At first, Hulu’s “Wedding Season” seems to be a charming enough take on a British “Four Weddings and a Funeral”-style romantic comedy, complete with a hopeless romantic boy, his boisterous friend group, and the enigmatic American girl he falls for the minute he meets her at — where else? — a wedding. But both Oliver Lyttelton’s take on the setup and the American at its center have more up their sleeves than a charming meet-cute. The second that initial layer’s peeled, “Wedding Season” (not to be confused with Netflix’s recent movie of the same name) is off and running in another direction entirely — a murder mystery with roots in the kind of deep corruption that would give Jason Bourne nightmares. Whether or not it all hangs together will be for the audience to decide, with all eight episodes out Sept. 8 on Hulu (but only seven made available for critics ahead of its premiere). What is clear regardless of how the mystery ends, however, is the talent of its cast, and its charismatic lead in particular.
The show unfolds, as so many now do, in two parallel timelines. The first follows a series of weddings, starting with the one that first brought lovelorn doctor Stefan (Gavin Drea) and Katie (Rosa Salazar) together — even though she’s engaged to the rich and insufferable Hugo Delaney (George Webster). Stefan’s friends — Leila (Callie Cooke), Anil (Bhav Joshi), Jackson (Omar Baroud) and Suji (Ioanna Kimbook) — immediately clock Katie as a uniquely dangerous choice for him, though even they have no idea just how right they are until it’s too late. Case in point is the second timeline, which picks up three months later with Katie and Hugo’s wedding ending in a sudden shock of violence, leaving the entire Delaney family lying dead in their soup. Recent years have made this kind of in medias res framework all too predictable; it’s almost even more surprising at this point if a TV show doesn’t start with some wild event before flashing back to where it all started. Still: the “wedding season” structure of the past and constant motion of the present (as directed by George Kane) generally makes for a smart combination for this series, even when the turns are more predictable than truly twisty.
Drea, tasked with grounding the action as the stakes become increasingly unwieldy, imbues Stefan with loads of charm — and, crucially, just enough hopeful recklessness from the start to make his commitment to following Katie down every rabbit hole somewhat plausible. As his equally annoyed and affectionate inner circle, Cooke, Joshi, Baroud and Kimbook immediately gel into a recognizable friend group that could easily anchor their own show (albeit a sitcom that would probably include far fewer high-speed chases). Rounding out the show’s eminently capable cast are Jamie Michie and Jade Harrison as the police assigned to the Delaney murder case, with Michie playing the gruff teddy bear to Harrison’s spine of steel. Throughout, Leonie Hartard’s costume design instantly makes each character specific unto themselves, making clear who they are before they’ve even said a word.
For as good as all the above are, though, it’s Salazar (also an associate producer) who once again finds a way to steal the whole thing. Just as she did in “Alita: Battle Angel” and series like “Brand New Cherry Flavor” and “Undone,” Salazar turn entire scenes from sincere, to funny, to heart-stopping thrillers and back again with a single, calculated adjustment of her oft unnervingly widened eyes. Even as Katie can be an undeniably frustrating character (usually on purpose, but not always), Salazar always makes her as compelling as Stefan finds her, keeping “Wedding Season” afloat whenever it threatens to sink under its own weight.
All eight episodes of “Wedding Season” premiere on Hulu on Sept. 8.
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