Review: Mysteries abound in the new Michael C. Hall series ‘Safe’ on Netflix

Television Critic

Mysteries abound in Netflix’s suspense crime series “Safe” when a teen goes missing in an upscale British suburb. Everyone seems to know something, yet no one’s willing to give up anything.

Tom Delaney, played by “Dexter’s” Michael C. Hall, is the widowed pediatric surgeon at the center of it all. He’s raising his two girls alone in what he and his neighbors assume is the bought safety of their affluent, gated estate. Sure it’s full of oversized homes and shiny new cars, but as Tom comes to find, it’s also rife with buried, shameful secrets.

One of the biggest riddles in this eight-episode series by bestselling author Harlan Coben, however, is not written into the script. It’s in the casting of American actor Hall as the Englishman Delaney.


All one needs to do is watch “Game of Thrones,” “The Throne” or any BBC-to-Netflix series to see that the U.K. is overflowing with native speakers who are more than adept at making great television series.

The issue with Hall isn’t a lack of skill. He’s an accomplished performer with a knack for playing fish-out-of-water characters and the ability, as we learned in “Six Feet Under,” to turn social awkwardness into art. But in “Safe,” which begins streaming Thursday, he’s needlessly tasked, at least over the first three episodes reviewed here, with fitting into a very British-style detective drama (think “Broadchurch”) rather than simply letting him stand out.

The development of his character, and the characters around him, is slow over the series’ early episodes. And though there’s plenty of unexpected twists and turns to follow, it’s not enough to distract from the weirdness of watching someone whom we know to be American pronounce “privacy” as if he were Maggie Smith.

Unless the final reveal is that Tom is really a Midwesterner who’s been hiding his nasal intonations along with his crimes, the unnecessary accent becomes a pointless distraction. Why couldn’t Tom be a displaced American, struggling to cope with his adopted home?

It seems unfair, right? There are oodles of British actors adopting Texan drawls or Angeleno vapid-speak in television and film, and we accept it, or maybe even prefer it, like PG Tips over Lipton. But it’s still a rarity to see it the other way around. Gillian Anderson can’t carry all that weight.

If leveling that playing field was the goal in “Safe,” then perhaps U.S. actors are a step closer to landing the lead in the David Attenborough biopic that’s surely being developed somewhere. But “Safe” isn’t that crossover.


Hall as Tom is persuasive, however, as a parent unaware of his teen’s secret life until trouble comes calling when his daughter Jenny (Amy James-Kelly) disappears after a drunken and drug-fueled party. In searching for her, Tom discovers he knows little to nothing about her, her friends or even those “mates” closest to him.

Tom’s best friend Pete (Marc Warren) appears to jump in and help in the search. Detective Sophie (“Sherlock’s” Amanda Abbington), who knows Tom personally, also devotes her time and effort to finding Jenny and the boyfriend with whom the teen seemingly vanished into thin air. Detective Emma (Hannah Arterton) just joined the force but appears to already have files on at least one of the locals. Is she stalking him, or does she know something more about him that might aid the investigation?

They’re all busy protecting their own interests, so getting to the bottom of this tangled story is half the fun. Finding out why they are so guarded, and where all the bodies (figuratively and literally) are buried, is what makes this series a potential binge candidate. If you can get past the Mystery of the Ill-Conceived Accent.



Where: Netflix

When: Any time, starting Thursday

Rated: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)