Watch: The Undoing (HBO)
These days it sometimes feel like you have to watch a TV show on the right day or two or you’re too late and everyone else has already moved on. That’s part of streaming as a format, since it’s hard to tell when other people are watching what you’re watching, but also because of quarantine: If a show’s good, there’s even less of a barrier to binging it immediately, without the alternative activity of restaurants or bars. A miniseries can go by in a night.
Jess and I just finished The Undoing, HBO’s prestige mystery-drama-thriller in which rich Manhattanites deal with a murder that happens around their very expensive private school. The show was fine; I mostly found it too tense with too many violent flashbacks for no reason. It was like Big Little Lies (also adapted by David E. Kelley) except with more murder than fancy lifestyle — too self-serious.
But I remember seeing the hype on Twitter as The Undoing was being released and the show took over the conversation once a week. Viewers speculated: did Hugh Grant, the seemingly kind children’s doctor, actually kill the victim? Or did Grant and Nicole Kidman’s (high-power, weird-dressing therapist) son somehow do it? How did anyone ever suspect the son, though? Personally I don’t understand how that came across. All he did was loom in weird corners. The show didn’t even really cast suspicion on him when he turned out to be hiding the murder weapon.
Maybe it’s our collective expectation of a bizarre, reality-bending twist, like some other prestige dramas: The main character was drunk / insane / time-traveling. The weirdest answer is sometimes the solution. In this case I think the collective discussion and suspense driven by a weekly release heightened the show. The desire to figure out the plot trumped the actual quality of the drama.
It can be satisfying, then, to come to a show too late and form your own take on it — it might be the more accurate one. — By Kyle Chayka