Unorthodox Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – that feeling of freedom

By Daniel Hart
Published: March 26, 2020 (Last updated: December 4, 2023)
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Unorthodox episode 1 - Netflix Series


Unorthodox Episode 1 is an excellent opening to the Netflix series, revealing Esther’s desperation to leave her Hasidic community for newfound freedom.

This recap of Netflix Limited Series Unorthodox Season 1 Episode 1 contains significant spoilers.

Unorthodox Episode 1 provides a truly impactful opening to the limited series.

At the start, Esther Shapiro is packing a bag and heads downstairs, but her Jewish friends wonder why she’s got a bag with her. Esther goes back upstairs and rethinks her strategy and decides to pack light and hide certain items within her clothing. She heads out of the city and her husband Yanky wonders where she is at dinner with the family.

You see, Esther lives in a Hasidic New York Community and she wants to get out.

A woman, unbeknown to us yet, gives Esther a ticket and a new passport. She also gives Esther a present and wishes her luck for Berlin. When her husband Yanky returns home, he realizes what has happened. Yanky tells the family that she may have left because she was not happy.

Esther arrives in Berlin and it’s evident at this point that this Netflix series is not going to be short of good performances. Esther is tearful, feeling newfound freedom for the first time, but you can also sense the fear of the unknown in her face. We then experience a flashback of Esther comforting her grandmother who misses her husband. The conversation quickly escalates as her grandmother and family discuss matchmaking Esther with another man.

The flashback continues as Esther is asked to walk into a supermarket to meet a Miriam Shapiro. She is asked to walk around the supermarket and smile so she can be examined.

The claustrophobic life she had to lead is already evident.

Back in the present day, Esther adjusts to Berlin and enters a coffee shop; she is finding it difficult to order a coffee as she doesn’t understand the terminology. She offers to help a man named Robert take a lot of coffee to a music college nearby. Esther is introduced to the other music students. Esther sneaks into their rehearsals and fills with tears at the beautiful music. Music obviously has some resounding importance to her.

Back to the flashback in Unorthodox Episode 1; Esther is taken to a social gathering and she is introduced to Yanky. They both talk across the table and get to know each other. Esther tells Yanky she’s not like the other girls.

This scene is paramount because it demonstrates that she misunderstands the community she is about to marry into.

Back in the present day, Esther joins her new friends at Wannsee Lake; on the way there, she gets to know them in the car — she’s astounded by the casual way they discuss the history of Germany and what happened to the Jewish community. They go down to the beach next to the lake and her new friends strip down and head into the water and you can tell she is taken back by the quick revelation of flesh and freedom of bodies. Robert gives Esther a quick tour of the lake and explains that across the lake is where the Nazis planned concentration camps. Esther is then asked to join them in the lake. She slowly strips off her clothes but leaves most on. Esther walks into the lake slowly, taking it all in — Esther then takes off her wig and enjoys the water.

The walking in the lake and taking off the wig was symbolic of leaving the older her behind — she will no longer be able to be her previous self.

Yanky tells Esther’s family that she is missing — he is giving permission to check out her old room, where he finds music papers and a piano keys layout. Yanky heads over to the piano teacher Vivian — remember at the start when a woman gave Esther a new passport? This was Vivian. Yanky asks where Esther is. Yanky’s friend Moishe threatens to cut off her electricity and remove the lease. Yanky and Moishe learn that Esther is in Germany and Yanky is clearly frustrated. Yanky and Moishe listen to an unchecked voicemail of Esther’s. They learn that she is pregnant and had an ultrasound planned.

Yanky and the family talk about Esther and the due baby. They reckon she went to Berlin because her mother Leah lives there and they ask Yanky and Moishe to find her.

Unorthodox Episode 1 closes with Esther following one of her new friends Dasia into the college. Esther checks out the theatre and a piano. She sleeps on a floor in the college.

Additional Notes

  • Esther brought a little compass with her to Berlin.
  • In a flashback, Esher’s father demands rent off a music teacher. The music teacher asks Esther if she plays the piano and offers to teach her.
  • In a flashback, Esther’s mother congratulates Esther on her arranged marriage and gives her papers given her the rights to citizenship to Germany.
  • In a flashback, Esther shows her grandmother her wedding dress. Her grandmother tells Esther not to be scared

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