When it comes to content that hinge on mystery and the reveal of it, shaping the story around your characters is usually the deciding factor as to whether or not the entire thing works. Sometimes it does, other times it doesn’t. In Defending Jacob’s case, the show wouldn’t be half as great as it is if the development and dynamic of all the characters didn’t flow so well. Often times crime and drama content falls by the way side, because the characters just barely get the job down. Here, the characters not only get the point across, they go above and beyond to do so. Which is what makes Defending Jacob so compelling to watch.
In our fifth episode, things are starting to go off the rails a little bit. And by things, I mean Andy Barber. Most of the episode is spent watching Andy as he sneaks around town questioning anyone and not seeing the consequences for any of his actions. While Laurie gets spit on at the grocery store and has a breakdown in front of Jacob’s therapist, her husband puts on a hoodie and jeans and does whatever he wants. The problem with that is, what Andy wants is to thoroughly shift any and all suspicions of Jacob onto someone else; whether the blame goes to Leonard Patz or Jacob’s friend Derek, it doesn’t matter. Someone other than Jacob is going to take the fall for this murder, Andy is going to make sure of it.
The biggest reason I haven’t gotten annoyed with Defending Jacob and all the things it’s allowing Andy to get away with is because the show isn’t glossing over the fact he’s doing sketchy things, every move Andy makes is almost immediately followed up with foreshadowing of how that move is going to eventually going to cause him more problems than solutions. His need to corner anyone involved in the investigation to get the answer he wants is peak white privilege, and there seems to be only one character not willing to take any of his shit; Pam Duffy who is just trying to do her job and getting more annoyed with Andy by the day. She may not be intimated by Andy but the students at Jacob’s school are, particularly Derek and Sarah. The way Andy went about cornering the both of them, but making it seem like he’s just passing through, seems to be pushing the narrative even more that this entire situation is more about Andy’s reputation than it is Jacob’s innocence. Andy says he’s doing all this for his son, but going to extreme almost illegal measures for scraps and bits of information is more than likely going to cause more harm than good. If the “present day” scenes that have been scattered through the epieosdes is anything to go on.
Each week, I’m continuously blown away by the performances of our parent protagonist. Especially Michelle Dockery and the way she brings a sense of compassion to Laurie that was nowhere to be found in the books. While Andy sneaks around and Jacob visits weird porn sites, Laurie bares the brunt of the public scrutiny. Normally, I’d roll my eyes and scoff that she knows her son is accused of murder and should make better choices about going out but Dockery’s embodiment of Laurie digs deep within. I feel bad for Laurie. But only for her. Defending Jacob is some of Chris Evans’ best work yet, but Andy might be the most frustrating role he’s had. Every choice Andy’s make is an odd one to me, but none more than the way he’s willing to pin Ben’s murder on Derek. His singular focus on his son is causing him to have no regard for anyone elses’ child. I was more okay with him trying to pin the murder on the Patz who is a predator, even though Patz probably didn’t do it. I am, however, enjoying getting to see Evans range as an actor. He hasn’t disappointed the entire series.
We’ve only got three more episodes before this limited series ends, having read the book I’m most excited for these last three. This is where we should have our second turning point and things should get even more intense. We’ve long passed the point of it mattering whether or not Jacob killed Ben, we’ve passed multiple red flags that were waving at us to see that this situation has now turned a game of morality and who can out smart who. Then again, perhaps the system has always been that way and Defending Jacob is doing its best to shine light on what true privilege really is. All the while still being able to make us root hard for the Barber family to come out of this okay. And that’s what make the show so great.
Defending Jacob airs on Apple Tv on Fridays.
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