David E. Kelley’s Netflix Crime Series

Netflix style Anatomy of a scandal suggests a certain kind of show — the kind of complicated, zigzag thriller that takes the word “trash” as a compliment.

The first episode opens with a purposeful blurriness of two people seemingly caught up in a frenzied infatuation, and ends with a man’s astonishing ascension. literally was blown backwards by its own shock force. Opening a bottle of wine and its six 45-minute episodes make for the ideal weekend getaway.

Anatomy of a scandal

Key point

A strange mismatch between style and theme.

Or they will, except that Anatomy of a scandal often seem to think it’s a completely different kind of show – a stark, sobering examination of rape, consent, and privilege. And while it’s certainly possible for a series to feel both exciting and weighty at the same time (as with the 2020s), I can destroy youalso focuses on sexual assault), Anatomy of a scandal struggles to thread the needle between these two impulses, resulting in a show as unsatisfying as a dull horror movie or a serious drama.

Anatomy of a scandal is not based on a single true story, but on a novel by Sarah Vaughan, seemingly drawn from countless true stories, viewed from beginning to end. A famous British politician, James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), is said to have had an affair with one of his aides, the much younger girl Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott). At first, the news looked like a stain on his picture-perfect facade – embarrassing, but not disastrous. His wife, Sophie (Sienna Miller), vows to stand by him, supporting him privately and publicly through her own hurt and anger.

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Then, the story opens to many major turning points when Olivia accuses James of not only having sex with her but also raping her. The case goes to court – where James is confronted by prosecutor Kate Woodcraft (Michelle Dockery), who seems absolutely determined to bring James to justice, for reasons of her own that she doesn’t want to admit.

Most of Anatomy of a scandal was raised during James’ trial, and the question of whether he was found guilty persisted throughout the series until the very last minutes. But creators Melissa James Gibson and David E. Kelley were even more concerned with whether James would do it. The series incorporates flashbacks not only of James’ earlier interactions with Olivia (including consensual sex sessions) but also of James and Sophie’s early courtship days at Oxford, posing larger patterns of power and entitlement that defined his entire life, and the lives of others around him.

Sometimes this makes Anatomy of a scandal feels like a piece of thought in narrative drama, to the point where the characters themselves seem to be analyzing their own behavior through that lens – as when Sophie reflects loudly on “the opacity of yes” and wondered about her and her female classmates. complicit with the “outbursts of selfishness” of the men around them.

But Anatomy of a scandal there doesn’t seem to be much new to add to the conversation. Instead of meaningful insight, it offers flashy stylistic tricks, courtesy of director SJ Clarkson. The camera tilts and pans around its subject or lands itself in disorienting Dutch corners. The emotional experience is taken literally, so we don’t just watch Sophie imagine James and Olivia in the elevator together; we watched her watch them in the elevator together, even though she wasn’t actually there.

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This approach can work, especially when it comes to how it frames characters’ recollections: Memories change depending on who’s telling the story, or blur with other story details. or intruding into the present during particularly stressful times. For the most part, however, these luxuries serve to promote the film. They turn what could have been a quiet epiphany moment on a tamer series into a revelation that shocked the world, or left audiences with more bomb blasts to come.

To the extent that the series appeals to us, much of the credit goes to the actors – especially Dockery and Miller, who try to find something raw and human among the most ridiculous. of the film when two women are pushed to their emotional climax by the pressure of the case. (The friend’s role is necessarily more cryptographic, but he strikes the right balance between smooth and flimsy.)

As for Scott, she’s doing well enough with the material she’s given, but she’s barely given any. Despite being a victim whose narration sets the rest of the story in motion, Olivia’s perspective on events is almost entirely limited to her testimony, and the character disappears. from the story pretty soon. It’s an odd and ultimately cowardly choice to allow the show to have cake and eat it – to enjoy the allure of Olivia and James’ love affair or Kate’s sheer prowess in the courtroom. or its own highly-minded critiques of privilege, while the majority deny the ugliness of the alleged affair or its impact on the individual most affected by it.

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In pursuit of the big drama that lies within an even bigger picture, Anatomy of a scandal sacrifice intimacy and nuance. Its selections have the benefit of the series never getting boring – it’s watchable throughout, if in part because it’s short enough that you can easily watch it again just to see how it ends. any. But they also prevent the series from getting anywhere really thought-provoking, let alone being bold or provocative. If James Whitehouse’s story is one that repeats so many other stories we’ve heard before, so is it. Anatomy of a scandal have to talk about it.

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