The Suspect review: ITV psychological thriller with Aidan Turner is the rare drama that’ll keep you guessing

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Aidan Turner stars alongside Shaun Parkes and Anjli Mohindra in compellingly ambiguous ITV thriller The Suspect

The obvious suspect, emerging even before the first ad break, is one of Doctor Joe O’Loughlin’s (Aidan Turner) patients – a young man whose compulsions align just a little too closely with the murder method. Even if the cause and the motive are yet to come into frame, it seems clear enough that The Suspect has tipped its hand early on: at first glance, at least, this is a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit.

Gradually, though, suspicion starts to swirl around O’Loughlin himself. The successful doctor with a picture-perfect life – a loving wife and happy daughter, author of bestselling books and recent recipient of widespread online goodwill after a viral act of heroism – keeps getting caught out in lies. There are, plainly, things he’s not told the investigating police officers, details he’s keeping hidden deliberately, closely-guarded secrets that go beyond the demands of doctor-patient confidentiality. “Rooftop hero or sick killer,” ponders DI Vincent Ruiz (Shaun Parkes), starting to doubt the honesty of their celebrity psychological consultant. “Maybe he’s both.”

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There’s a compelling kind of ambiguity to this, and The Suspect exploits that well: it’s a show that has a good sense of when to make something explicit and when to leave it for the audience to catch themselves, weaving a complex web out of Joe’s lies and countertruths. Some the police highlight, others the viewer will spot before the characters, more still presumably lie in plain sight waiting to be exposed later. A genuine sense of doubt creeps in early and is sustained across the opening two episodes of The Suspect, its drama balanced on a knife edge – for every lie there’s an excuse, some more convincing than others, and The Suspect feels like it’ll be one of those rare dramas that can keep you guessing to the end.

Aidan Turner as Doctor Joe O’Loughlin and Bobby Schofield as Bobby Moran, sat across from one another during a therapy session. A window in the middle of them casts light onto the floor (Credit: ITV/World Productions)Aidan Turner as Doctor Joe O’Loughlin and Bobby Schofield as Bobby Moran, sat across from one another during a therapy session. A window in the middle of them casts light onto the floor (Credit: ITV/World Productions)
Aidan Turner as Doctor Joe O’Loughlin and Bobby Schofield as Bobby Moran, sat across from one another during a therapy session. A window in the middle of them casts light onto the floor (Credit: ITV/World Productions) | ITV/World Productions

A big part of what works here is Aidan Turner, furtive and dissembling as the slickly suspicious Joe. It’s difficult to get a read on him, with Turner flitting about between different styles and approaches – he centres the drama but doesn’t anchor it, leaving space for it to shift around him and become a character study, or a psychological thriller, or a police procedural. It doesn’t break boundaries, exactly, it’s still within the realms of what you’d expect an ITV drama to resemble – but through Turner’s performance, The Suspect is able to start to colour outside the lines at least a little more.

It also benefits a lot from the involvement of Parkes and Mohindra, too. There’s a long (and necessary) tradition of casting wildly overqualified actors in the ‘DI Exposition’ roles – think Pearl Mackie in The Long Call, but examples abound – and both Parkes and Mohindra do a lot to enliven some essentially thankless roles. As written, the characters have a little more personality than these types often do on the page – Parkes’ Vincent Ruiz has more of a sense of humour than his counterparts on other shows tend to have – and they’re each able to add a bit more substance to the archetypes.

Ultimately, The Suspect is hard to judge completely on its first two episodes alone – it starts strong, certainly, but it’s also clearly one of those shows where its eventual reputation will depend on how well it coheres in the end. From the strength of its opening episodes – the ambiguity, the performances, the basic watchability underlying it all – it seems worth continuing with. In a sense, The Suspect itself resembles the high-wire act of bravery that opens the series; hopefully, it’ll manage to stick the landing in the same way too.

The Suspect begins on ITV on Monday 29 August at 9pm. I’ve seen 2 of an eventual 5 episodes before writing this review. You can read more of our TV reviews here.

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