the undoing

Ever since “Big Little Lies” hit the small screen, the murder mystery miniseries has been growing in popularity. That’s largely due to the talent and creators behind the camera that these sorts of stories really attract. Now we have “The Undoing,” which is something very different, but shows that a familiar genre can really attract some serious talent. With a mix of award winners and nominees including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and even Donald Sutherland, you know you’re in for an entertaining and engaging slice of television. The story follows Kidman's character Grace, a successful therapist in New York City whose life begins to unravel when her husband Jonathan, a successful doctor, (Hugh Grant) is accused of murder. What follows in the five out of six episodes given to the press is your pretty standard murder mystery story with some knockout performances. After having seen the first five episodes of the season, I just can’t help but wonder if this show will be more bark than bite.

Granted, that bark comes in the form of some really great performances from a unique ensemble of actors. Kidman as our heroine under pressure delivers in a way that only she can. Her cold icy exterior as someone who is trying to keep it together is really entertaining to watch. It isn’t new ground for her as this is very similar to her character in “Big Little Lies” but it's nice to see her doing what she does so well. It’s certainly not the award caliber performance that comes from Hugh Grant. I’m going to be careful in describing his role due to the fact that the fun of the show comes in his performance. He’s funny, mysterious, engaging, and consistently making us question his loyalties and general mental state. As someone who has had a steady career progression of young, to older heartthrob, it’s a nice change to see.

Now fill a supporting cast with actors like Donald Sutherland, Edgar Ramirez, Lily Rabe, and newcomer Noah Jupe and you have a stacked line-up. The stand out here being Jupe, as the young son of Grant and Kidman’s characters who has to deal with his world falling apart. Jupe is an actor that expresses a lot through his eyes, which may include things that no one knows just yet. It’s the type of role that, especially in a younger actor, is a hard tonal balance to accomplish. This concept is what makes him really stand out against a crowded lineup of unique actors.

What makes “The Undoing” a sometimes muddled watch is how it really leans into more of the genre's bland conventions. In a story like this, we get a lot of misdirects (making the audience think one thing when it’s something else) which may or may not be the actual truth. This idea moves into how the show uses its supporting characters. Not necessarily in the performances of Ramirez and Sutherland themselves, but how they’re used. As the father to Grace, Sutherland is a somewhat politically motivated and ruthless individual. The problem is that you’ve seen a character like this more times than anyone would like to admit. Once you plug in the federal agent in an aggressive pursuit of justice, you have the performance of Ramirez. It’s just a disappointing detail in the uniqueness that is this cast of talented actors.

Maybe when I see the sixth episode, my opinions and general impressions of “The Undoing” will be different. Especially with the conclusion of episode five, it teases a show that could’ve gone down a much darker psychological road. What we get before is something that is entertaining enough, with one or two great performances (mostly Hugh Grant) that don’t add up to much. It’s not a bad show by any means, just a whole that doesn’t necessarily carry the weight of its parts. Still compared to other sorts of murder mystery series, you could do much worse than seeing this family and “The Undoing” they go through.

Rating: 3/5

Watch the trailer here. 

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