Probably the hardest thing for a parent to experience is the feeling of not being able to protect their child. No matter what the circumstances are, the helplessness that takes over when you don’t have the power to make your kid feel safe has to be debilitating. For Andy and Laurie, the suffocating feeling is ramped up ten times higher because not only can they not protect Jacob but it’s on display for everyone to see.
In the second to last episode of Defending Jacob, the trial begins and it’s a battlefield. Neal does everything he can to incriminate Jacob, while barely staying respectful about it but he’s no match for Joanna who is ready and prepared for everything he tries to throw their way. Plus it helps the judge is a sensible one and doesn’t let Neal’s obvious grudge against Andy steer the trial that is supposed to be about Jacob. However when they aren’t in the courtroom, Andy and Laurie’s steadiness crumbles. They can stand tall and firm behind Jacob in front of an audience but when it’s just them at home it’s clear how big the rift between them has become. Laurie has pretty much closed herself off from Andy, and he continues to lie to her about his phone conversations with his father. She doesn’t even know they’re speaking to each other. All the while, Jacob sits up in his room having close to no reactions about anything. It’s a weird situation that only gets stranger as the episode goes on.
While having criticized Defending Jacob’s often awkward pace before, I find that for this episode it works extremely well. The extensive coverage of Jacob’s murder trial does best what the show has been trying to convey the entire season, it skews the perspective of Jacob’s innocence in his parents’ eyes. Finally, after six episodes of Andy viciously denying that Jacob isn’t a normal kid, we get to see his assuredness in his son waver. When it’s revealed that Jacob posted a story on social media that eerily resembles Ben’s murder, something must click for Andy. When he asks Jacob again if he killed him the answer is the same but the doubt is written all over Andy’s face. Laurie has always been on the fence about Jacob’s innocence but after the reveal, she slides into the full belief that her son is a killer. This isn’t hard to understand, but it does make for the biggest argument the couple has had yet.
As the episode ends on a rather big cliffhanger, I worry that the final episode of Defending Jacob is going to fall short. After rumors that the ending of the series has been altered from the ending of the book I can’t help but think the most shocking thing about the story in itself has now been watered down. There’s no way to know for sure until the final episode comes out next week, but I’m actively hoping to be wrong. I liked the entirety of “Wishful Thinking”, which I haven’t been able to say for the last couple of episodes. This episode is the series at its best, a family drama that just so happens to be about a murder.
Defending Jacob airs Fridays on Apple TV
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