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Saint X review: Hulu's psychological drama can't figure out what it wants to say

Alycia Debnam-Carey does her best with clunky dialogue and a convoluted plot that drowns out any social commentary

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Jayden Elijah and West Duchovny sit on a hammock together in a still from Saint X
From left: Jayden Elijah, West Duchovny
Photo: Paloma Alegria/Hulu

At first glance, Saint X, the new Hulu adaptation of Alexis Schaitkin’s ambitious novel of the same name, seems like an intriguing vehicle to tackle a laundry list of thorny but timely topics: Race, class, privilege, sexuality, and missing white woman syndrome. But whereas the source material excels as an engrossing examination of human relationships, Leila Gerstein’s eight-part series, which premieres April 26, buckles under the weight of its own ambition, burying any social commentary in a convoluted, long-winded story that ultimately comes to an unsatisfying conclusion.

The miniseries follows Emily Thomas (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a documentarian whose life is turned upside down when she unwittingly gets into a New York City cab with Clive “Gogo” Richardson (Josh Bonzie), one of the two resort workers suspected of killing her older sister, Alison (West Duchovny), nearly two decades ago on the final night of a family vacation in the Caribbean.


Told through multiple timelines and perspectives, the psychological drama introduces a number of other characters whose lives were similarly impacted by the mysterious death of the former Princeton student, including Emily and Alison’s parents, Mia (Betsy Brandt) and Bill (Michael Park), and Clive’s former friend, Edwin Hastings (Jayden Elijah), who was the other person suspected of Alison’s murder. (A storyline late in the season involving Edwin helps to crystallize and recontextualize his motivations when it comes to Clive, allowing viewers who might not be familiar with the novel to see Edwin’s actions in a different light.)


While Alison’s death was ruled an accident, the Thomas family, especially Bill, has continued to suspect foul play and never gotten any real closure, especially with the intense media scrutiny that they faced in the years following her death. (Alison’s death, for example, was dramatized in a tasteless made-for-TV movie, and there is a tour that purportedly traces her last steps on the island.) What begins as a chance encounter for Emily in the present soon turns into an obsessive quest for the truth, with the young woman trying to cobble together her own memories of that fateful trip while not-so-subtly tailing Clive at his favorite Caribbean restaurant. Believing that he is the only one who truly knows what happened to Alison, Emily attempts to strike up an uneasy friendship with Clive, who moved to New York after the incident in search of a fresh start.

Although the limited series format affords Gerstein and her writers’ room the opportunity to delve deeper into individual stories and spend more time in the idyllic and picturesque Caribbean setting, Saint X struggles with pacing, uncomfortably straddling the line between a mild psychological thriller and a bland family drama across eight hours. Interestingly, the show uses flashbacks outside of the week at the resort for every main character except for Alison, whose death has supposedly created a traumatic ripple effect for her entire family and fellow vacationers, many of whom we never see in the present and don’t serve much of a narrative purpose.

Saint X | Official Trailer | Hulu

Debnam-Carey is captivating when she’s given work that requires a great deal of emotional weight, but she can only find so many ways to deliver variations of the same line before viewers become desensitized to the urgency of her character’s search for answers. Viewers are effectively asked to empathize with a protagonist who has little memory of her older sister before that tragic vacation but still goes to great lengths—even stalking a potentially innocent man—to find her killer many years later, because she thinks that’s what Alison would have wanted. When Emily says at one point that she has “lost everything” in pursuit of this once-noble cause, it feels difficult to have sympathy for a character who knew the consequences of her actions and still knowingly spiraled out of control.

Similarly, Debnam-Carey and Bonzie lack the dangerous chemistry that is needed to make this thriller feel more like a gripping two-hander, where viewers should be left guessing about what they’ll do next or how they’ll react to the other person. The clunky dialogue, especially in their characters’ first meetings, doesn’t do them any favors either. It’s even harder to believe that Clive, who remains just as haunted by Alison’s death in the present, needs as much time as he does to realize that the young woman who has taken a special interest in him is the surviving Thomas sister. It isn’t until Clive realizes this important detail that Bonzie is given more to work with in both timelines, but that reveal doesn’t come until very late in the series, when the mystery finally begins to unravel.

Saint X uses the familiar cliché of people of color who serve rich, white vacationers at a resort to explore the realities of white privilege and how their performative “wokeness” can be construed as superficial at best and offensive at worst. But for a story with such an ambitious narrative structure to work, the past and the present timelines should be in constant conversation with one another, allowing viewers to draw parallels between what has changed and what has regrettably stayed the same. Instead, any headway that one timeline makes, when it comes to exploring these difficult topics, can’t be sustained by the other; the meandering plot, complete with predictable plot twists, muddles any meaningful insights that one can glean from this tale.


What begins as a potentially fascinating exploration of unconscious bias, sexual politics, true-crime entertainment, and the media frenzy surrounding missing young white women gets drowned out in a story that bites off more than it can chew, showing that some mysteries in life might be better left unsolved after all.

Saint X premieres on April 26 on Hulu.