A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Safe is a British mystery show about tangled relationships and missing people. A whodunit that takes place in a gated community, the show features characters who are all tough and stoic until the story chips away at their troubled pasts. Despite its dark subject matter, Safe is surprisingly restrained in its depictions of sex and violence, though there are some graphic and bloody on-screen deaths near the end of the series. The inciting event takes place at a party where kids are drinking and doing drugs, and the few visible moments of violence (especially a stabbing that takes place halfway through) are impactful. For mature teens who love mysteries, this is a by-the-book but really well-done story.
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What's the story?
In SAFE, Tom Delaney (Michael C. Hall), a surgeon living in a gated community, is trying to hold his family together after the death of his wife. He's also having a secret romance with Sophie (Amanda Abbington), a local detective. When Tom's older daughter, Jenny, doesn't come home one night, he enlists his best friend and fellow doctor, Pete (Marc Warren), to help find her. At the same time, Sophie and her new partner (Hannah Arterton) are investigating accusations that high school teacher Zoe Chahal (Audrey Fleurot) is sleeping with one of her students. Zoe is also the mother of Jenny's boyfriend, Chris, who is also missing. As Tom and Sophie conduct their separate investigations, it becomes clear that the mysteries might be intertwined.
Is it any good?
For a show that's content to stay within its genre, this does a lot of subtle things extremely well, and always moves fast enough to stay one step ahead of the audience. When a question gets raised (a character caught in a lie, for example), Safe will address it quickly, only for many other questions to bloom from the answer. It also uses a lot of dramatic irony to great effect. We know what happens to a certain character early on, but then get to watch as the other characters find out one-by-one, and their responses fuel the mystery.
Living somewhere between Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, Safe's characters are also strongly realized. Like a good noir, characters seem tough on the surface, but contain hidden depths that come out as their secrets are revealed. More importantly, the show does an incredible job of avoiding cliches and obvious plot turns. The two main police detectives are women, which is a rare thing itself, but that doesn't factor into the plot at all. One of the main characters is gay and, similarly, his sexuality doesn't factor into the plot or become a topic of conversation -- it just is. And more subtly, there are a handful of adult relationships that could easily be depicted as abusive, but turn out to be much more complex, and Safe finds unique ways of depicting unhealthy communication between couples. These are subtle but crucial things that allow Safe to focus on the actual story at the heart of the show. The result: one of the best TV crime dramas of the past decade.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with loss. When we meet Tom Delaney (Michael C. Hall) in Safe, he and his daughters are mourning the death of his wife. How does this affect their relationships with one another? How successful are they at helping each other heal? What could they do better?
Families can talk about healthy partnerships. Many (if not all) of the adult couples in Safe have some sort of strain on their relationship. How do each of the couples in Safe treat one another? How do they talk to each other, and how does that affect their relationship? What are the habits that are healthy? Unhealthy?
Families can try to solve the mystery! One of the strengths of Safe is that it presents a compelling and intriguing murder mystery - something that is more rare than you might think, given the amount of crime shows on television. Families can talk through the events, unravel the different story threads, and try to predict what is going to happen.
For kids who love mysteries
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