Saturday, April 25, 2020

REVIEW: 'Defending Jacob' - Andy's New Case Hits Close to Home as a Body Is Found in the Woods in 'Pilot'

AppleTV+'s Defending Jacob - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is assigned as the lead prosecutor in the case of his son's murdered classmate.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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 AppleTV+'s Defending Jacob.

"Pilot" was written by Mark Bomback and directed by Morten Tyldum

Andy Barber believes in the judicial system. He trusts that it will bring the truth to light no matter what. He upholds that belief even though his entire life is uprooted because of a murder that takes place in his community. The opening sequence only teases how much he loses throughout this investigation. The action then cuts back almost a year to better show off what exactly happened that placed the Barber family on this path towards infamy. It's a common storytelling technique. That immediately informs the audience that there isn't anything inherently unique or different about this series. It's simply the latest season-long murder mystery. This time the focus is on a father who operates with confidence within his community but who becomes concerned that his own son may be placed in harm's way because of the trauma that is unearthed. All it takes is one crime to unsettle a community. It shatters the illusion that this is a safe place to live. The Rifkin parents moved here because they bought into that fantasy. It was a safe environment to build their family and ensure their child had the same upbringing that they did. Andy and Laurie see their world in the same light. Andy may be tortured by some vague and mysterious past possibly connecting to an absentee father. However, they present themselves as parents who are successful in their careers and are solid parents to their teenage son. There is nothing inherently suspicious or wrong about their family unit. However, Andy is seen throughout this crime as Jacob's father. When he first learns the details in the woods, he realizes just how close this case hits to home. The victim is the same age as his son. He wasn't a close friend. However, he was prominent enough for the family to be friendly with his parents. That intimacy is felt. It ensures that Andy can't go anywhere without people expecting an update on the case. The people of this community want to know that justice has been found quickly. That is the expectation with the judicial system. It is never quick though. It is months before the process is complete. People have to be thoughtful with their actions to ensure that one mistake doesn't ruin the entire case and disappoint the lives of those left behind to grieve. Andy feels that responsibility. And yet, people see him as a father. As such, he is an untrustworthy figure as the potential prosecutor. The kids at the school can't provide him with any information because they fear how it will be perceived and how Jacob will react. The school community is quick to blame Jacob for the crime. At first, he is just like his peers fearing for their lives when the school goes into lockdown. As the premiere develops though, it's clear that people keep him at a distance and walk around the truth when Andy just wants to have any information that can help get justice. That is his focus. He is more than just a father. He is the person who can get to the truth in this case. Those lines are blurring though. He has to be just one of those personalities though. It's clear his son will need his support even though it comes with suspicion by the end of the hour. Andy invades his son's room looking for a knife. It is found and that terrifies him. It's a looming tease that something twisted has happened within this family unit. Jacob could be a killer. There are additional hints about that too. He believes his peers are phonies who are fawning grief just in order to seem important even though they have absolutely no idea how to react. Jacob may fit into that column as well. He is at the shiva mostly because his parents are. Andy and Laurie are helpful to the grieving parents. Their roles are clear in the situation. They have the skills to help. Jacob is allowed to be a kid who can tell a dirty joke. And yet, the suspicion mounts and may become crippling shortly. That was confirmed the very first moment when the story suggested that this family would be exposed as more than just normal and happy. It's slow going. That makes it drag without adding a whole lot of meaningful atmosphere to the proceedings. It is straightforward but it's mostly dependent on the actors in order for the audience to engage with anything going on.