Anatomy of a Scandal season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Marc Miller
Published: April 15, 2022 (Last updated: November 4, 2023)
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Anatomy of a Scandal season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained


The first episode of Anatomy of a Scandal is a bit of a slow burn, with a stellar turn by Sienna Miller.

This recap of the Netflix series Anatomy of a Scandal season 1, episode 1, contains spoilers.

Read the season 1 review of Anatomy of a Scandal.

Anatomy of a Scandal season 1, episode 1 recap

We are introduced to three main characters in the first scenes of Anatomy of a Scandal. The first is Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery), a barrister who walks determinedly in her Queen’s Council attire (a black silk gown with long closed sleeves and a white wig) and quickly undresses like a professional on the go. Kate begins to walk through a rainstorm promptly and efficiently using her red and black umbrella like a ruthless Mary Poppins. When she reaches her office, she has her assistant make her a drink. She is ready to keep working because she has nowhere to go at night. Her lover has told her that she cannot come over because his wife is still in town. 

You then have Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller), a bright and beautiful forty-something woman waiting impatiently for her husband to show up at a party. She appears to be well respected, the sort of respect that suggests she has connections. Sophia tells one of her “well-to-do” friends a story about her ambitious husband and makes jokes many laugh at. She is charming, but in a way that her societal importance may be the source of. Sophia then finds some privacy and gives her better half a call. She leaves him a voicemail in the sweetest voice she can muster, “My darling man, where the fuck are you?”

Her “darling man” is James (Rupert Friend), a handsome man talking and listening to an older adult woman’s concerns with a twinkle in his eye. When you look at him, you instantly know he’s a politician (or a conman, but is there a difference?). He makes her laugh the way an old lady finds a handsome younger man funny. They are then interrupted by his assistant. She whispers in his ear, and his face changes from pleasant to ominous. He leaves, calls Sophie, and tells her to come home immediately. Sophia makes her apologies and says the babysitter feels ill and she needs to take over watching the children. When she reaches home, James gives her the news.

He had an affair for five months, and the news is about to break tomorrow. 

So, they go into public relations boot camp. With a flair for crude, brutally honest assessments, their PR guy goes into damage control. Sophie, who briefly has a bout of anxiety, comes back into the room to tell them she will not divorce him. Why would she throw out over ten years of marriage and her two kids? She goes to bed early that night, wakes up, and turns on the television. James addresses the media on television about his brief affair with a colleague and apologizes to his wife, family, and constituents. 

There is not as much fallout as you would expect. Sophie seems to be taking the brunt of it. The wife who had her over the other night now breaks off plans on Saturday night with the Whitehouses. However, the Prime Minister is protecting James, not only because he is the political party’s rising star and their most talented politician on that side of the chamber, but they are old college friends. Despite his public embarrassment, he can still pass his bill to help many. 

Time passes, and James seems to have weathered the storm of the scandal, but Sophie is still struggling (which can be seen in a terrific elevator scene where Miller displays a host of emotions). When she enters the dining room, she meets her husband and an old white man who tells her, “Boys will be boys,” and, “My wife says, once okay, twice go away.” Sophie tells her husband she does not want her mother’s marriage during their lunch. James, sensing she wants things to end, tells her he will end his political career if it means keeping her. If he loses, he says, the future is “shite.” Sophie seems to have fallen in love with him all over again. She gives him a passionate kiss before she leaves him by the car. All seems right again in their world.

Of course, things never last that way, especially at the end of the first episode of a mini-series. When James is walking back to the office, he is stopped by two constables who prevent him from asking him questions. He demands to ask what this is about. They tell him there has been an accusation of rape against him. He is taken back by the accusation. So much so, he appears to be struck by something and sent flying backward to show the charge knocks him over.

What did you think of the Netflix series Anatomy of a Scandal season 1, episode 1? Let us know in the comments below!

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