Tuesday, October 22, 2019

TV Tuesday: Unbelievable

My husband and I recently finished watching the Netflix series Unbelievable. It is based on a true story, described in a Pulitzer Prize-winning article, about a young woman who is charged with lying about being raped and the two female detectives who manage to track down a serial rapist. This powerful and compelling series kept us rapt.

The story begins with Marie, played by Kaitlyn Dever, a young woman in Washington state who recently "aged out" of the foster care system, after being bounced around from one home to another. Marie is trying hard to establish an adult life for herself, though her difficult upbringing makes that challenging as she tries to gain self-confidence and learn to support herself. In the first episode, Marie is raped when a man breaks into her apartment in the middle of the night. Shaken and terrified, she calls the police, but they can't find any forensic evidence. Two male detectives interview Marie about the details of her horrifying experience over and over and pressure her until she finally agrees that maybe she's mistaken, making her a pariah in her community for "lying" about being raped. Meanwhile, that same year in Colorado, another young woman, a college student named Amber, is raped in her apartment, and the details are remarkably similar to those of Marie's case. Detective Karen Duvall, a female detective in her small town played by Merritt Wever, becomes obsessed with Amber's case, wanting to help the now-terrified young woman, and begins looking at other nearby towns. She meets Detective Grace Rasmussen, played by Toni Collette, a more experienced detective who has a case in her city that could be the same rapist. The two women team up and find other potential matches across Colorado, but this perpetrator is very careful and leaves little or no forensic evidence. The two detectives are certain, though, that they are on the trail of a serial rapist who has ruined many women's lives, so they work hard to get to the bottom of the cases.

Unbelievable is a super-suspenseful detective show, but it is also so much more than that. It delves into the victims' lives and takes a close-up (and horrifying) look at the way that rapes are often not taken seriously, especially when the victim "seems" unharmed physically. Even if the women do report their rapes - and many do not - they are subjected to hours-long physical exams that are humiliating and traumatizing, on top of the assault they already endured. And then, if there is no obvious evidence, some of them are further damaged by disbelieving police officers, as Marie was. Obviously, given the subject matter, parts of this show are disturbing, though there is nothing too graphic shown. The rapes themselves are mostly seen in victims' flashbacks, as brief memories. As a police procedural, the show is riveting, and the team of Wever and Collette completely pulls you into the story, showcasing the detectives' determination and commitment, as they ignore their families and their own health to try to solve the cases. The fact that all of this is based on a true story just makes it even more gripping. All of the actresses playing victims do a great job, but Dever, as Marie, is particularly moving n her portrayal of this young woman who feels she has no control over her life. We were rooting for Marie to not only be vindicated but able to heal and move forward. The entire series is just eight one-hour episodes, but there is a lot of emotion and power packed into this high-quality show.

Unbelievable is a Netflix original program, so it is available exclusively on Netflix.


  1. I thought this series was very well done. It was compelling, frustrating, and a must watch for people.