None of these characters speak like human beings. James says that he deserves to be put in line alone for the dock, but he always thinks that Sophie, where his most recent troubles begin, deserves more poetry and less politics… Maybe because he thinks this is how posh people woo each other. “Bleurgh,” he coos later on, “the future is shite then, Whitehouse.” If Sophie’s future doesn’t include him, he fails to turn up to a party and coos on the phone, “My darling, where the fuck are you?”
It unfolds at a pace that is half in the present day and half in a flashback to James’s time at Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon-esque Club Libertine and had a row with Sophie. In this twisty thriller, it is known that it is silly and hams it up. It attempts to wear many hats and is a political thriller part courtroom drama. People meet in dark corridors to discuss dastardly deals. There is boorish behavior. People say “boys will be boys” on more than one occasion. It attempts serious exploration of power and consent, which sits uneasily with all the fireworks.
There are many episodes of chaos, but I understand that there is a feeling of nausea after six of them. Some scenes start with a wonk on the ceiling and end up on the floor, shot from a twisted angle that is rarely seen in the Commons. The cameras appear to have been supping from the subsidised bars, as characters drop from a great height and become literal impacts of emotional or surreal flashes of people suddenly appearing in scenes of memories. Similarly, the lyrics of “Blind, Is Love” explain what is happening on the screen, since I have not heard them at a high volume. The music swells in the closet, with its own skeletons, while a feckless prime minister and a cartoonish doctor spin a bastard spin on the side of fun. There are many fireworks.
The British class system deals with the behavior of entitled toffs in the upper echelons with a distinctly American feel, according to my doctor’s theory, even though we, the public, no longer find it cute. This is something that the cute spin doctor finds interesting, as it indulges in a safe distance from the period of drama in Britain. Considering this, it is worth noting that the co-creator of The Undoing, Big Little Lies, and other shows, James Melissa Gibson, wrote Scandal, a stable of rich women with slippery handsome husbands who embody this kind of stoic behavior.
It is quite intriguing to discover Sophie’s role as the stoic wife of a rich and privileged man, and her hints at her own ruthlessness. In the later series, there seems to be a moment where the Senate Judiciary Committee nods to Brett Kavanaugh’s rage, following Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. There are attempts to explore the complex themes of manipulation, power, and sex, but they don’t quite land with the same impact. Michelle Dockery and Friend Miller are clearly doing their best with what they have, but if you end up gobbling up an airport potboiler while bingeing happily on the beach, it’s not quite the same mood. Even in the first half of the series, they haven’t quite achieved what they set out to do.
Unfortunately, this is a big and unfortunate spoiler, but there is a certain twist in the previous episodes that I spent so much time on, and when it comes to that twist, it is so far-fetched and ridiculous. It feels inevitable that there would be one, and that is the main selling point of Netflix’s “trashy thriller with a twist” moment. It won’t be a twist that is expected, and that is why it is not even shown because this show wouldn’t be so daft.