Anatomy of a Scandal review – a sometimes riveting drama elevated by its talented cast

April 11, 2022
M.N. Miller 0
Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
3.5

Summary

Anatomy of a Scandal at times is a riveting courtroom mystery elevated by its talented cast.

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3.5

Summary

Anatomy of a Scandal at times is a riveting courtroom mystery elevated by its talented cast.

This review of the Netflix limited series Anatomy of a Scandal season 1 contains minor spoilers. The series will be released on the streaming service on April 15th, 2022


The latest Netflix streaming series is Anatomy of a Scandal, which is significantly appropriate for the current times while combining classic law and courtroom television tropes and themes of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to attack rich and powerful men through publicizing crimes instead of letting them remain buried. The result is a series with a slow burn that reaches electrifying moments and, ultimately, offers satisfying closure.

The limited series focuses on a popular high-ranking Westminster politician, James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend). He is married to a beautiful, whip-smart woman named Sophie (American Woman’s Sienna Miller). They seem to have a perfect life among Britain’s elite while raising a family. The issue is that a scandal is about to break. James has had an affair with a member of his staff, Olivia (Aladdin’s Naomi Scott), that lasted five months, and now she is accusing him of rape. The barrister Queen Council’s Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery) takes on the case despite the political ramifications.

Anatomy of a Scandal is based on the wildly successful novel of the same name written by Sarah Vaughan. Directed by S.J. Clarkson (Collateral) and written for television by David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Big Little Lies) and Melissa James Gibson (The Americans), the adaptation stands out with its big twist and character interactions. For instance, several scintillating courtroom scenes are led by some remarkable performances. Scott’s Olivia and Friend’s James have to deal with examination and cross-examination that is engaging, provocative, and thoroughly gripping.

The standout of the series, though, is Michelle Dockery. Kate Woodcroft walks around determinedly, as if every step has a purpose. Case in point, when the hero shots begin, she moves efficiently using her red and black umbrella like a ruthless Mary Poppins as she walks through a rainstorm. She is intelligent, attractive, and a total mystery. She is the series’ breakout character for a limited series that could easily lead subsequent seasons if needed. While Miller’s Sophie is interesting early on, she remains a scorned wife character until a few moments in the final scenes are not necessarily that interesting. The magnetic actress does what she can in a limited ceiling role.

The series has a signific plot twist that, while it could be considered unnecessary by some, is handled so that it sneaks up on you. It’s wonderfully done. I’ll gleefully admit in an admission of geek bravado I guessed it early on, but it is still a doozy. While episodes two through five are engaging and can be riveting, the ending could be considered too neat and clean for some tastes due to those courtroom scenes that build significant tension. It isn’t anything you haven’t seen in a courtroom thriller.

Anatomy of a Scandal can be a riveting courtroom drama, and thankfully rebounds from a second episode where the central theme tries to blur the line of consent that is just not true. (The main argument by James’s lawyer is “not here” while having sex in the elevator does not mean “no”). At an initial six episodes, this is perfect binge viewing for anyone who is a fan of courtroom mysteries elevated by its talented cast.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

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