The Deceived review: Paul Mescal conjures his sleepy-eyed charm in this silly and likeable caper

The Deceived review: Paul Mescal conjures his sleepy-eyed charm in this silly and likeable caper

The Deceived review: Paul Mescal conjures his sleepy-eyed charm in this silly and likeable caper

The Deceived review: Paul Mescal conjures his sleepy-eyed charm in this silly and likeable caper

The Deceived review: Paul Mescal conjures his sleepy-eyed charm in this silly and likeable caper 1

A huge collective intake of breath grips social media as Normal People star Paul Mescal makes his entrance 25 minutes into The Deceived, an agreeably hokey gothic chiller from Channel 5. Mescal was an obscure gaelic footballer-turned-actor when he filmed this pungently diverting psycho-thriller last year (after Normal People but before it aired and caused a chain reaction). However, there are unmistakable glimmerings of the star potential he would exhibit as Normal People sad hunk Connell Waldron in his smallish role as a sympathetic Co Donegal builder and volunteer fireman, who has swapped the iconic jewellery for fire-proof overalls and a selection of sensible cardigans.

Mescal, it is true, doesn’t have an opportunity to display the full sweep of his talents in the first of four episodes (to be broadcast across consecutive nights). There’s no tragic brooding, no solemn huffing, no looking as if he’s about to burst into tears whilst scoring a goal / going for chips with the lads / having sex. And no aforementioned Connell Chain sending Twitter into a swoon.

The hysterics are instead courtesy of Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee’s overwrought plot (co-authored with husband Tobias Beer). With Mescal’s Sean relegated to the background, the focus is on Cambridge undergrad Ophelia (Belgravia’s Emily Reid) and her affair with Emmett J Scanlan’s dashing – and married – English lecturer Michael Callaghan. He is middle aged but with a conspicuous and slightly creepy hipster beard, so she really should have considered herself forewarned. As should the viewer who, not five minutes in, is assailed by a hilarious PG-13 sex scene in which fully clothed student and tutor are passionately entwined at his desk yet somehow manage not to knock over any coffee mugs, snag themselves on something sharp or go flying across the room on his swivel chair (at his age, Michael is surely in danger of putting his back out to boot).


Their fling is cut short when Michael suddenly and without explanation hotfoots it back to remote Donegal in north west Ireland (a quick drive across the border from McGee’s native Derry). His wife Róisín, a successful author, has died in a house fire that nobody finds suspicious, though it obviously is (it killed her but left the furniture intact). Ophelia follows and he’s crestfallen when she turns up unannounced at the funeral, but not too crestfallen, as they are soon continuing their relationship at Róisín’s lightly-singed hereditary manse.

There are obvious overtones of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, which McGee makes explicit when Ophelia dons a glum sweater belonging to Michael’s dead wife. But just how dead is she exactly? A ghoulish knocking from behind a locked door leads Ophelia to suspect Michael is not sharing the whole truth (he’s definitely hiding something in that “cool dad” beard). And what about that apparition of a woman gazing at her from downstairs? That’s not normal, is it?

It’s terrifically hokey. And though Reid and Scanlan punch the clock in their parts, the real wattage is brought by Mescal as the fireman who discovered Róisín’s body. His wee soft Donegal accent is flawless and he conjures effortlessly the sleepy-eyed charm that he has exuded in his media appearances but which he was required to put on a leash in Normal People. He isn’t the only reason to watch this silly and likeable caper. But if you are here exclusively for bonus Connell content, The Deceived will not send you to bed disappointed.


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