Netflix originals can be hit or miss. For every Narcos or Stranger Things there’s an Ibiza or Gypsy.
Unbelievable, however, is a must see. It stars Toni Colette and Merritt Weaver as Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall, detectives trying to track down a serial rapist in Colorado. The show, based on actual events, also foregrounds the story of a third protagonist, 18-year-old Marie, played by Kaitlyn Dever of Booksmart. Marie was the victim of the same serial rapist years earlier in Lynwood, Washington but ended up retracting her statement when the investigating policemen began to doubt her. The police went on to charge Marie with false reporting of a rape. The series traces the detectives’ dogged quest to catch the culprit, and the way in which a young woman’s life is ruined by the dual violation of being raped and being disbelieved.
The three lead actors are magnetic in their roles. Rasmussen is the hard-nosed veteran with little time for outward displays of emotion while Duvall wears her empathy more plainly. Marie, a foster child who had already endured more than her share of hardship before the rape, is just trying to keep her head above water. The supporting actors, including a diverse group of fellow rape victims who expresss their fear and rage with rousing conviction and the investigative team supporting Rasmussen and Duvall are all excellent, too.
The show works as both a character study and a tightly plotted thriller, complete with details about the chillingly methodical way in which the rapist hunted his prey. Ken Armstrong, one of the journalists who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning feature on which Unbelievable is based, said that the real life Marie reached out to him to tell him she had watched the series. She said it made her cry a lot but called the show “excellent” and said that Dever was “perfect”, particularly in that brutal first episode scene where the cops goad her into retracting her story.
In @Netflix's #Unbelievable, Marie is a teen who reports being raped.
I was one of the reporters who first told Marie’s full story.
To me, Marie is not a character. She is someone who trusted me with her story, painful as it was.
Here are Marie’s and my thoughts on the show:
— Ken Armstrong (@bykenarmstrong) September 16, 2019
There are eight episodes of Unbelievable but we warn you, it’s highly addictive and likely to be consumed in just a couple of sittings. Some viewers even reported cancelling on their dates so they could finish their Unbelievable binge. Once you start watching, you’ll understand why.