Defending Jacob

Chris Evans plays an earnest dad whose son is accused of murder in Apple TV's new drama.

The premise for Defending Jacob is a simple pitch: a smalltown assistant District Attorney finds his world implodes when his 14 year old son is accused of murder.

Apple TV’s latest drama is based on a 2012 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name by William Landay. Set in a picture perfect Massachusetts community, this sees Chris Evans star as Asst. DA Andy Barber, married to kindergarten manager Laurie (Michelle Dockery), both parents to 14 year old only child Jacob (Jaeden Martell).

Their existence is white collar, middle class and almost-picket fence perfect until a shocking case of a school student murder, which Evans is investigating. But while the school community offers few leads, Andy is shocked when social media gossip points the finger at his own son. Jacob is portrayed as untroubled and not exactly a loner, but could he really be concealing the murder weapon?

“Everybody knows you did it… you have a knife,” Andy reads.

It isn’t long before Andy’s own department turns on him, removing him from the case and is on the hunt for a distressed Jacob.

Little of this is a spoiler given the title and the opening scene in which Andy is on trial, presumably as being some sort of accomplice, before the flashbacks begin.

“I’m here because I believe in the system. I just want the truth to come out,” he tells a jury.

And while he may not be Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich or Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, you just know Chris Evans is going to get a star turn in chew-the-scenery courtroom drama.

The earnestness of this story is its biggest short-coming with lots of American “I love you’s” and “Hang in there buddy’s” as characters embrace, on the verge of tears. This gives Defending Jacob a network TV feel rather than the more complex tales we might expect of a streaming drama.

The three principals all deliver including heroic Evans as a father with unconditional love, Dockery showing not a trace of her Downton accent, and a solid juvenile performance from Jaeden Martell. Featuring in support roles are Cherry Jones, Pablo Schreiber and later, J. K. Simmons.

Expect a steady stream of red herrings, jeopardy and genre tropes, all of which do make this broadly entertaining. Without having seen how this resolves I’m going to guess it’s the kids who hold the key to the truth the adults are seeking.

Defending Jacob begins today on Apple TV+.

Leave a Reply