Unbelievable is the startling new drama from Netflix, and it is the streaming giant’s next A+ one. The limited series stars Last Man Standing’s Kaitlyn Dever as a teenager named Marie, who reports her rape at the hands of an intruder. After suffering a brutal ordeal collecting evidence and having to repetitively relive her trauma, Marie is dealt another horrible blow.
Following the detective’s investigation, he comes to believe that Marie has lied about the rape. She is eventually charged with filing a false police report. As Marie’s tragic story unfolds in the past, a later investigation into another rape case runs parallel. Merritt Wever’s Detective Karen Duvall eventually joins forces with Toni Collette’s Detective Grace Rasmussen in the pursuit of a rapist seemingly connected to Marie’s.
Unbelievable weaves Marie’s story with the detectives’ investigation. The Netflix series is based on a true crime article published by ProPublica and The Marshall Project: An Unbelievable Story of Rape. It documents the real-life story the show depicts. These are the reasons that Unbelievable delivers an A+ result.
Kaitlyn Dever’s Magnificent Performance
Kaitlyn Dever continues to show her incredible range as an actress with yet another stellar performance in Unbelievable. She is capable of delivering a humorous turn on the Fox sitcom, Last Man Standing, as well as an utterly heartbreaking one in Unbelievable. She is that talented.
Ever since her stunning performance in the phenomenal indie Short Term 12, Kaitlyn Dever put the world on notice. Dever is one of her generation’s top actresses, and her work in Unbelievable continues to make her case. As Marie, Dever alternately portrays Marie’s trauma and her poignant attempts to move forward.
Kaitlyn Dever’s performance simultaneously communicates Marie’s inner thoughts and outer feelings. Marie’s painful reality burns in Dever’s eyes as tears roll down her cheeks. She fearlessly portrays all of Marie’s varying layers, from the ones that viewers are privy to, to those they are not. Dever’s powerful turn is pivotal to Unbelievable, bringing its ‘A’ game.
Another Dynamic Detective Duo
Viewers of police procedurals know the drill. Two detectives with different personalities team up on the same case. It is a dynamic that tends to lead to terrific results. In Unbelievable’s case, it does more with it than most. Merritt Wever and Toni Collette’s characters are not just different from each other. They are unique as a whole.
Merritt Wever’s Karen is a sensitive and spiritual woman seeking justice with a calm voice and quiet strength. Meanwhile, Toni Collette’s Grace has built up a tough exterior as the result of years spent in the dogged pursuit of justice. They are equally electrifying in their own ways. Together, they counterbalance each other in a manner that is refreshing to watch.
The angle of Karen having pre-team-up respect for Grace adds a wonderful flourish to the usual camaraderie that develops between detective colleagues. I cannot help thinking Unbelievable has something special with them.
Not Your Typical Netflix Series
Unbelievable is not a rapidly paced true crime drama that rushes to the finish line. Like The Sinner’s first season, it is contemplative. Unbelievable tells its story in a way similar to the methodical approach that Merritt Wever’s Karen is shown taking with her initial crime scene. Rushing can lead to mistakes and in a limited series trying to make a point, there is no reason to.
Each episode ends with a burst of forward-moving momentum, with each ending inviting you to maintain your investigative stamina alongside the detectives. The takeaway? An investigation takes more than a day to build. More on that in a moment.
Unbelievable contemplates its subject matter as a drama centered on an ongoing police investigation, all the while taking the time to explore the emotional impact of the trauma that has been perpetrated. Balancing the investigative angle with the human aspect is part of Unbelievable’s strength, and it sets it apart from the binge-able pack.
A Meticulous Look At An Intense Investigation
Many times, a television show will investigate a single crime in a single hour. There are of course exceptions with some opting to continually cover the same crime in one season. Can you really give an audience the sense of the tedious police work that goes into solving a crime when it is dramatized unfolding at a brisk pace?
My instinctive answer to that question is “no.” As anyone who has watched an episode of 48 Hours or Dateline knows, an investigation can take months, years, and even decades to solve. Unlike most genre series, Unbelievable takes its time to portray the sense that solving the serial rape case is taking lots of time and thoughtful effort.
In a sign of its attention to detail, Unbelievable rushes no plot point. For instance, Grace and Karen’s joint investigation takes a few episodes before manifesting. A lot of solving Unbelievable’s case relies on old fashioned non-CSI-style police work. Something Nash Bridges would probably appreciate.
It Takes A Lot Of Myths Head On
From the ways a victim should act, to the way a victim relays information, a lot is brought to light here. If you have watched a considerable amount of crime shows, you are likely familiar with the strategies said to be employed. One of the many myths taken head-on is a victim’s recollection.
Traditionally speaking, newly remembered info has often been treated as the result of false memory. What if it is not? Unbelievable delves deep into all of the innovative techniques and new manners of evidence gathering being used.
The series sharply juxtaposes the handling of Marie’s investigation with how Karen handles her initial case. Her sensitivity extending from her initial inquiry all the way to the hospital staff who perform the victim’s rape kit.
Unbelievable does not need to spell it out to get its point across. The message is loud and clear. With new knowledge comes a responsibility to embrace an improved method. Not for the sake of newness, but for the purpose of justice.
Netflix has been a source of constant content for a while, and Unbelievable is another meaningful chapter in its ever-growing slate of original offerings. Between Kaitlyn Dever’s top-notch performance and all of the other aspects mentioned above, the A+ drama earns its place in subscribers’ queue.