DEFENDING JACOB – Miniseries Review

An assistant district attorney named Andrew “Andy” Barber (Chris Evans) and his wife Laurie (Michelle Dockery) are shaken up after their fourteen-year-old son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is accused of murdering a classmate at school.

Before watching the newest Apple TV+ miniseries Defending Jacob, I had not heard anything about it. I had not seen any of the promotional materials accompanying the series such as a poster or a trailer, and I did not know that it was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by William Landay.

However, the one thing that hugely enticed me before watching it was learning who was in the lead cast. Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell, and Michelle Dockery are just a few of the names that line this star-studded show, and they are usually in projects that are worthy of their names and their talent.

Gratefully, I can say that this show is one-hundred percent worthy of the cast and its incredible director Morten Tyldum. Defending Jacob is not only the greatest television series I have seen since Breaking Bad, but it’s also one of the finest pieces of entertainment that I have seen in years, period.

It’s a non-stop, constantly moving series that will always leave you guessing with each and every episode. Screenwriter Mark Bomback does an absolutely phenomenal job at developing this story and our lead characters so much to the point where we eventually feel like we know them personally, and with each episode, we are glancing in at this crazy and chaotic moment in their lives.

From left to right: Michelle Dockery as Laurie Barber, Jaeden Martell as Jacob Barber, and Chris Evans as Andy Barber in Defending Jacob (2020).

Bomback’s work with the characters here is some of the best character development I have seen in years. We truly get to understand everybody’s point of view, whether it’s Jacob’s, Laurie’s, or Andy’s. Everybody feels completely well-rounded and incredibly well written in each episode.

But aside from all of the top-of-the-line character work that is certainly most impressive, it’s also a show that is extremely intense and gripping. With each passing scene, we learn more about the murder of Jacob’s fellow classmate Ben Rifkin (Liam Kilbreth), but just as we learn one thing, another question is brought up. Right when you may think you know all of the answers and have figured everything out, Bomback throws a curveball right toward you. It’s not the type of curveball that leaves you frustrated and angry, though. The exact opposite, actually.

One thing that was genuinely amazing about the series was how I could never truly tell who actually killed Ben Rifkin. There are moments where you may feel like you know the definite answer as to who it was. I was in the same boat. But then, other pieces of evidence start to emerge and now you start to question everything you have seen previously and re-evaluate for the future.

But besides all of the remarkable storytelling and character development, it’s also just an immensely stunning piece of entertainment, with the cinematography by Jonathan Freeman being exceptionally memorable. It often feels cold and is full of blue colors, but there are plenty of hopeful shots and lots of terrific uses of lighting that blew me away.

As a whole, Defending Jacob is about as good as any drama/thriller series can get. It’s a heart-wrenching, emotional, exhilarating, and stressful watch that will leave you shocked by the time the eighth and final episode comes. If you don’t already have a subscription to Apple TV+, Defending Jacob is worth signing up just for that alone.

Defending Jacob is one of the best television shows in years. It’s remarkably gripping, full of clever twists and turns, and has absolutely amazing character work on display.

Overall Grade: A+

Certificate: TV-MA

Cast: Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell, Cherry Jones, Pablo Schreiber, Betty Gabriel, Sakina Jaffrey, Poorna Jagannathan, J. K. Simmons, Patrick Fischler

Episode Count: 8

Network: Apple TV+

Series: Defending Jacob

Created by: Mark Bomback

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