‘Fool Me Once’ is a joke of a thriller despite streamers claiming otherwise

Richard Armitage as Joe and Michelle Keegan as Maya in ‘Fool Me Once’. Piture: Cr Vishal Sharma/Netflix

Richard Armitage as Joe and Michelle Keegan as Maya in ‘Fool Me Once’. Piture: Cr Vishal Sharma/Netflix

Published Jan 15, 2024


I’ve realised that sometimes it is best to trust my judgment when it comes to what I should binge-watch. Allow me to explain.

Last year, streamers were up in arms over the star-studded apocalyptic thriller “Leave the World Behind”. Almost everyone questioned the open ending.

But this column isn’t to debate the merits of the movie. It is to point out that sometimes the hype around a show isn’t all it's cracked up to be.

At the start of this year, everyone started raving about “Fool Me Once”, which is based on Harlan Coben’s 2016 novel of the same name.

Before delving into the eight-part thriller, which gave off a very “Double Jeopardy-esque” vibe in the trailer, and why I felt like a fool watching it, let’s look at the movie “Leave the World Behind”.

It stars Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha'la and Kevin Bacon. Their characters find their lives upended by a cyberattack.

While trying to make sense of what is happening, with there being no definitive answers or a way of getting them with the wi-fi down, they also deal with their shortcomings and frustrations as parents and individuals.

The ending throws viewers for a loop as there is no conclusion, as such…

Now, I watched the movie, which, admittedly, is a slow burner. But I enjoyed it. It unleashed the human emotions of its characters in crisis mode. It unpacked their biases, fears and insecurities.

To me, the ending was like a work of art. It was for the viewer to draw his/her own conclusion. I felt that each character finally accepted the situation for what it was. Full stop.

Back to “Fool Me Once”, which centres on Maya Stern (Michelle Keegan), who has recently lost her affluent husband, Joe Burkett, in a tragic shooting.

Returning to some sense of normalcy is hard, but the retired army captain tries her best for the sake of their toddler daughter.

Meanwhile, DS Sami Kierce (Adeel Akhtar), a recovering alcoholic who is about to walk down the aisle with his pregnant girlfriend, is no closer to finding out who killed Joe.

Adeel Akhtar with Michelle Keegan as Maya in a scene from ‘Fool Me Once’. Picture: Netflix

And he isn’t completely sold on Maya’s account of what transpired on that fateful night. Nor is he happy about getting a new partner to help with the case.

Aside from dealing with the untimely passing of her husband, Maya is also being strong for her brother-in-law, Daniel Walker (Daniel Burt), niece Abby (Dänya Griver) and nephew Daniel (Daniel Burt).

Maya’s sister Claire was murdered earlier and they are all struggling to come to terms with her passing as well.

When Maya stumbles across a recording of her dead husband playing with their daughter on the nanny cam, she demands answers.

Her first suspect is the nanny, who pepper sprays her and makes a dash for the door.

Maya then questions Judith (Joanna Lumley), Joe’s mother.

As Maya investigates Joe’s death, she finds a connection to her sister’s murder. She also finds an unlike ally in a reporter who ruined her career.

While Maya goes down the rabbit hole in trying to get answers, her niece and nephew look into who could have killed their mother as their father drowns his sorrows with alcohol.

Keegan is compelling in her role. She gets viewers invested in her character’s journey as she plays dodgeball with the police.

But is she innocent or guilty? That is the question that weighs on the minds of viewers as they push on from episode to episode.

Joanna Lumley as Judith in ‘Fool Me Once’.

Of course, I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But the ending defies logic, especially given that Maya is painted as a force of nature.

The premise is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to conceal a poorly conceived and underwhelming story.

The cast does their best to play their part but “Fool Me Once” is a joke of a thriller, Lumley’s compelling performance notwithstanding.

∎ “Fool Me Once” is streaming on Netflix.