Editor’s Note: This review is based on the first three episodes.
The pilot episode of ONE OF US IS LYING introduces us to the student body of Bayview High School, specifically four students who have deep, dark secrets, and a fifth who knows and threatens to expose them. It opens with voiceovers teasing all four secrets but not getting into specifics, just promising that all will be revealed at a later date. Throughout this intro, we meet Nate (Cooper van Grootel), Bronwyn (Marianly Tejada), Cooper (Chibuikem Uche), and Addy (Annalisa Cochrane), all presumed to be the topics of said gossip. Written by Erica Saleh and based on the bestselling novel by Karen M. McManus, the limited series ONE OF US IS LYING premiers on Peacock later this week and tells the story and the aftermath of what happens when five students enter the library, but only four of them leave alive.
Simon (Mark McKenna) serves as the TMZ of his high school with his slanderous tell-alls that reveal the deepest and most incendiary secrets of everyone on the student body. Through the use of an app called About That, Simon can simultaneously notify everyone in the school, which allows him to destroy a person with one keystroke. With the opening of the first episode, we hear Simon’s voice promising a special load of gossip to start out the new school year. And as we start to see the characters interact it turns out that while Simon’s app is popular (beeping on everyone’s phone when a new post drops) Simon himself is not. Unsurprisingly, few students want to be seen with the guy who inexplicably knows and then exposes everyone’s secrets.
Rooted firmly in a John Hughes look-a-like world, Simon and four of his subjects find themselves in detention on the first day of school. The evil teacher demands an essay from all of them, then exits the scene, leaving the five alone in the library. The jock, the straight-A student, the popular girl, the burnout, and the freak all find themselves ready to recreate The Breakfast Club. But instead of engaging in bonding moments and montages, Simon quickly goes into anaphylactic shock and dies soon after.
The bright hormone-infused hallways quickly become cast in shadows as the school deals with the death of a classmate and the ensuing police investigation. The detective pushes the four surviving detention members and reveals that more than just Nate has a troubled background. In fact, all four of them feel the pressures from parents and the need to play the role their family carved out for them. We also discover several details which might indicate at least a couple of them were set up. But then again, the unreliable lies of teenagers might just indicate a cover-up. Nervous side glances and whispers now surround Nate, Addy, Cooper, and Bronwyn. They can’t rely on each other, and they know even on an individual basis, they are not trustworthy. And even though Simon died, his app lives on. A mysterious poster takes up the reigns of About That and continues to torment the students now harboring secrets and suspected of murder. Haunted not only by their deceased classmate but also by the impending destruction of their personal lives once the app reveals the secrets that should have died with Simon.
ONE OF US presents a well-chosen cast, and with the unveiling of each new episode, the show allows another member of the main cast to show off their acting abilities. The series primarily focuses on the four detention goers, but the first episode highlights Bronwyn’s possible connection to Simon and her secret link to another member of the suspects. As the series progresses some secrets find a resolution while other mysteries emerge. The detective investigates the students, but the youths do their own sleuthing as well. And after a bit of digging, they discover many of the events which unfurled on the first day of school happened for sinister reasons. Throughout the show, we see some surprises with strong pacing and engaging storytelling. Saleh does not drag out the reveals and even when secrets start getting posted, the viewer will still enjoy the subtle twists as new developments arise to keep us all curious.
The opening to the series creates a heavy layer of mystery as the motives and backstories of Nate, Bronwyn, Cooper, and Addy only receive hints as Saleh surrounds the main murder mystery with several other secrets. Some of the hidden pieces get revealed to the audience, but not the other characters, while other, juicier bits refuse to disclose themselves for now. With each episode, more secrets will become exposed, but at the heart of the show, the main secret will always stand. Who killed Simon? One of Bayview’s most wanted? Simon’s best friend? Or the angry detention-seeking obsessed teacher? Located in a high school setting, but with more mature behavior and grown-up consequences, ONE OF US IS LYING makes an interesting show for even audience members who are well out of their teenage years.
ONE OF US IS LYING launches Thursday, October 7 on Peacock. The 8-episode season will roll-out over the course of three weeks, with new episodes dropping in batches on Thursdays.