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Netflix’s limited series, Unbelievable, is a dramatization of a horrifying true story. The series recounts the harrowing ordeal teenager Marie Adler endures after she reports her rape. Marie is the real-life woman’s middle name and the name she uses in the true crime article that told her story.
Unbelievable is based on a scarily real event. The show dramatizes what happens after Marie reports her rape. Bit by bit, the initial detective investigating the case in Washington comes to doubt her story, and Marie is ultimately charged with filing a false police report. Meanwhile, her rapist goes free.
The Netflix series is based on the true crime article by ProPublica and The Marshall Project: An Unbelievable Story of Rape. The article’s co-author, Ken Armstrong, is now giving those who watched an insight into how the real Marie Adler feels about the show. In a Twitter thread, Armstrong shared some of the real Marie’s reactions to various aspects of Unbelievable. Armstrong wrote:
Two weeks ago I got a call, from Marie. She told me she had just watched the series. Watching it was hard, she said. 'I did cry quite a bit,' she said. But she had decided she wanted to and was glad that she did. She called the show 'excellent.'
While the real Marie Adler praised the series, there is one scene that she drew attention to. It occurs in Unbelievable’s first episode. There are eight episodes of the series, total. Ken Armstrong shared the real Marie’s response to Kaitlyn Dever’s portrayal of Marie as she is harshly confronted by police as they pressure her to recant. Armstrong wrote:
I asked Marie if I could share her thoughts on Twitter. She said that would be fine. She brought up one scene in particular—in the first episode, in which she’s confronted by police and recants. Marie has told me before that it can be a struggle for her to put her feelings and thoughts into words. In that scene, she said, Kaitlyn Dever captured her struggle. 'It was, like, perfect,' she said.
As Unbelievable portrays, it was not just the police who came to doubt Marie. Her former foster mothers also expressed their misgivings to each other. Only to have those suspicions shared with the detective investigating the case. On the real Marie’s reaction to those scenes, Ken Armstrong wrote:
The series shows how two of Marie’s former foster moms doubted her account. Both later apologized to her. Marie forgave both. She kept ties with both. After finishing the series, Marie called both, to reassure them: The show doesn’t demonize you. She encouraged both to watch.
As the series progresses, two detectives (played by Merritt Wever and Toni Collette) in Colorado become involved in investigating a serial rapist that is terrorizing their respective jurisdictions. The detectives ultimately merge their investigations, which takes place a long way away from where the same rapist had attacked Marie in Washington. On watching that part of Unbelievable, Ken Armstrong relayed from the real Marie:
For Marie, watching the work of the detectives in Colorado, 1,300 miles from where she had been attacked, reinforced a sense she’d had since first she learned about them: 'I felt like they were my guardian angels, looking out for me.'
In the Netflix show, Unbelievable, and in real life, the serial rapist was finally arrested and charged. The series recreates the moment when Colorado detectives finally move in on the criminal and end his reign of terror. Ken Armstrong shared that moment brought about something that surprised the real Marie, writing:
And watching the last episode, watching the re-creation of the Colorado detectives closing in, provided Marie something she didn’t expect. 'Seeing him get put away, that was closure for me,' she said.
As someone who watched, it is good to know that the show was well-received by the real Marie Adler. Sometimes that is not always the case when real-life is portrayed on-screen. In this case, it sounds like Unbelievable not only delivered a portrayal of the events. The final episode also gave the real Marie a sense of closure.