Written by David E. Kelley
Directed by Susanne Bier
Original Air Date: 15th November, 2020
In some ways the first episode of The Undoing that embraces the larger ensemble cast it has assembled, this has the feel of being the first hour of the show to take a major step away from Grace’s point of view to put some focus on the other cast members, mainly Donald Sutherland as Grace’s father Franklin who in two fantastic scenes channels Liam Neeson from Taken in his visit to Jonathan and then calling the principal of his grandson’s school a c***sucker in one of the most enjoyable scenes of the show so far.
Interestingly, Susanne Bier does literally place us in Grace’s headspace for another bout of interrogation from the recurring presence of NYPD detectives Mendoza and O’ Rourke, both Edgar Ramirez and Michael Devine’s characters practically breaking the fourth wall with POV shots reminiscent of a Brian De Palma film, but which have a charge of their own thanks to Bier’s stylish direction.
That the episode builds itself up to a moment where Jonathan does something similar, only this time in a television interview and which Bier frames almost as if the character is enticing the audience back to next week’s episode, brings what is arguably the best episode of The Undoing to a magnificent end that once again guarantees a return visit from those who have stuck with it so far.
Now that we’re past the halfway mark of the series, the audience will surely have theories flying right and left as to who killed Elena and the identity of the person involved in Jonathan’s other infidelity that he refers to in his conversations with his lawyer Haley, a brilliant scene stealing Noma Dumezweni who doubles down on the tough nature of her character that gently subverts once again the crusading attorney character that are a stock in trade for David E. Kelley series while being subtly deadpan with her ‘I’m not funny’ nature that actually manages to be funny.
Privilege, class and race all get a look in this hour as a media commentator makes the valid point that Jonathan has had bail set for him mainly because he’s a white upper class male and the same would not have been the case for Elena’s husband Fernando (Ismael Cruz Cordova) if the case had taken a different turn. In an episode filled to the brim with great moments, particularly from Sutherland, some of the most powerful moments belong to Hugh Grant and Cordova.
Haley hilariously breaks apart and analyses Jonathan’s charm which almost feels like a conversation about Grant himself and the persona that the actor has perfected over twenty five years of being the romantic comedy leading man of choice for so many movies. Coupled with his not very smart move of visiting Fernando who confesses that he is trying his best to love a child that he knows isn’t one he has fathered makes this the most darkly grim episode of the series so far, and yet Kelley and Bier has the audience gripped. We can’t look away.
Potential revelations are hanging in the air constantly being teased at with aplomb. While the eventual reveal of Elena’s killer is most likely two episodes away, character revelation is in full abundance; Jonathan’s hint of another affair, Elena’s painting of Grace which maybe hints at the possibility that once again she is keeping her own secrets that have not been revealed to us, and then there is Franklin’s confessions of his own infidelities to Grace.
Nicole Kidman brilliantly conveys Grace’s anger and frustrations at being surrounded by liars and cheats of which her father is now also amongst, and yet there is also the possibility that we’re focusing on an unreliable narrator who is hiding her own secrets. Then again that might be just part of The Undoing’s dark slice of fun, another red herring to throw us away from where the real truths lie.
The one lesson that we can be assured of learning at this stage in the upper class New York world that The Undoing is presenting is that nobody is really worth trusting and heartache and lies are all that one has to be offered, especially when wealth and privilege are involved.
Certainly Fernando following Grace on her night time walks has its own set of problems, but in admitting to Jonathan that he is struggling to love a daughter that he knows isn’t his, he is thus far the only character on the show who is being honest.
The Undoing airs Sunday nights on HBO in the U.S and Sky Atlantic on Monday nights in the U.K.