It’s an average night in Los Angeles for Clare (Maika Monroe). Having only arrived in California a week ago after leaving Kansas to become a writer, she is working some rideshare hours to make ends meet. Her latest customer Carl E (Dane DeHaan) seems affable enough, even flirtatious. That is until he claims to have killed a couple in their home not 45 minutes before and threatens to do the same to Clare. So begins The Stranger. A new episodic show from writer director Veena Sud, being shown exclusively on the new platform Quibi. For those who have not heard just yet, Quibi is the first entertainment platform designed specifically for phones. The format creates a new form of storytelling that presents an interesting way to tell a story.
Each of the episodes we reviewed (we were given access to the first 10) are in little, bite-sized chunks running no more than 10 minutes in length. Each short chapter is buttoned with a cliffhanger ending that provokes compulsive binging. The creators of the series shot and edited the new show to be viewed either vertically, as phones are normally held, or horizontally, as many cinephiles will prefer. Honestly, either view works, but we preferred landscape.
After Clare narrowly escapes what would be the first of many run-ins with her sociopathic customer, she meets up with a comely connivence store clerk (Avan Jogia) who is then pulled into her whirlwind of insanity. With Carl somehow popping up at every turn and in every location they run to, the night turns into a cat and mouse, mystery thriller that is easily watchable and highly addictive. But is it good?
Sud creates a narrative that flies at breakneck speed to maintain the attention spans of viewers with less patience. But the format doesn’t really get in the way of the lush production values or the engrossing suspense. As for the leads, DeHaan and Monroe do precisely what they were hired to do. Their performances are honest, believable, but we have seen both of them play this type of part before. The show, while entertaining, offers no new ground for these two talents to explore.
That’s no matter really as we are seeing something entirely new in entertainment made exclusively for phones. For better or worse this is a thing now. As a cinematic purest I must remove my disdain for vertically oriented shots and look at what Sud and her talented team pull off. They effectively tell an engrossing story that is, admittedly, addictive and thrilling. If you want to check out the new show yourself, you can head on over to Quibi and sign right up. This series alone is worth the asking price for a Quibi subscription.