An Elegant Whodunnit Drama: Review of HBO’s ‘The Undoing’

Shayeza Walid reviews David E. Kelly’s latest TV Series The Undoing, packed with an all star cast and twists at every corner.

Painstakingly aware that I mustn’t give away any spoilers, I must say that it is without a doubt that HBO’s new whodunnit miniseries, The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, with its riveting and inventive ending, is a must watch for crime-thriller lovers and fans of the actors alike. 

The Undoing review: Rich people suffer beautifully in HBO's latest thriller  |

Although inspired by the novel You Should Have Known, a psychological thriller by Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Undoing is quick to deviate from the book, as early as the second of its six episode run. While making use of the characters and premise of the novel, the show has a path of its own. Show creator David E. Kelly (Big Little Lies) carefully concocts a sultry, seductive, yet sophisticated world – one full of sex, secrets, and sabotage – as the superficially perfect lives of its wealthy main characters begin to fall apart.  

Fostering an atmosphere of destabilization from the get-go, the show follows the life of psychologist Grace Fraser (Kidman), whose world begins to crumble when her husband Jonathan (Grant), is linked to the death of Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis). Elena, who was a fellow parent at the Fraser’s son Henry’s (Noah Jupe) fictional private school Reardon, is found dead — leading to an investigation that creates the show’s main premise. As Grace questions, and at times even overlooks many changes in her surroundings, we find ourselves on the same journey as her, experiencing her chaotic state of mind. 

By telling a story that depicts chaos, crisis, and confusion but with its characters still functioning unaltered, the show is realistic yet also visually palatable to the audience by not being disorderly. Director of all six episodes, Susanne Bier (The Night Manager, Birdbox), strikes a perfect balance. Resultantly, the show is smoothly suspenseful, giving us just enough drama but also the time to invest in the characters and their sensibilities. 

The Undoing' Finale: Who Killed Elena? Clues, Theories | TVLine

While the drama kicks off at a fundraiser at one of the Fraser’s lavish apartments, where the New York elite gather for gossipy small talk and a show of wealth, the thrilling trajectory of the show begins the morning after. Elena is found murdered, Jonathan is uncontactable, and it begins to occur to Grace that, perhaps, we can never really know those closest to us, even for those of us who are professional therapists, highly trained in the analysis of human behaviour. As the main plot slowly unravels, and clues are laid out, a number of grim revelations surface.

Here, praise must be given to what makes the show so gripping; the phenomenal acting, of not only the lead characters, but the remarkable supporting cast as well. Though many may find the show bland for its basic whodunnit narrative structure, the acting makes us go on. Grant’s shifty demeanour makes for a perfectly combustible match with Kidman’s brittle elegance. And with the NYPD detective duo and Grace’s funny gossipy confidante Sylvia (Lily Rabe), even if each episode’s cliffhangers don’t captivate, the actors’ masterful and nuanced mannerisms most definitely do. 

Ultimately, in The Undoing we find that there is no winner, and everyone is a criminal in their own minds for neglecting the truth or choosing to be naive out of some hope for stability. However, as we get closer to finding out who the killer is, we find that in this tale, the obvious is often the answer. And with us, Grace too comes to this realisation.

For what happens at the end?

I’d recommend getting on the thriller express and watching the show yourself.

‘The Undoing’ premiered on October 25th and is available to watch on HBO. Watch a teaser here:

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