Friday, September 13, 2019

REVIEW: 'Unbelievable' - Marie Comes Forward with a Horrifying Story of Rape Only to Get Abused Further in 'Episode 1'

Netflix's Unbelievable - Episode 1.01 "Episode 1"

As a traumatized young woman reports being raped by an intruder, she faces a whirlwind of emotions - and increasingly skeptical questions from police.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Unbelievable.

"Episode 1" was written by Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman and directed by Lisa Cholodenko

It's not just good enough to believe women when they come forward with terrible and horrifying stories of abuse. It's just as important to support them in the aftermath with whatever help they may need. Every story and reaction to it is different as well. There is never a perfect victim nor the perfect crime. One experience cannot be compared to another. For Marie, she went through this terrifying ordeal in the middle of the night. She comes forward with an accusation of rape right away. She has to detail every aspect of this trauma over and over again. Sharing the story can be empowering and cathartic. It can help the investigation move forward in order to arrest a brutal rapist still on the loose. But it can be so crippling and terrifying as well. This is a story that Marie doesn't want to relive countless times. That's what she has to do though. She has to share her story with the responding officer, then the detective investigating the case, then the hospital administrator performing the rape test, and finally the detectives many more times to solidify all of the details. It doesn't matter how minor anything may seem. That could all be useful information that leads to an arrest. It may seem trivial to some. Marie has shared her story several times. She desperately needs to be believed. And yet, the minor details are ultimately used against her to add to the tragedy. The detectives soon come up with a theory that the rape may have never happened in the first place. This could simply be a story of a young woman striving for attention after a lifetime of being abused and diminished. There are people who wish to frame Marie in a certain light. She has had caring and loving foster mothers. Judith and Colleen are there for her in the immediate aftermath of the assault. However, they see a woman who isn't reacting in the way that they assume a rape survivor should act. Judith has her own story. That's sensitive and traumatizing. That doesn't inherently make her an expert on the subject. Colleen may be right to be concerned that Marie isn't dealing with the trauma in a meaningful way. But that repression can also be a valid response in the immediate aftermath. All of this mostly amounts to the detectives ultimately belittling and threatening Marie until she recants her story. It's because of that pressure that she doubts that it happened at all. She had a clear and concise story in the early going. How she shared the experience with several friends and family members shouldn't ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things. It does though. It seemingly paints the picture of a woman lying to get noticed. Everyone turns against her as soon as she sticks to the story that it never happened. And yet, the show itself is very wise to note that this is simply a consequence of trying to come forward. She wanted to do the right thing but was punished and abused all over again. As such, she shrivels up and says whatever ensures that she has a meaningful life to return home to. She understands that she needs counseling. She would need counseling no matter what happened. She would need it if she was raped. She would need it to help understand why she made the entire story up. Instead, she is treated with animosity. People are upset with her for playing with their emotions. Their words push her to the brink of suicide. That is startling and proves just how extreme the consequences of all of this can be. The fallout can be just as dangerous as the act itself. Marie may have her doubts. The world may doubt what happened to her that fateful night. But that doesn't mean the world should abandon her so severely. That's the big tragedy upon the conclusion of this premiere. Plus, it teases that things are only going to grow more complicated. Marie will probably have to endure more hardships should she choose to keep living. Right now, that's a scary prospect. She needs help. She deserves it. Someone just has to be willing to give it. That compassion and acceptance are necessary even if the confusion sinks in further. Marie's memory may fail her but her body and soul need to be fulfilled in a way that sets her up for a better future. She has to be understood, believed and supported in that way. That is absolutely vital.