'Our House' is a Very-Very-Very Fine House, But a Not-So-Good Series

Picture shows: Bram Lawson (Martin Compston) at the front door of his house.

Bram Lawson (Martin Compston).

© Red Planet Pictures/ITV

Based on the 2018 Sunday Times bestseller novel of the same name by Louise Candlish, Our House was adapted by Simon Ashdown (Eastenders) and directed by Sheree Folkson (Bridgerton) for Red Planet Pictures/ITV back in 2022. The four-episode show originally debuted on PBS Passport for members in May 2023, and now has come to broadcast, airing on local PBS stations on Thursdays in August. In the U.K. it tapped into deep-seated feelings of uncertainty and loss. A house is more than just a building, but a foundation stone of your family, community, and well-being.

This can’t be right. How would you feel if you came home and you found everything gone, strangers moved into your house, your husband missing, everything you’ve worked your whole life for ...

Fi Lawson (Tuppence Middleton, Downton Abbey) returns home after a weekend away and finds strangers moving into her house. In addition, her husband Bram (Martin Compston, Line Of Duty) and her two young sons Leo (Tommy Finnegan) and Harry (Casper Knopf) are missing and inaccessible. A call to the school principal reveals that they’re out with their father, who is not answering his phone, an annoying little blip of extraneous plot that goes away. Only one other person’s name is on the deeds to the house, and that’s Bram, so it’s a great big fat hint that he was somehow behind this, if Fi is being truthful. (That this is an immediate question quietly proves how much the series is priming viewers for the unreliable narrator trope from the jump.) 

The “new” house owners, Lucy (Dinita Gohil) and David Vaughan (Felix Scott),are about as reasonable as they could be in the face of Fi’s accusations, but everyone becomes frustrated. The police become involved and essentially tell Fi there’s nothing they can do. The funds from the house sale are not in Fi’s account, where they should be, according to the buyers, and she claims her signature has been faked.

Picture shows: Fi (Tuppence Middleton)

Fi (Tuppence Middleton).

© Red Planet Pictures/ITV

But let’s go back to the beginning! (The tendency for shows to start with this in-media-res is annoying; you don’t always know exactly where you are in the story.) The Lawsons had been happy for several years in the house, doing tasteful renovations, and it’s now worth about £2m in a charming South London neighborhood. They have friendly neighbors, and Fi is close to other yummy mummies, Merle (Weruche Opia) and Alison (Bronagh Waugh). But we don’t know much about Fi, and despite Middleton’s attempts, she remains a cipher. She works, but it seems a minor detail of her life, and I’d have liked Middleton to have had more to do in this role.

Bram works in sales, an occupation that uses his natural friendliness, but again, job details are a bit thin on the ground. Comstock is thoroughly believable as a man who sincerely loves his children, but in other respects, his trickster charm doesn’t serve him so well. Fi returns late from work one evening and finds Bram and her best friend Merle frolicking naked in the Wendy house in the garden. Fi is furious. She refuses to speak to Merle and banishes Bram from the house but allows him access to the children, and he will agree to just about anything to see his sons.

In a reconciliatory gesture, Bram asks Fi if she’ll come to the park for a soccer kickabout, and she grudgingly agrees, although as a wet noodle. Furthermore, she distracts Bram by forgetting to wear a bra, carelessness, or, more likely, spite. Fi and Bram agree to rent a nearby apartment, and ‘birdnest’ aka take turns living with the boys in the house. No boyfriends/girlfriends are allowed in the house, but what happens in the flat stays in the flat. The amount of whining about the situation — a closet door that won’t close, a dripping tap — is all first-world angst. It would be a stronger series if you felt you could root for at least one of these characters.

Picture shows: Wendy (Buket Komur) stalks Bram (Martin Compston) at the fun fair. She has a nice big armful of pink cotton candy which she is not about to share with him.

Wendy (Buket Komur) and Bram (Martin Compston).

© Red Planet Pictures/ITV

Bram finds his cash flow burdened by the flat, and there’s a spot of bother at work where he hasn’t turned in his car insurance information. He has to confess to administrator Saskia (Celinde Schoenmaker) he lost his driver’s license. (Fi shoved a boxful of unpaid speeding tickets at him.) Saskia finds him an intern as a driver but expects payback at a conference where she invites him to her room. He turns her down since Fi has asked him to “just talk,” and he can’t resist her. He’s tailgated on the way there, and after some dangerous swerving about, the two speeding cars force one another off the road and leave the crash scene.

