The Deceived spoilers follow.
Running across one week, the drama by Lisa McGee and Tobias Beer followed university student Ophelia (Emily Reid) who began an affair with her married lecturer Michael, played by Emmett J Scanlan. Discovering she was pregnant with his child, Ophelia tracked him down to Ireland where Michael told her that his wife, successful author Roisin (Catherine Walker), had been killed in a fire.
A sinister chain of events transpired as Ophelia became convinced of a supernatural presence — only to realise that Michael was manipulating her mind.
The final episode revealed that Roisin was very much alive, and it was she who Ophelia had been encountering. Michael had locked her away and staged the fire to dispose of the body of a young woman, Annabelle (Saffron Coomber), after Roisin accidentally caused her death. Annabelle was another student Michael had been sleeping with, whose novel he had passed off as his own.
Ophelia didn't have much to say for herself over her liaisons with Michael, but she managed to convince Roisin that her husband had been controlling her throughout their marriage, and was still doing so. As he attacked Ophelia, Roisin struck him with a brick, and he was killed after falling through the burnt-out floorboards. Her mother, Mary (Eleanor Methven), was horrified to have been taken in by Michael's deceit, and helped ensure that police believed he was Annabelle's murderer.
Fans praised the show, which featured standout scenes from Catherine Walker as Roisin, alongside Emmett J Scanlan's brilliantly chilling performance as Michael. Because of this, some suggested the closing moments provided the perfect opportunity for a second series.
A year after those traumatic events unfolded, Roisin was missing and presumed dead. She was then found living abroad by Annabelle's brother Richard (Lloyd Everitt), who addressed her by name and told her he had been looking for her. This could leave an opening for the character to face 'justice', if Richard had somehow worked out her part in his sister's death.
But does anyone really want to see that? The idea of Roisin being punished in future episodes offers no intrigue at all, and would contradict a satisfying conclusion.
While Ophelia was central to the plot, there's nothing more to explore with her now, as we saw her happily living her life as a mother. The same can be said for other characters like Sean, played by Paul Mescal, and Ruth (Shelley Conn). They each played instrumental roles in helping to confirm Michael's guilt, albeit in different ways. But beyond this, there isn't a story for them going forward.
The Deceived may have only had four episodes to its name, but this worked in its favour as the plot couldn't be stalled for too long. Although some limited series occasionally make a comeback if there's enough potential, it doesn't feel like there's much more story left to tell here.
The last hour provided more than enough time to unravel the lies, and the show didn't feel unfinished, even with that ambiguous last scene. The cliffhanger was actually a great way to avoid clearing things up a little too neatly. It allowed for a more realistic outcome without offering up any urgent questions, leaving the rest up to our imaginations.
There could be an argument for continuing the premise with fresh stories that make sense with the show's title. However, this carries the risk of being unable to live up to the original twists that had us on the edge of our seats.
If The Deceived was to return, a new season could instead shift the focus onto a ghostly theme — hinted at by local clairvoyant Cloda (Louisa Harland) and Michael's father Hugh. Hugh's tale of the childhood friend who died before he even met her was indeed a great change of pace; and actor Ian McElhinney captivated viewers in a completely different way compared to his popular role in Derry Girls.
But to base a sequel on this side plot would create an entirely new kind of show. Although the spiritual references could indeed have the makings of a promising primetime drama, it wouldn't be appropriate to pursue this in a second season of The Deceived given that it was Michael doing all the 'haunting'.
His behaviour was the driving force of the story as it highlighted the horrors of gaslighting. Michael's comeuppance was the only natural outcome for the story, and the show deserves to maintain this finality without detracting from such a powerful message.
So while a separate spin-off in the same setting would be welcome, the impact of The Deceived will be far better preserved if it remains a stand-alone series.
The Deceived aired on Channel 5, and you can catch up on the whole series on My5 now.
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