By Chris Byrd Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) -- When it debuted on BBC One in February, the psychological thriller "Chloe" garnered critical acclaim. Such enthusiasm was misplaced, however. Unappealing and implausible, the series is now streaming on Amazon Prime in six one-hour episodes.
London-based director Alice Seabright created the drama. In addition to serving as its primary writer, she also helmed three of its installments, while Amanda Boyle supervised the remainder.
The story is set in Bristol in southwest England, where temp worker Becky Green (Erin Doherty) lives with her mom, Pam (Lisa Palfrey), who has early-onset dementia. Becky devotes her free time to fixating on the social media output of her once-close friend, Chloe (Poppy Gilbert).
Becky is envious of the seemingly glamorous life her erstwhile pal leads as the wife of town councilor Elliot Fairbourne (Billy Howle). She's forced to rethink her jealousy, though, when she learns that Chloe has died in what was apparently a suicide.
When a police investigator reports that Chloe tried to call Becky twice on the night of her demise, the latter feels compelled to adopt a new persona. Calling herself Sasha, she infiltrates Chloe's inner circle to determine what really happened to her.
Sasha not only ingratiates herself with Chloe's best buddy, self-employed marketing consultant Livia (Pippa Bennett-Warner), but -- through Livia -- becomes involved in Elliot's campaign for the House of Commons. This professional connection soon turns amorous as she and the widowed candidate initiate an affair.
Among those around Elliot who are upset by this turn of events, the most disgruntled seems to be disc jockey Richard (Jack Farthing). His visceral resentment of her makes Sasha wonder whether Richard was more involved with Chloe than the others who once surrounded her realize.
Pam's rapidly deteriorating health, which increasingly endangers her safety and welfare, further complicates Becky's attempt to live as two people in two worlds. Yet, what her mother says of Chloe forcefully conveys what motivates Becky to discover her former companion's true fate. "She was the full package, wasn't she?” Pam observes. "Beautiful, clever, kind; the Holy Trinity."
Even in the absence of the challenge posed by Pam's progressive illness, viewers will find it difficult to believe that Becky possesses the skill and guile to pull off her ruse. Given that Becky does little to protect her new identity, moreover, it seems farfetched that Chloe's intelligent, accomplished friends would be taken in by her.
Even TV fans inclined to swallow the show's premise will be at a loss to identify much in Becky's conniving character with which to sympathize. By contrast, Pam's plight -- richly evoked by Palfrey's outstanding performance -- does elicit considerable compassion.
The problems with "Chloe" are by no means only artistic ones, however. The program includes fairly strong sexual content, with references to adultery, contraception and even bestiality. Add in discussions of substance abuse and a large dose of vulgar language and it's clear that the show is not suited to a wide audience.
Hardy adult viewers may choose to wade through the seamy material awaiting them here. But the three first episode reviewed suggest that their reward for doing so will be a scant one.
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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.