Netflix’s UNBELIEVABLE tackles harrowing subject matter with intense and inventive storytelling

Netflix, the home of true crime, is here with another true crime drama series that may be one of its best. Unbelievable follows the story of Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), a teenager charged with falsely reporting a rape, and two detectives who are on their own investigation trying to uncover the truth.

Unbelievable focuses on two storylines, happening at different times, that it jumps back and forth between through its eight-episode run. Where initially you spend the majority of the time with Kaitlyn Dever’s character, as the case unfolds, the focus gradually transitions more to what is going on with both Toni Collette and Merritt Wever‘s characters. It’s a very interesting way to tell this story, and one which really works due to some incredible writing. The writers get quite inventive with flipping familiar story beats on their head which makes for an unpredictable rollercoaster ride.

It hooks you in early with a first episode that is one of the most tense and difficult episodes of TV to watch. It’s a 45 minute episode that feels like two hours solely due to the harrowing nature of the story and confronting imagery. But the actual direction of the series isn’t fully developed until the second and third episodes where it really kicks it up a notch. The investigation is thrilling as much as it is hard to take in, and you feel like you are right there alongside these detectives piecing everything together. It captures your attention with emotion and tugs on those emotions regularly throughout the series with some clever storytelling.

It’s a very well paced series that never slows down to the point of becoming boring and doesn’t skip beats leaving you behind. The writing, as I mentioned, is so tight that it’s evident the time spent for character growth and relationship development is balanced perfectly with the development of the story. I guess the best way to describe this series is it’s very well weighted. The balance in focus between the two stories is spot on, enough time is given to developing each of the main characters, and the whole time the mystery at hand remains just as, if not progressively more, interesting as time goes on.

Being a series centred around some pretty heavy subject matter involving sexual assault survivors, I feel like the story is handled with a comfortable level of care and consideration, but also doesn’t hold back when it comes to conveying the seriousness, realness, and weight of such inhumane crimes. The (largely) female cast and predominantly female lead cast I believe strengthens the impact of the story and the investigation, by having it be seen through a specific voice.

When it comes to the performances, Unbelievable is stacked with strong lead performances across both of the stories being told. Kaitlyn Dever almost single handedly carries her entire part of the series with what is a riveting performance. There are some specific scenes in here where she is so incredible that she genuinely breaks you. She sells the fear and terror someone in her situation would be in so well that her arc alone carries more weight than anything else in this series.

Then you have Toni Collette who we can already establish is a phenomenal actor, and that is exactly the case here once again. She’s like the good cop and the bad cop at the same and has a very unique personality that makes her a deeply interesting and entertaining character. Her interactions with Merritt Wever through this investigation are fantastic and the two of them make for a great duo to follow both in terms of some light comedy and meaningful conversations. They have a lot of chemistry that develops further as their characters spend more time together, and it’s not long before you form an attachment to them.

There really isn’t anything about Unbelievable that left a sour taste. It’s an incredibly well written series that subverts storytelling tropes in the genre, features some stellar performances, and a story that is thoroughly engaging as much as it can be emotionally distressing. It handles the tough themes really well and doesn’t leave a tonne of room for improvement beyond tweaking some scenes here and there. Should you see this show? Well Morris is sure of it… so yes.

9/10

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