In the post #MeToo world, most women are increasingly finding the courage to speak their truth. But this world still has nay-sayers who constantly doubt the version of events because it’s hard for them to accept the inconvenient truth. This inconvenient truth becomes the base for Netflix’s latest limited series Unbelievable where the truth of a woman is so difficult to fathom that the protectors of society would rather believe she was imagining it.
The eight-episode series opens with the story of Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) who reports a sexual assault by a meticulous masked man. Two middle-aged men are handed the case and just by the way they treat her case, you know that this young woman is in for a painful ordeal. Comparisons emerge when a few years later, another woman reports a similar assault but this time, the person in charge of her case is a female officer. Her sensitivity is evident from the way she conducts herself and the care she shows for the victim.
The story proceeds in two timelines – Marie’s and the discovery years later that these assaults are in fact the work of a serial rapist.
Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever) join forces as they realise that the serial rapist has other victims and many of the cases they come across were never fully investigated. Since the offender did not leave much evidence behind him, it becomes harder to crack the case but they don’t hang up their boots. They realise that no one in the police force works as much on rape cases as homicides and it becomes a personal battle for them to bring justice to all the women who have been violated.
Marie’s story here is heartbreaking. Creators Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon make it clear that Marie has had a tough life as a foster child hopping from home to home and even in her newfound independence, the system makes it difficult for her to live a full life. She is coerced into admitting that the assault claims were her imagination. After news of Marie fabricating the rape story emerges, the viewer is constantly scared for her life. As she gets embroiled in a case where she has to admit that she wasted the state’s resources on her false claims, Marie says that if she had to do it all over again, she would lie better since she knows that the inconvenient truth will never be accepted by society.
The investigative track has all the elements of a mystery and it unfolds chapter by chapter. Grace and Karen leave no stone unturned, no clue unexamined and no suspect unquestioned as they head towards unmasking the man who has brutally raped women over the years.
Toni Collette and Merritt Wever play the good cop-bad cop routine but it’s unlike the ones that we have seen before. Here, the women know that the case is bigger than both of them and with crimes dating back years, their job gets harder with every episode. Kaitlyn Dever is a revelation. The actor presents the fragility of a victim in a way that’s delicate yet bold. She is aware that the cruel world has no place for her vulnerability so she covers it up in an over-compensating way that should concern those around her but instead leaves them believing otherwise.
Unbelievable is based on an article titled An Unbelievable Story of Rape by T Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong and the radio episode Anatomy of Doubt which recounts the real-life case of Marie and the masked serial rapist.
The eighth and last episode of the series is cathartic and the scene where the two timelines merge is emotionally conclusive and brings attention to the fact that the world is still not equipped to deal with sexual assault cases. You walk away with the feeling that #MeToo is just the first step in the direction and the path is long and painful, especially for the survivors.
Verdict: Unbelievable demands to be watched, not just for its relevant subject but also for its riveting storytelling that will compel you to finish the limited series in one sitting.