Bram arrives to find Fi all dressed up and with wine and candles, anticipating a reconciliation/seduction. He also finds out the passengers of the crashed car are seriously injured, and one of them, an eight-year-old, is in a coma. He faces a hefty prison sentence for leaving the scene of an accident, and it’s then, alone and stressed, that Bram meets the young and seductive Wendy (Buket Komur), a witness to the accident, demanding £5,000 for her silence. She stalks him at work and the neighborhood fun fair before upping the amount to £10,000. Bram scrapes around, asking his mother if she’ll sell his deceased father’s car. (Hilariously, she refers to it as a family heirloom.)

Encouraged by her friends, Fi encounters an attractive man, Toby (Rupert Penry-Jones, The Drowning, as the posh, slightly sinister charmer he does so well), and agrees to meet for a drink. They decide they shouldn’t meet again and then make out like a pair of teenagers in his car. It doesn’t take them long to become lovers, and Fi to tell Bram she’s seeing someone. Bram, meanwhile, has found it impossible to meet Wendy’s demands. He meets her at a cafe with all the cash he can find and promises he’s selling his car to raise funds.

Picture shows: Fi (Tuppence Middleton) at a wine bar with a handsome stranger, Toby (Rupert Penry-Jones)

 Fi (Tuppence Middleton) and Toby (Rupert Penry-Jones).

© Red Planet Pictures/ITV

In reality, he dumped the car, reported it stolen, and waited to collect the insurance. He is surprised the police sent an officer to the apartment to confirm his report. (He doesn’t consider creating a police record under the circumstances may not work out so well.) He and Wendy are joined by her partner Mike, who is none other than Toby. Mike/Toby tells Bram that the price for his freedom has now increased. Bram must sell the house. They plan an open house for the half-term weekend when Fi will be away at the beach with her kids and friends.

Once an offer has been made, Mike will take Fi away for a romantic break at a country hotel. Fi has come to a dead end in trying to find out how her identity was stolen or by whom, but she manages to repair her friendship with Merle. Merle apologizes and says her one time with Bram was reacting to a bad patch with her husband. She’s pregnant but assures Fi it’s her husband’s. So their intimacy resumes and Merle offers Fi a sleeping pill to help her relax. Christmas comes around, and Bram and Fi spend it with the boys at the house. They have a reconciliation, and although their sons are pleased to see mummy and daddy snuggled up again, it doesn’t last.

The pressure increases for Bram when the eight-year-old died from injuries. As a father, he is filled with remorse. He threatens to go to the police and confess; Mike threatens he and Wendy will move into the house if he does so. After a date with Fi, Mike asks if he can come into use the bathroom; Fi says yes, breaking the family agreement. When Bram unexpectedly shows up, violence ensues. Fi threatens to involve lawyers, but as Bram leaves, Fi realizes he knows her boyfriend. Instead of asking questions, she and “Toby” go off for their romantic break, with him persuading her to stay despite work emergencies that could have upended the plan.

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Our House

Fi Lawson finds strangers moving into her home; the secrets and lies have only just begun.
Our House: show-poster2x3

Fi returns home, and we return to ground zero of the series — the moving van, the stripped house, and the strangers. Bram is at the airport, fleeing the country. The apartment is deserted, with some papers relating to the sale of the house and a photo of Fi and Bram on their honeymoon left behind. She finds a burner phone full of messages between Bram and Mike. She invites “Toby” to the apartment, lets him in, and says Bram is on his way. They drink wine together, but the gloves are off, with Mike threatening to harm her and the boys if she doesn’t come up with some money. She is shocked at the road rage story and feels used; he is contemptuous, dismissive of her feelings, claiming neither she nor the house were special. (I’d disagree regarding the house.)

Then he collapses. Idiotically, Fi has laced his wine with Merle’s sleeping pill and some of Bram’s antidepressants. She locks herself in the bathroom while he dies outside (and the tap is still dripping). Then she calls Merle, and the two exchange some of the worst dialogue ever: “Something bad’s happened ... What did you do to him? ... You’ve got a dead body in your house.” Merle then proceeds to give Fi advice. No one else knows Toby is also Mike, so Fi should call the police and say she found a dead stranger in her apartment. Never mind DNA and all that other forensic stuff. At one point, Fi says, “Maybe it’s not the end of the world, losing the house.” Really?

The police interview Fi at Merle’s house and then take her to the police station. And Bram? Bram’s fate in an unknown European city, traveling on a fake passport, is unclear. He leaves an audio suicide note declaring Fi is innocent. However, he also mentions Mike and Toby are the same person and transfers the house sale funds to Fi’s account, both of which implicate her. But would this man, who loves his sons to death, really commit suicide without even leaving a message for them? Or is he faking his death to escape (and run the risk of never seeing them again)? It doesn’t make sense other than as a blatant bid for a Season 2, a confused and unsatisfying ending for a series with an intriguing premise.

All episodes of Our House are streaming for members on PBS Passport and airing on Thursday nights on PBS stations in August. As always, check your local listings.

Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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