4 things we can learn about obsession from 'Cheat'

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The gripping new thriller shows what happens when someone lets their curiosity unravel into obsession. Here’s what we learnt…

Obsession is a word we like to throw around with wild abandon, whether it’s being obsessed with a TV series or obsessed with your latest lunch find that’s only a five-minute walk from the office.

But ITV’s new four-part drama Cheat puts obsession smack in the centre of the conversation. Not in a frilly, throwaway sense of the word, but in a compulsive, can’t-stop-watching way.

The psychological drama follows university professor Leah (ex-Coronation Street star Katherine Kelly) as events spiral out of control after a student (BAFTA award-winning Molly Windsor) seemingly cheats on an essay. Here, we’ve rounded up everything Cheat teaches us about obsession…

1. It preys on our shame

Everyone has desperately scrambled not to be found out at some point in their life. 

Whether it’s something as inconsequential as eating the last posh biscuit your mum was saving, or something more serious such as a lie that’s escalated, obsession often taps into our shame of being found out and protecting ourselves from that. 

In Cheat, this desperation manifests itself from the very first episode, when Leah’s student Rose witnesses her masturbating in a toilet cubicle. 

Suddenly, the power dynamic shifts and it isn’t about a professor interrogating the honesty of her student, but rather a desperate woman intent on not having her reputation marred by Rose sharing what she saw. 

As the series progresses, this desperation spirals into obsession and is only strengthened by the subsequent chain of events.

2. It grows when you’re not being heard

Just as the fated words ‘Calm down’ do the polar opposite, Cheat shows us how obsession thrives when you feel like you’re not being given a platform to voice your repetitive thoughts. 

Throughout the series, we see Leah’s husband Adam downplaying Rose’s manipulative behaviour and failing to offer his support. 

At one point, he even goes for a drink with the very woman Leah suspects is manipulating her.

Instead, in a grimly realistic trail of events, Leah is accused of being paranoid as opposed to having rational doubts.

In turn, we see Leah become even more intent on proving her ‘obsession’ is grounded in solid truth. The results of which have grave consequences…

3. It leaves a digital footprint 

There’s no denying that obsession and social media are a dangerous combination. 

Our ability to follow what our friends are doing quickly blurs into curiosity about what complete strangers are doing which, as we see in the show, can descend into unhealthy obsession.

Rose demonstrates the latter in one particular scene that shows her poised at her laptop, staring an alarming number of photographs of the figment of her obsession.

4. Facing it is a double-edged sword

Throughout Cheat, we see that obsession is a lonely state of behaviour. 

Whether it’s Leah’s dogged determination to prove she isn’t paranoid or Rose’s more secretive obsession, we see how isolating a fixation can be.

And as for confronting the object of your obsession head on, this proves to be a complicated move.

Words such as closure and satisfaction never fully come into play, but as Cheat unravels, we discover that while facing your obsession can bring some resolutions, it can also open more questions than answers, and reveal even more threads begging to be picked apart.

Cheat concludes tonight at 9pm on ITV. Watch the series so far on ITV Hub.