(Trigger warning: discusses the topic of sexual assault)
Last week Netflix released the powerful miniseries Unbelievable, based on true events of a young girls heartbreaking experience of injustice and two female detectives determined to catch a dangerous serial rapist.
This is undoubtedly one of the best and most powerful series’ I have watched this year and here is a list of reasons why.
- •It doesn’t shy away from the truth– the series was not afraid to shine a light on the hard hitting reality of the traumatic experience that sexual assault survivors have to go through. The first episode was one of the hardest ones to watch as we witnessed Marie Adler (Kiaitlyn Dever) go through an excruciating experience with the police officers. The first episode showed her horrifying experience with first having to repeat her story many times for different officers, then brought attention to the uncomfortable process of getting a rape kit and then having the episode end with the officers pressuring Marie to tell them that she made the incident up, due to them finding inconsistencies in her story and lack of evidence. After the first episode we then witnessed Marie’s life fall further apart as she had to deal with everyone close to her turn her back on her, as well as having to deal with the trauma of the incident causing her to lose her job and her home, and even getting charged by the police for false reporting. The series also parallels to two years later when female detectives Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Karen Duvall (Merrit Wever) from two different states work together to catch a serial rapist, after they realise that their individual cases have a lot of similarities. Throughout the investigation, as an audience we are made aware of further issues with the justice system and the way that rape cases are handled, such as lack of communication between departments and overseen evidence due to lack of observation, as one of the victims had the knife that the rapist used to threaten her with in her very own back garden, which the original officers who took up the case failed to spot. Two moments in the show that as an audience member hit me very hard was; Marie’s session with her councillor, which was made compulsory after she was charged with false reporting. After Marie struggled to speak to her counsellor eventually she opened up about her assault, which is the first time she admitted that it actually happened after she told the police officers that it didn’t. One line that really stuck with me the most from the whole series was when Marie was opening up about the lack of trust she now has in people after the ordeal, she goes on to stating “even with people that you can trust, if the truth is inconvenient they don’t believe it.’ the reason that this line stayed with me was I was once again reminded of the real and rawness of the whole series, and how there are so many other women as well as Marie Adler, who go through a horrifying experience and then have to suffer further when the police and people close to them fail to believe and listen to their story. The other scene that stuck with me was the very emotionally courtroom scene in the last episode, where the victims told their story and how the assault has permanently effected their lives. This scene was one of many in the series that brought me to tears, as all I could feel was utter heartbreak for these women. The emotional rawness of the scene emphasised just how much victims are effected by their sexual assault and it is not something that can easily go away, it is something that sticks with you forever.
- The acting is phenomenal- Talking about the amazing performances throughout the series I of course have to start with Kaitlyn Dever, who gave one of the best performances that I have seen this year. You cant even begin to imagine just how challenging the role of Marie would be for any actor, especially since Marie Adler was a real person who went through this brutal experience, as well as the responsibility to tackle an incrediblly sensitive and important topic for many people. However Dever tackled it flawlessly, even the real Marie Adler was impressed with Dever’s portrayal of her. Everything about her emotional delivery made it so easy for the audience to understand the character of Marie and see the struggle that she was going through. This made the series that extra bit more heartbreaking as we felt so close and connected to Marie’s character, and it contributed to the extreme anger that we all felt as we had to watch her unfairly suffer and punish herself throughout the series. Other memorable performances include Toni Collette and Merrit Wever’s performances as the female detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall. A big factor in their performances was the great chemistry that the women had with each other, as despite the women being polar opposites in terms of personality and life style, they both were outraged and emotionally effected by the rapes that were taking place and both shared the same determination to catch the rapist and bring the victims the justice they deserved. We felt equally invested in these women and admired their determination and the fact they were giving the victims a voice, and making sure that no one else had to go through the brutal experience that they did.
- They didn’t focus too much on the rapist- a lot of films and television shows that I have watched that tackle sexual assault like to delve into the story of the rapist, showing their backstory and the reasons behind their revolting actions, even at times poorly attempting to give them a redemption arc (yes 13 reasons why I am still utterly disgusted.) However in the series when they figured out the identity if the rapist, Chris McCarthy (Blake Ellis) the series did not take any time in exploring his story, as this was not his story. This was the story of his victims and the life changing and traumatic experiences that they had to go through because of him. This was the story of the two female detectives that against all odds did not give up on the female victims and never stopped fighting for justice. At the end of the series we saw McCarthy getting over 300 years in jail which gave the victims the justice and closure that they deserved.
- There was an underlying message of hope- yes the series did bring up a lot of anger and heartbreak as a lot of hard and real topics were covered, however we can’t deny that amongst it all there was a small message of hope. In the last episode of the show there was an incredibly heartwarming scene where a phonemail was shared between Marie and Detective Duvall where she explained how grateful she was of her and Detective Rasmussen, and how the fact that their were two people looking out for her meant more to her than McCarthy getting locked up and the compensation money she got. She went on to saying “I wake up now and I can imagine good things happening, I wanted you to know that you did that for me” The series brought me to tears for a final time but this time for a different reason, as it wasn’t due to the anger and heartbreak I was feeling. I was emotionally moved and relived that Marie Adler finally got the justice and the life that she deserved, and after two years of feeling alone she no longer felt that way as the female detectives (in real life being Stacy Galbraith and Edna Hendershot) gave her hope that there were people looking out for her and trying to help her after all. As the series rightfully shows the many issues that we currently have with the justice system and the many flaws with how society deals with rape culture, it also shows that there are still people out there who will never stop fighting for the truth and justice, and there will always be someone who believes you and will listen to your story.