Stay Close is exactly what you’d expect, nothing more or less

Cush Jumbo as Megan Pierce in Harlan Coben's Stay Close. She's wearing a green jumper, using a knife to cut some rope, and looking worried.

As is often the case with crime thrillers like this, Stay Close is about a group of people haunted by their past – a past that’s come rushing forward into the present, threatening to disrupt their comfortable if stagnant suburban lives. Megan Pierce (Cush Jumbo) is a mother of three who reinvented herself seventeen years ago; Mike Broome (James Nesbitt) is a burned-out detective still obsessed with a seventeen-year-old cold-case; Ray Levine (Richard Armitage) is a struggling photographer still reeling from the disappearance of his girlfriend seventeen years earlier. The characters’ lives are, as you’d expect, intertwined, and Stay Close weaves a complex plot as it moves from one thread of its story to the next.

At its most basic level, Stay Close is very watchable. It feels designed to be binged, one episode leading into the next – it’s compelling in the sort of way that makes you want to keep going with it, if not necessarily compelling in the sort of way that you’d remember it in much detail a few months down the line. It’s atmospheric and suspenseful, often tense and dramatic, never quite addictive but certainly gripping: if you liked Safe, you’ll very likely enjoy this too. 

I’ve reviewed the new Harlan Coben Netflix adaptation. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d imagine it to be (albeit with one exception, discussed in the above review) – if you like this sort of thing, it’s worth a watch, but if not, it won’t do much to change your mind about them.

You can find more of my writing about television here, and follow me on twitter @morelandwriter.

The 21 Best TV Shows of 2021

7 circles on a pale pink background. Each circle represents a different TV show, and has a different colour hue: red (It's A Sin), orange (Stath Lets Flats), yellow (For All Mankind), green (Succession), blue (Superstore), purple (What We Do in the Shadows), and black & white (Landscapers).

“Best” can be a bit of a tricky word, especially when it comes to ranking something creative like a television programme. A ranked list suggests something quantifiable or easily measured, but “best” is often anything but.

In this particular context, it means something between greatest, most memorable, and often simply personal favourite. It’s necessarily quite a specific list, and in some ways a limited one: it doesn’t include popular shows like Squid Game, The White Lotus, The Underground Railroad, or Maid, because in each case I didn’t quite get around to watching them.

So, with all that established: here are the twenty-one best television shows of 2021.

I was planning on writing my year-end list as a series of articles, ten pieces on the ten different shows, shared daily through December – admittedly, that was massively optimistic from the outset, something I’ve tried and failed to do for a few years running now, but it just went totally out the window the moment I started the NationalWorld job.

Instead, I wrote this Top 21 piece (funny numbers like 21 rather than normal ones like 10 do better for clicks, it turns out), with a couple of hundred words about each show listed – which is quite fun in its own way too! I’ve never done a list this long before, so it was nice to be able to celebrate some other stuff that I really enjoyed, but wouldn’t have quite made the top ten.

(While I was still planning the Top Ten pieces, I did write a Special Mentions and Runners Up post, which I’ll upload soon as well as a little counterpart to this. And eventually I’ll do my movies list as well – late December proved surprisingly hectic, so I’m quite behind on a lot of the customary end-of-year stuff.)

Related:

Best of 2020 | My Top 10 TV series of the year

You can find more of my writing about television here, and follow me on twitter @morelandwriter.