The Undoing. (HBO.) Review

There are essentially two types of HBO limited series when looking at hour-long dramas. On the one hand, you have your focused single-season narratives that will be there to win over critics and potentially get a slew of award nominations as HBO tend to do. On the other hand, you have your big flash focused dramas that executives hope will draw in viewers thanks to big-name collaborators in front of and behind the camera. Both seasons of David E Kelly’s Big Little Lies may have been able to skirt this divide but to put it in the nicest terms possible this critic wasn’t a fan. The characters and scenarios simply weren’t very engaging and seemed exclusively built for discussion by the kind of people dramatized within the narrative. Something like Sharp Objects has the opposite problem. The performances and scenarios engage audiences within the narrative not to mention the stunning twist ending “Don’t Tell Mama.” That said the narrative bones that backed these up were ultimately very basic.
The latest high profile six-episode limited series full somewhere between these two camps. Reteaming David E Kelly and Nicole Kidman it’s a relatively straight forward mystery thriller with Kidman playing a psychiatrist whose children’s doctor husband ( Hugh Grant( is accused of having an affair with and then killing one of patients mothers. Donald Sutherland has a supporting role as Kidman’s father and Honey Boy star Noah Jupe is excellent as the couples son. The central setup is very Big Little Lies but tonally this season has more in common with a trashy airport potboiler then the prestige drama that the former show was sold as. This is perfectly fine. Five of the six episodes may be nothing revolutionary but there is enough narrative momentum to keep the majority of viewers engaged throughout. Kidman is solid as almost always and Hugh grant delivers his best dramatic work in years skirting the line between slime ball and dedicated dad very effectively.
If the ending had been solid but unremarkable the show would be a watchable and engaging thriller serial. It may not rock any viewers world but he’s certainly very easily recommendable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Much as the season never transcended to greatness the finale fizzles out especially in the final moments. The narrative looks like it’s heading towards a rather disappointingly predictable ( if cohesive) conclusion. Then after 317 minutes of total running time, the script shoehorns another final act on top of the already established one within the episode This choice is left partially unresolved. Within narrative structures, the choice to end the storey on a degree of ambiguity can prime the pump for broader discussion afterwards or make whatever piece of media lost longer in viewers memory. There’s a difference between pulling this choice off effectively and having the narrative come across as feeling unfinished. The latter is the case here Before this development this critic would have said the season was worth the recommendation especially if viewers have an affinity for this genre of thriller. With the ending taken into consideration, this is going to end up being an unfortunately negative review. Perhaps the season is still worth a recommendation if watches can deal with concluding they might find potentially unsatisfying but they should be aware of this before clicking on the first episode.
5/10

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