Netflix’s newest offering is Unbelievable, an eight-episode limited series based on the 2018 book, An Unbelievable Story of Rape. The series explores two different stories — one about Marie Adler (played by Kaitlyn Dever,) a young adult living in Washington who is raped in the middle of the night, and the aftermath of her assault. The other storyline follows two detectives in Colorado investigating a series of rapes three years after Marie’s assault.
The series was co-created by Jewish literary royalty, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, and is the latest instance of Chabon’s foray from writing into television production. Though only two episodes of Unbelievable were written by Chabon, his hand in its strong, steady storytelling is undeniable. One could argue that the series’ premise is tried and stale: a grumpy senior detective showing the ropes to her colleague and forming a professional connection along the way is something we’ve seen time and time again. But Detectives Duvall and Rasmussen (played by Merritt Weaver and Toni Collett respectively) refuse to fall into the stereotypes we expect from cop shows. Their quiet and intense vigour as they work the case is satisfying and enjoyable to watch, as is watching them slowly piece together the mystery of their investigation. The series is reminiscent of Chabon’s literary works: it takes its time telling a delicate story, and it does so with care, expert character building and great writing.
It can be hard to watch at times, especially the first episode, which flashes back to Marie’s sexual assault a handful of times, and is unflinching in its portrayal of police procedure in the repercussions of sexual assault. And it can also be devastating, watching how Marie’s life is affected by the fallout of her rape and the subsequent investigation. What makes it even more heart-breaking is knowing that this is all based on a true story, one that’s been covered by popular podcast This American Life, and one that won the authors of An Unbelievable Story of Rape a Pulitzer Prize in 2016.
It’s one of the most satisfying cop shows I’ve watched in a long time, and one that feels so perfectly contained in its storytelling: it’s not too long, nor does it leave you wanting even more. And it’s an example of what Netflix does best, delivering an almost perfect series that leaves you thinking about it long after you’ve finished watching it.
About the author
Shoshana Gottlieb is a writer fresh out of uni and mooching off her brother’s Netflix account. An avid TV and movie fan, she dreams of writing romcoms and Hallmark Chanukah movies. Her favourite TV shows at the moment are The Good Place and Big Little Lies, and her favourite romcom is When Harry Met Sally. You can find her movie reviews at shoshanagottlieb.wordpress.com and her inane musings on twitter @taxiapologist.
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