‘Dead Hot’ review: A wild mystery thriller that blends murder and dancefloors from Mashable

If at any point you think you know where Prime Video’s Dead Hot is going to go next, you must have one hell of an imagination.

Charlotte Coben (Harlan Coben’s daughter, who worked on the TV adaptations of The Stranger, Stay Close, Shelter, and Fool Me Once) has taken on the murder mystery thriller game herself, creating and writing one of the most simultaneously weird, erratic, and addictive series you’ll stream through in a day. Directed by Sam Arbor and David Sant, this six-episode series with a penchant for dun-dun-DUUUUUUN reveals has it all: a missing person, a bloody finger, false identities, dating app catfishing, crime families, a miniature horse, corrupt cops, furries, an equine-themed bachelorette party, and dalliances with mysterious strangers.

But among the sporadic MDMA day sessions, ill-advised hook-ups, and secret meetings in red-lit bars, the series boasts two immensely compelling leads to steer this chaotic ship: Rye Lane‘s Vivian Oparah and Extraordinary‘s Bilal Hasna.

What is Dead Hot about?

Who is Will (Marcus Hodson), exactly?
Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

Set in Liverpool, Dead Hot follows Oparah and Hasna as best friends Jess and Elliot, who are united in torment over the disappearance of Peter (Olisa Odele), Jess’ twin brother and the love of Elliot’s life. Five years ago, Peter vanished, with the only trace being his severed finger left in a pool of blood, disturbingly discovered by Elliot himself.

Attempting to move on half a decade later, Elliot has a whirlwind date with dreamy stranger Will (Marcus Hodson). Navigating his feelings of guilt with Jess’ support, Elliot thinks this guy could be his first big romance since losing Peter. But there’s something mystifying about Will, especially when messed up things start happening. Meanwhile, Jess gets a sudden match on a DNA-pairing app. Could it be Peter? Who is this anonymous stranger who could be related to her? Who is on the other end of the red telephone in the bar? Who left this cat here? So many questions.

It’s these parallel narrative strings that Dead Hot follows, as Jess and Elliot’s frantic yearning for any skerrick of hope leads them further and further into dangerous territory — and when I tell you this is merely the tip of the iceberg of this often bonkers narrative, that’s sugar-coating it. But what these moments of chaos and breakneck twists and turns do for the protagonists is give them unreal moments dramatic enough to match the sheer surrealism of their own grief.

Vivian Oparah and Bilal Hasna make the show

Vivian Oparah and Bilal Hasna as Jess and Elliot.
Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

As besties and amateur detectives Jess and Elliot, Oparah and Hasna fuel Dead Hot, moving their characters through reluctant mourning, fearless determination, and sheer terror with a measured levity. Coben’s script pushes them into some pretty dark places (physically and emotionally), but the characters’ relatability and fearlessness means the audience isn’t plunged into Broadchurch-level misery. Every step of the way, Jess and Elliot hold on to hope that the worst hasn’t happened, and they both take moments of escapism when they can, which are also moments of reprieve for the audience, and which allow both Oparah and Hasna to tease out some comedy.

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They’re surrounded by a talented support cast, including the criminally underused and downright hilarious Jaylin Ye and Brandon Fellows as Jess and Elliot’s friends Karis and Charlie (honestly, every time Ye and Fellows are onscreen it’s a good time), and Andro Cowperthwaite as Jess’ perpetually unimpressed boss Raphael, none of whom get enough screen time until later episodes.

Andro Cowperthwaite, Jaylin Ye, and Brandon Fellows deserve more screen time.
Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

Downton Abbey‘s Penelope Wilton commands her role as Elliot’s bigoted aristocrat grandmother Francine (saved as 🖕👹🖕 in his phone) who refuses to acknowledge he’s gay, instead literally paying him to go on dates with women. Rosie Cavaliero is gloriously unfathomable as Elliot’s spoiled horse-loving aunt Bonnie, Rebekah Murrell plays the mystery card well as enigmatic stranger Mary, and Peter Serafinowicz has a grand run as the crooked DCI Danny, spewing unscrupulousness and threats as casually as ordering a coffee.

Dead Hot blends mystery thriller with hedonistic partying

Before we investigate that lead, there’s always time for a cocktail.
Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

If your twin or boyfriend vanished, leaving only a digit behind, no one could judge you for wanting to escape into a heady stream of partying to escape the darkness. That’s exactly what Jess and Elliot do, often finding their way to the dancefloor of Liverpool’s late night venues in the middle of their investigations or cannonballing into copious amounts of Baby’s Blood cocktails before lunch. It’s here the show places the characters in many a neon-lit bar, bright pink salon, or heaving nightclub, which proves a unique, aesthetically lush setting for their yarn-walling through heavier things. While it seems a random choice for a mystery thriller to drop a dancefloor in the middle of a mystery, it makes sense for the characters themselves, whose mid-20s have been filled with one big unanswered question and only each other who truly understands that.

Ultimately, Dead Hot is a relatively hard to pin down mystery thriller that careens through narrative gear changes and reveals as chaotically as possible, gifting you two wonderful protagonists to cling to through the mess. There’s drama at every turn underpinned with deep grief and the power of friendship (don’t look at me like that), and you’ll probably breeze through these episodes in one weekend.

Dead Hot is now streaming on Prime Video in the UK and Ireland. Global dates TBC.

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