One thing that makes HBO’s series famous, even notoriously infamous is limiting themselves to a small legion of fans. Most of its series, like Lovecraft Country, start off with an impressive start and keep up the steam even up till the penultimate episode, only to lose their footing when it comes to modelling the conclusion. But call it a masterstroke or a simple stroke of luck, Susanne Bier directed The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, went the other way and resurfaced as the winner in ways no one saw coming.
When the series began, airing its first episode on 25th November, it didn’t raise much hope for its future. In fact, in our review of the first episode of The Undoing, we had more or less given up hope on the series which even Nicole Kidman’s presence didn’t support.
“Just as the plot fails to perk up enough energy to make viewers care about a second episode, Nicole Kidman, unfortunately, fails to embody a character that would alone warrant a loyal audience. Constantly walking around with a stuck worried expression and with the camera just panning to her striking eyes, Kidman seems harried with her character personification here. Now, whether that’s deliberate with a decided motive and will the impossibly thin plot pick up its slack is left to be seen.”
And we stand by it as for the initial few episodes, The Undoing failed to pick the above-mentioned slack. It went in all directions and dropped unnecessary cliffhangers. What redeemed it is Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman finally given space to add her own versatility to the sudden well-played twist that the director pulls off in the latter half of the finale.
What has happened in The Undoing till now?
So, to recap, The Undoing introduced us to clinical psychologist Grace Fisher leading a happy, elite life with her husband, Jonathan (Hugh Grant) and their son, Henry (Noah Jupe) in upper Manhattan. But it all went up in flames after the much-publicized murder of Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis) as it is discovered that Jonathan was having an affair with her and as he eloped after her murder with his whereabouts unknown, he is also the prime suspect.
Throughout the first 3 episodes, it is relayed that Grace is in a psychological hell of her own and gets flashes from the actual murder. Does that mean she killed Elena? Her father harbours a fiery protective feeling for his daughter, maybe he came to know about his son-in-law’s affair and killed Elena in his rage or got her murdered?
The penultimate episode threw in another loop when Grace discovered the murder weapon, a heavy mallet, in Henry’s guitar case. Maybe he murdered Elena to protect his family from breaking apart. But it is the last episode, “The Bloody Truth,” that presented the conclusion which viewers would have either predicted or already known if they read the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz on which the series is based.
So, why does the finale win?
And thus the major reasons it stands out is Hugh Grant, Nicole Kidman, and the way the story allows itself to put in one final, rather appreciated twist. It’s Grant’s image as a romantic sweetheart throughout his career that makes it impossible the viewers to believe that he is capable of committing such a heinous crime and to that add the dollops of charisma he adds as Jonathan. His reputation even makes us consider Henry as the cold-blooded killer!
The icing on the cake is once again Nicole Kidman and Susanne Bier’s teamwork. In the last moments, Kidman’s Grace breaks out of her monotonous existence and delivers a trump card with a fine performance that turns the game on its head. The Undoing manages to catch one by surprise and that is a feat in itself.