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For an Early Facebook Watch Effort, 'Strangers' is Worth the Binge
August 26, 2018  | By David Hinckley

If you’re looking to fill television’s end-of-summer dead zone with something you missed, you might consider Strangers, which has proven itself to be smarter than the average sitcom.

This Strangers, not to be confused with either the British crime drama of the 1970s or the South Korean crime drama from last year, wraps up its 10-episode second season Sunday on Facebook Watch.

Naturally, the previous nine episodes are available for catch-up binging.

Strangers revolves around Isobel Song (Zoe Chao, top), who is turning 30 and feeling some pressure to sort out her life.

After spending the first season in L.A., this year she moved to New York, where she finds both great promise and a whole lot of obstacles. It’s a familiar premise, having been used most recently this year in FX’s fine Sweetbitter, but when it’s done well, there’s plenty of room for a crowd.

What Strangers does especially well, perhaps by budgetary necessity or perhaps not, is focus. Unlike most shows, which regularly switch among multiple storylines, Strangers keeps a pretty fixed eye on Isobel and her efforts to find an apartment, a job and love, not always in that order.

Some of the show’s humor springs from her earnest neuroses. Some of it this season has also come from the simple and effective trick of making Isobel homeless, forcing her to bounce from place to place and couch to couch all over the city.

This has given the show constantly fresh settings and an endless supply of bizarre characters, many of them slightly off-center.

Still, in keeping with the minimalism, several supporting characters stand out, notably including Isobel’s best friend Cam (Meredith Hagner), who moved with her from L.A. Their friendship has hit some rough waters, and this season finale points to its possible future.

Isobel’s most important new friend in New York is Mari (Kathleen Munroe). They become sort-of girlfriends, with the caveat that Mari is already married, to Mateo (Edward Akrout). So Isobel begins a relationship with her coworker Milo (Kyle Allen), fearing that she and Mari can never be fully together.

Sunday’s season-ender yanks that relationship to its next stage, at the same time it seems to resolve Isobel’s ongoing housing situation. And oh yes, she gets an offer that could open the door to the writing career she has been pursuing.

Individually, the pieces of this puzzle seem happily-ever-after perfect. The trouble is, as it turns out, they don’t fit perfectly. So Isobel faces a whole different set of choices, and while they seem better, that doesn’t make them any less difficult.

Strangers isn’t a slick, lavish show with high-gloss production values. It doesn’t look like it was shot on an iPhone, which actually can be done these days, but it has a bit of a street feel.

Perhaps partly because of that, it moves right along, much the way life itself feels for Isobel. The season set out to tell a story, and while it leaves plenty of room for that story to continue with a third season, it goes where it promised.

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