Review: ‘Unbelievable’ shares true events no one believed

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By McKenzie Oviatt | Reporter

Released Sept. 13, the Netflix Original Show “Unbelievable” instantly pulls the audience in by confirming everyone’s worst fear: this is based on true events that occurred in 2009.

This show is based on the Pulitzer-winning investigative reporting by ProPublica and The Marshall Project.

“Unbelievable” is arguable one of the best crime shows I’ve ever watched. The narrative starts off by depicting a young woman, Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), crouched down crying after being raped in the middle of the night by a masked man.

The first episode shows the rape taking place in Lynwood, Wash., where the detectives set out to solve the case. The setting portrays the town to be a dead-end, hopeless place. The characters introduced seem to be from low-income families that have few prospects.

As the show continues, each episode craftily switches narratives between what is happening in Lynnwood and a correlated investigation in Colorado. Around the same time of the rape in Lynnwood, more rape victims emerge in Colorado with similar markings.

A key part of the theme in “Unbelievable” is showing the investigative attention to detail by the detectives in the more profitable area in Colorado versus the lack of attention provided by the detectives in the at-risk community in Lynnwood.

The best part of this show is that it doesn’t spell out the narrative to you. No one mentions the corruption and faulty investigation of Marie’s case. No one mentions how heroic the detectives are in the upscale suburbs of Denver.

They don’t peg anyone out to be a stereotypical “good cop” or “bad cop.” They let the viewer categorize the characters for themselves. They let the audience come to their own conclusion of the corruption in the justice department in low-income parts of the country.

Another overarching theme of the show is how women are treated differently based on their outward appearance and reputation. Women who are perceived to be of high socioeconomic standing — those who refrain from drinking and those who never put themselves in the spotlight are the “true victims.”

These are the women who are believed and consoled, whereas women who grew up in rough neighborhoods, who don’t lock their doors at night and who might have gotten in trouble in the past, were simply asking for it. The detectives find it difficult to believe these victims — they question their integrity and express that they are wasting their time on these cases.

Marie’s foster mom shares with the detectives that she was raped in her 20s and by the looks of Marie, she says that Marie is likely making the story up. The foster mom explains her own reactions to her previous rape and since Marie responds differently than how she responded, she concludes that Marie is lying. The foster mom was the first person on scene after Marie was raped. She saw the trauma, yet she doesn’t believe her.

She reasons with the detective that Marie has been acting out recently to gain attention and that this was yet another ploy to get into the spotlight. From then on, the detectives pressure Marie to recant her statement, saying that she made up the rape allegations. The season continues to show how Marie is treated after people find out what happened to her. They show the lack of comfort given to her and the immense support of other women in Colorado.

This limited series has eight episodes engrossed in drama and heart-wrenching emotion available on Netflix. Unbelievable helps people better understand what being raped is like and it helps bring awareness to the faulty judicial system.

The first season outlines the investigative attention to detail given to different women of different stature; however, there is a trailer for a second season. I can only hope for another season to show how the victims recover after such a gut-wrenching experience.