on month seven of a navy tour at sea.
Agi is quiet and slightly unnerving; the opposite of Meghan in nearly every way. It’s something the show’s creators have gone to great pains to highlight aesthetically; Agi’s hair is as greasy as Meghan’s is luscious, Meghan’s brightly-coloured Aussie-boho wardrobe outshines Agi’s beige supermarket tabard.
When the two women ‘meet’ in the supermarket Agi works in, it sets into motion a string of events leading to a crime that rocks Sydney’s middle classes and raises the same sort of questions that get raised in almost every other thriller of the same ilk; just how perfect is Meghan’s perfect life? And what dark secrets is Agi harbouring behind that slightly disconcerting smile?
Sure, you might have seen this type of story before; the rich, covetable life of the beautiful white lady. Obsession, jealousy, mental health problems, gaslighting… the whole lot. But there’s a reason why books like Woman in the Window, Gone Girl, Before I Go To Sleep, Girl on the Train and the rest do so well. They play on the fact that women have been pitted against other women since the dawn of time. To be jealous of another woman for having what you don’t is as familiar a feeling as tiredness. Every woman has experienced comparison fatigue at some point in their lives and social media has only made it worse. And so, books (and their subsequent film and TV adaptations) that show cracks in the lives of ‘perfect’ women are delicious in the same way that watching a celebrity fall from grace is. Except better, because the fictional perfect woman isn’t real, and so the delight is guilt-free.
However, this is not to say The Secrets That She Keeps is totally formulaic. There’s twists you won’t see coming, it weaves in themes of motherhood and pregnancy and there are parts that are tense enough to have you shouting at your TV. One might even be able to binge-watch all six episodes on a slightly hungover Saturday after one-too-many Whispering Angels in the park and chalk it up to a great lockdown day (and it was, it really was).
As you know, we’re running a bit thin on the ground with TV thanks to a little thing called the global pandemic. And, as a result, some recent telly offerings have come with the metaphorical sound of the barrel being scraped. But The Secrets She Keeps doesn’t feel like that. Sure, it’s not bringing anything groundbreaking to your viewing schedule but, if you’re a fan of this genre, it feels like a neat little escapist treat that you’re being gifted for observing lockdown so well. It’s like one of those Galaxy adverts where women plan a delicious night in with a single square of chocolate and a self-satisfied smile. Except your delicious night in won’t consist of something you’ll eat in two seconds; instead, you’ve got six hours of non-taxing psychological thriller to enjoy. So grab the rosé and the (whole bar of) chocolate and settle in.
The Secrets She Keeps arrives on iPlayer as a boxset on Monday 6th July and the first episode airs on BBC One at 9pm on the same day.
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