Unbelievable is another in the growing wave of post-#MeToo dramas hitting our screens, and it has an incredibly important story to tell.
Inspired by the news article An Unbelievable Story of Rape by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong and radio episode Anatomy of Doubt by This American Life this dramatises two sets of characters in two time periods.
The first episode in 2008 surrounds teenager Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), who is brutally raped in her apartments for youth at risk. Marie has been fostered from family to family and the sense of isolation is only magnified when she is victimised by a masked rapist. In the fragile moments after the event she is forced to relive the event through giving statements -to attending police, detectives, medical, verbally and in writing. I was astounded that several of these officials were males.. hopefully things have improved even in middle class America.
At times the detectives (led by Eric Lange) interrogate Marie on details to the point of her feeling like she is more assailant than victim. This will exacerbate as the series unfolds, and is clearly one of its political points.
The second narrative in 2011 begins in episode two when Det. Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever) investigates a neighbourhood rape. Duvall is incredibly thorough and caring with her victim, a young woman attacked by a masked man in her apartment. It weighs heavily into her personal life, when her husband -also a policeman- recognises similarities to a case at his work, led by Det. Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette). Both will not meet until episode 3.
Across the series the two timelines swing like a pendulum: two detectives pursuing what looks like a serial rapist; a young girl whose world implodes following her attack.
The legal and procedural hurdles act like land-mines throughout, frustrating our seasoned detectives, but wounding young Marie at every step.
The cast is universally outstanding with Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie, Godless) a stand-out and Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing, Justified) compelling as the vulnerable teen. Toni Collette, as always, never puts a foot wrong.
Also featuring are Elizabeth Marvel, Dale Dickey, Brooke Smith. Notably amongst the producer credits is Katie Couric, former NBC Today show host. More power to her for helping to bring this to screen along with showrunner Susannah Grant, and co-directors Lisa Cholodenko and Michael Dinner.
Unbelievable is a series in which middle-aged white men will take stock of their behaviour, and serves as a cautionary tale to many. But it achieves this without merely preaching, by sucking you into the vortex of its procedural elements of two smart detectives looking to catch their man.
Be warned, the opening episode starts in a very grim place, but the rewards are many and the message is necessary.
Unbelievable begins Friday September 13 on Netflix.