TV

Harlan Coben’s Shelter Review: Big, Dumb and Sort Of Fun


Very serious themes meet Scooby Doo mystery-solving in this bewilderingly poor taste teen thriller that’s entertaining, but not always for the right reasons.

Adrian Greensmith, Jaden Michael and Abby Corrigan as Spoon, Mickey and Ema in Harlan Coben's Shelter
Photo: Prime Video

“The man who attacked my husband had a tattoo on his face… of an octopus!” That line is delivered with funeral home-seriousness in new Prime Video series Shelter. It is far from alone. “By all means,” says one character with the earnest commitment of an Oscar-clip, “proceed with your twisted mind games and murdering of drama teachers!” Another poignantly confides in a friend about his mother’s depression with the sad words, “It started when she was a teen tennis pro.”

Do they know? They have to know. 

I don’t know if they know. At some points watching Harlan Coben’s Shelter, you’ll think the creators are definitely in on the joke. The dialogue feels zippy and ironic, as if the characters are aware that they’re essentially in a Scooby Doo episode themed, with bewildering poor taste, around child abuse, underage sex trafficking, and the Holocaust. At other points, they really don’t seem to know.

The eight-episode thriller is a baffling mix. There’s child abduction. People getting shot in the head. A horrific car crash. An amateur production of Phantom of the Opera. Historical genocide. A charming middle-aged lesbian love story. And so many lengthy scenes of high school basketball that you’ll scour the credits for signs that the episodes are sponsored by a government initiative to get kids into sports. 

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