Netflix’s new limited series, Unbelievable is an adaptation of a ProPublica article published in 2012 by T Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. The article tells a tale of the police not only ignoring a young woman’s rape, but bullying her, and eventually charging her with false reporting. I had not had a chance to read the letter before seeing the show, but it is extremely well written and the show carries the same sense of strength and significance.
Unbelievable begins with Marie Adler, the victim and subject of the article, dealing with the aftermath and scrutiny of reporting a sexual assault. The male detectives are less than sympathetic of Marie’s current state, and even Marie’s foster parents express doubt in her story.
The show is assiduous in regards to the victims, but it is not without graphic and potentially triggering moments. The directors do not use it flippantly. There are pointed images used to make you feel the discomfort these women are forced into - the victims, but also the two female detectives that later join the case. Detectives Karen Duvall and Grace Rasmussen are investigating a series of assaults when the 2 experiences begin to overlap.
Unbelievable has a tight storyline which is not easy when working with a mystery AND intertwining timelines. I cannot give the writers enough credit, the characters truly drive the show and the feminine impact is palpable. 4/6 of the Executive Producers are women (a 5th being Michael Chabon, a storyteller known for communicating tenderness), and all episodes are written by women. Merritt Weather has always been a skilled actress, but this performance brought a new kind of intensity from her. Kaitlyn Dever clearly put in the time to prepare for this role, a far cry from her recent role in Booksmart.
Above all, Unbelievable is a compassionate and detailed response to a widespread reality: Women are vulnerable, and whether we seek help or not, we must fight to be taken seriously. This truth is conveyed by people who have actually witnessed this reality, either first or secondhand, giving it a heavy and meaningful message. I give Netflix’s Unbelievable a 9/10, and look forward to seeing more like this from Netflix.