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For Her Sins, Channel 5, review: clichéd thriller verges perilously close to parody

Have you seen Gone Girl or read one of the countless novels centred on a woman's unravelling? If so, this show's plot will bear no surprises

Jo Joyner remains great at portraying the everywoman, but her performance can't save this tired script CREDIT: Channel 5

Just over a year ago Netflix released the brilliant The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window. It was a spoof of all those psychological thrillers in which women, often holed up in houses drinking wine while their useless husbands were away, went slightly mad. Or did they? In general what sustained the thriller was whether or not the woman/girl in the house/train/window was being gaslit by some vengeful puppetmaster.

For Her Sins, a Channel 5 six-part thriller, was a considerably better parody than The Woman in the House. Its sole failing was that it wasn’t meant to be. It began with a woman, Laura (Jo Joyner), who seemed to have it all – she was a successful lawyer, lived in a house with a statement extractor fan, wallowed around in a surfeit of mood lighting. And yet all was not as it seemed: Laura’s husband was absent, she was struggling to cope with two young children and she was desperate to get back to work. Into Laura’s life like the first sentence in a dashed-off plot synopsis waltzed Emily (All Creatures Great and Small’s Rachel Shenton), on a mission to dig up dirt from Laura’s past and stuff up her life.

Rachel Shenton in For Her Sins CREDIT: Channel 5

Emily’s words when she ‘bumped in’ to Laura for only the second time were, “I’m starting to feel like some sort of crazy stalker now.” That should probably have set Laura’s crazy stalker alarm bells ringing and yet this otherwise entirely sane woman welcomed this scowling telly trope in to her life, as if she’d never seen The Replacement, or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, or Gone Girl, or read a single bestselling airport novel from the last decade. Shenton unveiled a series of lingering stares to hammer home the point that she couldn’t be trusted, while a succession of flashbacks drip-fed shadowy secrets from Laura’s past. No one, you see, was quite who they said they were.

You get the idea: For Her Sins was a thriller that hit its plot points with an inflatable clown hammer. Joyner was great as the everywoman – she always is – but the credibility she brought to her character only set the implausibility of that character’s behaviour into stark relief. It was almost worthy of parody.

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