Why The Deceived should be your next box set
Ivan Radford | On 09, Aug 2020
When their affair is interrupted by a shocking and tragic death, Ophelia finds herself trapped in a world where she can no longer trust her own mind.
Nothing says a dark winter night in like a steamy psychological thriller about misguided lust, calculated betrayal and insidious suspicions. So it’s a surprise to see Channel 5 broadcast The Deceived in the height of summer – almost as much of a surprise as it is to see Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee’s name on the credits for the serious, sinister drama.
McGee’s Channel 4 comedy has become a veritable sensation, but she’s as well versed in drama as she is coming-of-age comedy, and her knack for building a world of convincing characters is out in full force. The Deceived follows Ophelia (Emily Reid), a young English student who falls in love with her married lecturer, Michael (Emmett J Scanlan). Before you can say “bad idea”, things take a turn for the dark, and a death leaves Ophelia trying to work out what’s going on.
Are her and Michael meant to be? Is she not the first student he’s picked up? Does his wife, Roisin (Catherine Walker), a more successful author, suspect something? And is everything really OK in their household, or is there a fiery jealousy just beneath the surface? And is the local builder (Normal People’s Paul Mescal) with a soft spot for Ophelia a friend or a foe?
Needless to say all of these questions are wrapped up neatly come the finale, after four episodes of wonderfully messy twists and turns – the TV series isn’t afraid to be as pulpy as possible in its plot reveals. But the cast manage to sell the increasingly absurd narrative, with Emily Reid bringing a winning naivety to Ophelia and Emmett J Scanlan magnetically ambiguous as the dubious professor, who’s at once charming and quietly desperate and vain. They’re backed up not only by the always-excellent Mescal but also by a scene-stealing Eleanor Methven as Michael’s mother, Mary, who is far more complex than she initially appears.
McGee and her husband and co-writer Tobias Beer thread their tangled weave with all manner of nuanced notions, from psychological abuse and gaslighting to murder and unreliable memories. When the emotional abuse becomes more physical, things stumble somewhat into contrived territory, but like a good holiday read, you enjoy turning those pages nonetheless. Seedy, surprising and coming with a sting in the tail that teases a second chapter? Maybe it is a piece of summer entertainment after all.
The Deceived is available on My5 until 2nd September 2020.