For the past six weeks, HBO’s The Undoing kept murder mystery fans, Nicole Kidman devotees, and past Big Little Lies watchers on the edges of their seats. We impatiently awaited the answer of ‘whodunnit?’ as every episode revealed more and more dark secrets, and we at one point suspected every single character.
The last episode, though, when it finally aired, produced mixed reviews. Be prepared for MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. The mystery may be resolved, but are we satisfied?
With the finale of The Undoing premiering on HBO Max recently, viewers were shocked by the un-shocking reveal of the guilty party. Charming and lovable Hugh Grant plays Jonathan Fraser, a pediatric oncologist who slowly lets down his “gentle” facade and reveals himself as an adulterous and psychopathic murderer. Along with his undoing, we follow his wife Grace’s journey, tortured by the angle she must take in the trial and in her marriage. Nicole Kidman plays the tormented wife who realizes the power within herself masterfully. We relate to her, we empathize with her, we see her.
Many questions are left unanswered by the sixth and final episode. But the most important one is clear as day. Finally, with all the evidence stacked against him, Jonathan stops insisting his innocence to his son, and the pieces of that night all come together in a gruesome flashback. Suddenly we feel stupid for trying to rearrange these pieces to blame the twelve year old son, the husband of the victim, or even old and decrepit Donald Sutherland. We knew it was him all along. And yet, why is it such a surprise? Why did it feel like a defeat?
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant are nothing short of a power couple. Kidman’s stoic beauty and fabulous style make her out to be the most fabulous and graceful wife of Manhattan. And we love Hugh. So how could the endearingly dorky Notting Hill star do such a horrible thing? We see him in the first episode doting on his wife and son, playing with his patients, living a nice and comfortable life in Manhattan. The majority of the series is devoted to Grace trying to come to terms with the life she knows unraveling around her. Her confusion and tears and denial are exhausting in the early episodes, and we viewers want to reach through our screens and shake her yelling “wake up!!”
But then we sympathize with her. Then we start to believe it cannot be true, along with her. Her devotion is contagious. Because Grace Fraser so badly wanted to believe her husband was innocent, and so did we.
However, there’s a switch in the final episode. When Grace offers her testimony for the defense of her husband, we think she has sealed her fate as the faithful wife following her husband into the fire. But then she gets on the stand, and she undoes it all.
To quote Jonathan, “She fucked us.” Inspired by the prosecution attorney’s suggestion of “confirmation bias,” Grace’s testimony of her husband who feels no grief or shame is the nail in his coffin. Grace is empowered. And Jonathan is doomed.
Why Does it Matter
Just like we wanted to shake Grace, we have to shake ourselves. Wake up. The evidence was right in front of you. The. Whole Time. So why didn’t we want to believe it??
Though this idea of confirmation bias isn’t introduced till the last half of the finale, we suddenly see its implication across the entire series. Confirmation bias is the concept of interpreting the information around you to support the narrative you want to believe. With every new piece of evidence, we somehow molded it to fit another suspect’s story, even when Jonathan’s guilt was glaring us in the face.
Suddenly the mystery of whodunnit takes a backseat; maybe The Undoing isn’t a murder mystery at all, maybe it’s about a woman coming to grips with her reality and freeing herself from a dangerous situation.
The implication this take on The Undoing has on current affairs should not go unnoticed. Since quarantine began in early 2020, the statistics for domestic abuse have skyrocketed. People are trapped indoors, hiding from this virus and coming face to face with “intimate terrorism,” a common term for domestic violence. But many don’t want to believe their situation may be dangerous. They want to believe their partner is good and gentle. They want to believe they fell in love for a good reason. And that they stayed for a good reason. So they push it down.
But maybe the truth is staring them in the face. It’s a story we hear time and time again. It’s why when the victim is asked, “Why didn’t you just leave?”, the answer isn’t so simple. It’s more complicated than that. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is always more mental and emotional turmoil to unpack. Much like we see in Grace, she moves from accusatory, to sympathetic, and back to empowered and liberated.
The Undoing is an illustration of abuse that should not go unnoticed. While hundreds of people cling to the stories they want to believe, they miss the truth shaking them to see the truth. We may not be completely satisfied with the guilty party, because it’s what we didn’t want to believe. But maybe the truth isn’t always what we want. The Undoing shows us that although the truth may be our end goal, it’s not always the closure we desire. But that doesn’t make it less true.
Watch The Undoing
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