Conman thriller The Following Events Are Based on a Pack of Lies is a curiously watchable thing
“The system is designed for men like Rob”
Written by Penelope Skinner and Ginny Skinner, The Following Events Are Based on a Pack of Lies is an odd thing but one which proved rather watchable. A story of two very different women with only one thing in common, the conman who has wriggled into their lives. Over five episodes (arguably one too many), the show treads a fine line between imagination and implausibility, looking at our capacity for self-deception and the extent to which some are willing to deceive.
Years after Rob popped out for a chow mein and never came back, his then-wife Alice sees him on the streets of Oxford and discovers that not only is he still alive, he appears to be a celebrated environmental activist and academic. Given that he absconded with all her money and her parents’ retirement fund to boot, she’s fuming, but as she spots his attention falling on bestselling fantasy author Caroline who is recently bereaved, a unique opportunity for revenge emerges. But can she outcon the consummate conman?
Elements of the show are powerfully convincing. The way in which Alistair Petrie’s Rob insinuates his way into every aspects of Caroline’s life is terrifyingly plausible, the magnificent Marianne Jean-Baptiste absolutely selling how he could play on her vulnerabilities and ignore the protestations of her friends and colleagues. And Rebekah Staton is excellent as the vibrant Alice, spotting the opportunity to heal long-open wounds even if it feels like there’s a mountain to climb in order to get anyone to take her seriously.
Other aspects get a bit more fanciful and whilst the sense of fun about the whole affair is entertaining (love a bit of direct address), it muddies the tone of the story somewhat. One of the more inventive touches is the interpolation of the stories of Rob’s previous victims, presented as news pieces, but the serious and silly don’t always mesh quite so well. Still, with Derek Jacobi, Karl Johnson and Romola Garai offering sterling support in supporting roles, this is a compelling look at how modern fraudsters can do well.