Family, Friends, & Other Liars... (Under Suspicion thriller TV show review)
You know those ancient TV “family” shows that pop up in syndication on random channels (the ones with numbers so high on the cable or satellite list that you never, ever scroll that far)? I’d rather count the tiles in my bathroom floor than have to sit through something like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, or The Waltons.
Why? Because honestly, I’ve never known anyone who had anything like that kind of family; real families are always messy—and usually, a whole lot more crazypants—than those sanitized, unfailingly-polite depictions… and I bet that’s always been the case. (If I wanna watch a fantasy, I’ll find something with dragons or vampires or… basically anything that doesn’t involve Stepford Families. And, if I want to watch a family drama, well… it won’t be saccharine-sweet.)
So, when a nice, juicy thriller—about Really Bad Stuff Happening to a Very Messy Family—pops up in the PBS Masterpiece (on Amazon) new releases list, I’m down for it.
A police commissioner from the city is called after a young girl goes missing from a private family party on her communion day, in the pretty little mountain town of Cienfuegos.
Alicia Vega has disappeared—into thin air—from the locked grounds of the family’s restaurant (closed to business for the day)… leaving only suspects whom no one wants to suspect: the family.
Determining that standard policing is unlikely to be successful, Comisario Casas opts to bring in Laura, a no-nonsense new inspector who’s just received her certification as a psychologist. Pairing her up with Victor Garcia—a wildcard detective he’s worked with previously—Casas arranges for the pair to go undercover, as a teacher and her spouse… but also as neighbors of the Vega family.
Before long, Laura and Victor realize that there’s a lot more going on than just one missing 7-year-old girl, with major fractures old and new between seemingly every member of the extended family: Roberto Vega and his wife, Carmen, and their other two children, elder Emilia and Ali’s twin, Pablo; Roberto’s brother Andrés and his wife, Begoña, and their daughter Nuria, a classmate of Ali’s; the brothers’ divorced sister Inés; the patriarch and matriarch of the Vega clan, Germán and Pilar; and Carmen’s younger brother, Eduardo, and his girlfriend, Leti.
Using methods both orthodox—Laura’s analyses of the various suspects’ behaviors and words—and not-so-acceptable—Victor’s totally-unsanctioned bugging of the Vega house—leads them closer to finding out the truth… but just as they think they’re getting a handle on the situation, the game changes again.
Under Suspicion may not break any new ground, but it’s nonetheless extremely easy to get hooked on; after the first ten or so minutes, I was all in. The twists and turns—some predictable, others wholly unexpected—kept coming, and I never got bored, through my week of streaming it.
Visually, it’s fantastic to look at; Cienfuegos is a picturesque, quaint little town, and the Vega family quite an attractive bunch of characters. [The only actors I was already familiar with were Pedro Alonso, as Roberto Vega, who I know from the thrilling Money Heist, Yon González, as Victor, from the nighttime-telenovela-ish Gran Hotel, and Lluís Homar, as Casas, also from Gran Hotel.] More importantly, though, the cast are all uniformly good in their roles.
That isn’t to say it’s the best show ever (but you probably already knew that). Several times I found myself groaning, with “COME ON, you can’t tail people that close and them NEVER SEE YOU!”, or “Why on earth are you not looking at him/her right now?!” obvious “duh” moments, but on the whole, it’s a solid piece that doesn’t telegraph where it’s going… and holds up very well, indeed including the denouement and conclusion.
Whether you’re in the mood for a gripping family drama that feels real, or have a hankering for a juicy thriller that’ll keep you thinking, guessing, and wondering, you should definitely consider giving Under Suspicion a look.
[The first season of Under Suspicion, reviewed here, was actually released much earlier—back in 2014—in Spain, but is new to PBS Masterpiece/Amazon, hence referring to it as a “new release”.]