Review: Netflix’s ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ tackles sensitive topics tastefully

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Clay Thompson | Reporter

The show “Anatomy of a Scandal” would have gone under the radar for me if it hadn’t made it to Netflix’s No. 1 spot a few weeks ago. I decided to give it a try and I’m reasonably glad I did.

A limited series about how a sexually related scandal affects all involved, “Anatomy of a Scandal” truly is its namesake, burrowing into the psychological and physical effects the scandal has on those involved. As a warning, the show does tackle some heavy topics, such as sexual assault and the topic of consent, but it does so in a tasteful and profound way.

I first have to mention the unusual nature of the show. While it is few and far between, the show uses some surreal experiences to emphasize or contextualize moments in the show. From a man physically being thrown back by an accusation, to witness testimonies being reenacted in the courtroom, the show dumps audiences into its story in a not-so-typical courtroom format. While I was initially thrown off by this, as the show progressed I found it not only more helpful to me as a viewer, but also much more effective than what normally constitutes good courtroom drama. It added emphasis to how characters felt in the moment and gave audiences deeper understanding of the feelings and themes at play.

That being said, none of the characters held the audience’s hand in this show. The acting was subtle yet effective, and Sienne Miller and Michelle Dockery are the two standouts of the show for me. Miller plays the wife of a parliamentary official accused of sexually assaulting an office assistant. Her constant shifting between the choices of being a mother and dutiful wife of her accused husband or being her own person and discovering for herself what really happened creates a compelling character arc for her. As the audience, I truly enjoyed how she played the role.

Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” also does a wonderful job as the public prosecutor of the case. Her character inside and outside the courtroom was never dull, and she always knew how to measure her acting in every scene.

The themes and message of the show were perhaps the most compelling element of the limited series. It most heavily touches upon the complexities of sexual relationships and consent in what I believe to be an interesting but not pandering way. Additionally, the show discusses the topic of political and financial privilege within a justice system masterfully.

The only thing I would have to fault the show for is its twist. Without giving it away, there is a twist later on in the show that is so unbelievable and unethical that it really took me out of the story a bit. I understand the show is based on a book, so I cannot really fault the show for following its original material, however I can fault the twist in general for being so terrible that it almost ruined the show for me.

Netflix has another heated limited series hit on its hands. “Anatomy of a Scandal” takes a different direction than some other limited series, in covering one court case that dives deeply into the nuances and themes of the case’s origin, and it does so in a moving yet entertaining way.