What would the world do without HBO? All eyes were on the network when its most recent juggernaut, Game of Thrones, concluded on a less than critically acclaimed note. Was it the end of an era? Will viewers see a dip in quality as HBO navigates the ongoing streaming wars? This speculation only increased with the release of HBO Max this summer.
Sporting an unflattering purple hue and an interface mimicking HBO Go’s largely panned template, it seemed doomed from the start. What’s more, the release of Love Life anchoring the service’s drop was met with lukewarm reviews.
When doubts were reigning true for the service and its titular network, HBO turned things around. Week after week, HBO has released smash hit series that singlehandedly provide viewers with a necessary escape from their increasingly closed in walls in a pandemic smoked world. The latest in HBO’s string of compulsion is David E. Kelley’s latest miniseries, The Undoing. Rejoining forces with his Big Little Lies collaborator Nicole Kidman (who needs an Emmy for most time spent in a courtroom on set) as well as romcom icon Hugh Grant, Kelley presents the latest instant obsession.
Based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel You Should Have Known, the psychological thriller is a mysteriously juicy unraveling of the lead couple’s privileged lives in New York City. The story begins to introduce the two, Johnathon and Grace Fraser (Kidman and Grant), a highly sufficient and affluent couple raising their son Henry (Noah Jupe). Johnathon is an oncologist, treating young children with terminal cancer; while Grace is a licensed psychotherapist.
When a member of Grace’s planning committee at Henry’s school is abruptly and brutally murdered, the couple begins to face complications that bubble until the culprit is finally revealed. Blame is quickly placed on the murderer’s identity as personal revelations frequently plague the lives of the central family.
With Kelley’s writing at the show’s center, The Undoing is a well executed mystery from beginning to end. In curating characters with such specificity and establishing their relationships, however unreliable or misleading, Kelley instantly grips viewers for a guessing game that never ceases to end until the final episode in the 6-part miniseries.
Bringing the humanity to Kelley’s writing is the exceptional director Susanne Bier. She guides the lead duo with great detail, pouring intrigue in each conversation through varying perspectives. With Kidman’s inherent stoicism at the center, Bier knows her talent and maximizes their potential throughout the mind bender.
Above all else, The Undoing is simply highly addictive. Easily consumable in a mere day, each entry ends with a cliffhanger too juicy to exist in a pre-bingeing world. Fans of the actors, filmmakers, or mystery genre will have an absolute field day from their couches guessing who the culprit is to the very end of the series’ run.
Sporting gripping dialogue, immaculate performances from its central cast including the secondary characters, and an atmosphere built to reflect the anxiety of the characters, The Undoing is yet another dazzling showcase from HBO in 2020. More, its one of the best series released this year.
Can Kelley and Kidman please adapt thrillers on an annual basis from this point?