If you have had the urge to subscribe to Apple TV+ but haven’t had that one last push yet, then Defending Jacob would be an ideal series to start off with.
This review of Apple TV+ series Defending Jacob contains no spoilers. All episodes will be available on the platform from May 29, 2020.
One of the main benefits of not reading the source material, the 2012 New York Times bestselling novel, is that every twist and turn felt gripping week by week. As I got midway through the murder drama series, it became largely obvious that Defending Jacob is not about whether Jacob committed the heinous crime, it’s about the constructs of a nuclear family being tested under excruciating circumstances.
Defending Jacob puts forward a murder mystery but it’s so obtusely family-driven that it spreads a rather simplistic story over 8 intense chapters. The story follows the Barber family — the father Andy (played by Chris Evans) is an assistant attorney and when he learns that his son Jacob is a prime suspect for the murder of another teenager from the same school he goes to, the Barber family is turned upside down.
The Barber family is the USP of Defending Jacob. They are sold as a middle-class suburban and happy family, with the parents at the peaks of their professions, enjoying their holidays and firming a solid marriage. The Apple TV+ series tests the foundations of a seemingly understanding family under wildly intense scrutiny. Each chapter focuses on Jacob, Andy and the wife Laurie (played by Michelle Dockery) as they navigate the world of “trial by media”.
Placing the Barber family in a bubble with outside influences like lawyers and investigators, Defending Jacob understands the conflicts of being a parent. The first protocol when your child is accused of something is to lurch into the defensive — “My child is not like that. I know my child.” This attitude shines through. The Apple TV+ series presents two conflicting approaches — a father who wholeheartedly rejects the idea that his son is capable of murder and a mother who slowly questions the “what if?”. The drama series relies heavily on silences and unspoken words, creating tantalizing scenes of tension.
Another strength of Defending Jacob is its way of presenting conflicts of interest. Andy is an assistant district attorney investigating a murder case at his son’s school. Benchmarked as one of the best lawyers in the state, Andy is inflicted by the urge to get to the truth, doing whatever it takes to prove his son’s innocence. The professional conflict of interest whereby Andy cannot be involved lawfully or legally presents a further dynamic to the Barber family.
Noticeably, Chris Evans is the highlight of the promotional materials of Defending Jacob, exemplifying further his acting range, but it would be rude to discount the performances of Michelle Dockery and Jaeden Martell. Both characters are extremely on-point to suppress their character’s feelings, making each slight sentence and flinch of body language speak a thousand words. The Apple TV+ series is well cast and the chemistry gels.
If you have had the urge to subscribe to Apple TV+ but haven’t had that one last push yet, then Defending Jacob would be an ideal series to start off with by pushing the boat out into the streaming world.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.