The cold nights are rolling in. It's getting darker earlier every day. And just as we retreat into our safe, cosy homes for the winter, Channel 4 is dropping relationship-drama-turned-psychological-thriller The Couple Next Door to make us question everything we think we know about the people we live beside.
It's unsettling really, how little we know about the smiling faces we see day-in, day-out. And The Couple Next Door – with its incredible, all-star cast – probes this idea in increasingly sinister depths. This is a show with plenty of moving parts, but it remains grounded in the high-stakes relationship between the two couples at its core: Evie and Pete (Eleanor Tomlinson and Alfred Enoch), and Danny and Becka (Sam Heughan and Rebecca De Gouw). It's in no small part down to the sizzling chemistry between the four the series promises to be a hit.
The show opens with a bang – quite literally. A cabin in the woods. A dramatic chase. Tense faces, hearts hammering, and a gunshot fired. Suddenly, the credits roll and we rewind all the way back to where this story begins: the suburbs, a setting so stifling it almost feels like a character in itself.
At a preview screening of episode one, writer David Allison explains “I'm actually kind of obsessed with suburbia and I think a lot of us have grown up in environments where everyone's curtain-twitching […] I think there's always been strange, unwritten rules about what's allowed and what's not allowed on these kinds of streets.”
It's clear the idea of moral binaries and grey areas is something Allison has woven into every element of The Couple Next Door. Alongside the intense relationships unfolding on-screen, the show clearly aims to challenge viewers' perceptions of themselves and the “progressive” people they declare themselves to be. More to the point, it challenges how willing they'd be to follow through with these values in practice.
Alfred Enoch (Tigers, How To Get Away With Murder) shares that this is one of the most enjoyable parts of exploring his “everyman” character, Pete: “There's something about him letting these things fester, he doesn't say what he wants or what he needs […] It seems unsustainable and that's one of the really exciting things about this script […] It really allows you to build on the question of what's going on behind closed doors. What's the concealed truth behind the manicured lawns and cars pulling out at the same time?”
Whilst dangerous liaisons and sizzling romances between the central quartet seem to be the primary focus of The Couple Next Door, the first episode hints that other, more sinister, elements may come into play further along the line. A curtain twitcher next door, for example, whose hyperfixation on his neighbour already sends shivers down the spine. Or perhaps Danny's (Sam Heughan – Outlander, Suspect) choice to skirt the fine line of the law, the stakes raised even higher than usual considering he's a traffic cop.
And yet, these moral grey areas are where the show's strength lies, leaving so much scope for the story to spin on its axis at the drop of a hat. It's clearly something Heughan values, explaining “Every episode I think your allegiances as a viewer will change. One moment you'll think that someone's in the wrong or in the right, but by the end of the show your perceptions will completely shift. It almost feels like a fairy tale.” With its daring romantic entanglements, sinister undertones, and incredible cast, The Couple Next Door promises to be a bingeable hit for the winter months. It's a little bit dangerous, a little bit sexy, and has drama in spades. We can't wait to finally find out how this slice of picture-perfect suburbia all comes tumbling down.
The Couple Next Door comes to Channel 4 on 27th November 2023.