Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Shocking, methodically paced and really well written, Unbelievable is a poignant and important reminder that sexual assault has far broader psychological effects than the despicable act itself. Split across 8 episodes and shot between two timelines, Netflix’s latest crime mystery series manages to juggle both stories perfectly, slowly building up tension and pace toward the climactic finale that sees this story come to an end.
Inspired by real events, Unbelievable is, at its core, a rape case procedural and it opens right at the heart of the drama. Young, distraught Marie reports a rape to the police in 2008 and after being forced to repeat her story numerous times to different officers, finds herself on the wrong end of the law, as her hazy memory and inconsistent stories leads her into a false report case that sees her facing arrest and possible jail time.
Meanwhile, a separate story taking place in 2011 shows up in the second episode and runs parallel to Marie’s story right through the end of the series. This sees two police detectives from different towns, Grace and Karen, teaming up to track down a serial rapist that appears to be moving between states to cover his own tracks, despite eerily similar stories between victims. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to align, this inevitably sees them both stumble back to the 2008 case that started this chain of events.
In terms of pacing and narrative progression, Unbelievable achieves both effortlessly and although some of the earlier episodes feel a little slow, especially the first and second, later on things become far more dramatic and exciting as the case comes to its conclusion.
What’s particularly impressive here though is the way Unbelievable tackles its subject matter. It never shies away from the big questions and some of the police work feels realistically depicted. From trawling through CCTV footage across an entire evening through to making phone calls right through the day until night, if Unbelievable shows one thing here, it’s how unbelievably hard detectives work to get to the bottom of cases like this.
It’s slow, methodical stuff and when a new piece of evidence comes to light, you really feel the relief and elation these detectives feel at the little wins. It’s such a cleverly constructed way of showing this line of work and coupled with the dialogue and numerous police slang terms used, Unbelievable disguises its exposition in pretty clever ways. There’s even some self aware jabs at its own explanations thrown in for good measure.
There’s some really nice montage segments in here too, utilizing extreme close-ups of paperwork and crossing names off list, as well as showcasing the passage of time nicely. It really gives you a feel for this exhausting work and plays into the realistic angle Unbelievable so effortlessly manages to achieve. Little moments like making phone calls and following up on alibis are commonplace tropes in this genre but Unbelievable’s realistic slant gives these moments a weight to them that few police procedurals manage to conjure up.
At the heart of it though, Unbelievable is a poignant, thought provoking reminder of how devastating sexual assault can be. It’s hard not to feel rage during the early episodes when Marie is made out to be a criminal and despite the deliberately female slant on the case in 2011 (contrasting that of the two male cops fronting Marie’s case in 2008) there’s never any agenda-driven writing or political point scoring here. These are simply two women who want to get to the bottom of this case no matter what.
While at times the series is a little slow, especially early on, Unbelievable is worth sticking with to see the dramatic way this one closes out. With some slick camera work, nicely implemented edits and a realistic slant to proceedings, Netflix’s latest police procedural is one of the better offerings on the platform and follows in the footsteps of Quicksand for its gritty, realistic depiction of crime. If you’re in the mood for a gritty crime drama, Unbelievable is well worth checking out and one of the better shows released this year.