Created by ’90s primetime king David E. Kelly, HBO’s The Undoing is a heady mystery with an A-list cast. The limited series follows Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman), a therapist who spends her downtime with New York’s ladies who lunch crowd as they gossip over Starbucks about their perfect lives. But her life slowly unravels following the murder of a young mother at her son’s exclusive private school. Soon enough, the gaze of suspicion is cast upon her husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant), her son Henry (Noah Jupe) and even Grace herself.
You may have heard all the brouhaha over the finale of the series (which came out a little over a week ago). The vitriol on social media was mostly over what was and was not portrayed in the end. Based on the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the story of a seemingly perfect marriage that dissolves in the wake of a brutal crime is a very straightforward whodunit. And that’s the issue. Considering the cast, the extravagance of the production, the reputation of the network, and the pedigree of the show’s creator, expectations were high in terms of promised twists, and it didn’t deliver.
Week after week, audiences fell under the trance of the limited series- theories were dished, assumptions were made, and conclusions were jumped. Much like Westworld and a certain dragon-laden fantasy series that shall not be named, The Undoing was shaping up to become this year’s event series. But in the end, the story proved to be a fairly forthright tale lacking any surprises. People were annoyed. Not with the show, but with the investment.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with The Undoing. It is a well-crafted story with an impeccable cast that will no doubt be rewarded come this award season. It is no fault of the show that folks got riled up, but really, the fault of the delivery of the show.
As HBO competes with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu to hold the attention of stay-at-home ordered audiences, they are also having to combat new methods of content consumption. And while the traditional weekly format is something that we have come to expect from HBO, it is now having to appease impatient audiences who have learned to consume their entertainment in large portions.
As at-home audiences change their content ingesting habits, their expectations have changed as well. That’s not to say there isn’t room in this brave new world for a weekly series (as with Disney+’s The Mandalorian or The Boys), but if viewers are going to be forced to wait, then the show better friggin’ give its audience some real payoff. The Undoing is a riveting mystery filled with great performances and a fantastic story, but ultimately, it would’ve been more powerful as a binge, rather than a weekly sudser with a lukewarm ending.