Chris Evans Michelle Dockery in Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob Review: An Engrossing Show on Parenthood, Not a Whodunit or Howdunit

Defending Jacob is directed by Morten Tyldum and tells the story of a 14-year old kid who is accused of murdering his classmate. 

If you are willing to watch this latest Apple TV show with the hopes of finding complex answers on youth violence – you should not. 

The show does not demystify the motivation that drives a teenager to commit a crime. Instead, it is focused on understanding the collective impact of such an event on the family of the accused.

It is neither a whodunit nor a howdunit. Defending Jacob is a rendition of parenthood and the sufferings that parents bear when their children are on the wrong path. 

Boasting an excellent cast, mainly the trio of Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, and Jaedan Martell – the show succeeds in depicting the harsh real-world scenarios that follow after an act of delinquency.

Defending Jacob Apple TV Plus Mini-Series

As I watched its first three episodes that are released today, I presumed the story would finish in a couple of additional chapters.

Apple stated that Defending Jacob is a mini-series. I was hoping for it on the lines of Godless, and Sharp Objects.

It was surprising to find that it is eight-episodes long, with the remaining chapters to release one by one every Friday for the next five weeks.

Recommended: Defending Jacob Season 1 Full Review

I wonder how the narrative will be able to maintain the curiosity, given that there is not enough story or character arcs left to unfold. Besides, we already figure out who the killer is.

The first two episodes are excellent for their tone and editing. The build-up is great, the emotional quotient is just about right, intense moments are not over-dramatized, and everything feels as realistic as possible.

There is significant attention to detail, as well. Particularly in one scene that is very touching.

When Jacob meets his parents the first time after getting arrested, he struggles to control himself from hugging his mother, while the officer continues to unshackle his handcuffs.

It is a very tiny moment, but it counts for how authentic it feels. The show is chockfull of such moments that do justice to the real-world people facing a similar ordeal.

The technicalities are all first-rate. The show is lit & shot very well. The score is fantastic. The production design is amazing. And then there is Chris Evans.

Chris Evans in Defending Jacob Apple TV Plus

In his first major project after Avengers: Endgame (not counting his brief, though pivotal appearance in Knives Out), he is outstanding.

As a fabled assistant district attorney and a protective father, he is suitably cast. The show relies on his shoulders, and he keeps it afloat with his pitch-perfect body language and etiquette required for the character.

Regardless of playing a similar role before (Gifted, 2017), he brings a new range of emotions and versatility.

Michelle Dockery, as his wife, is equally compelling. Her performance grows on you as the story advances. In one of her best scenes, she is required to walk past a dozen journalists keeping a straight face so as not to give any notable expression to the press.

As soon as she reaches inside, she breathes a sigh of relief and instantly bursts into tears.

It is a solid performance, and it will be fascinating to see her perform in the forthcoming episodes.

Jaeden Martell in Defending Jacob Apple TV Plus Series

Jaeden Martell, also shines in a few scenes. Though, mainly in the latter part of the story, once he is accused of the crime. Otherwise, his role is limited to playing video games or using his phone.

The supporting cast comprises a bunch of kids, of which most of them are merely used as props.

In a very distracting scene, a girl abruptly starts singing and playing guitar during the closing minutes of an episode. Her song is then used as a cover to conclude that episode on a strong note.

It has now become a routine practice for TV shows to have some episodes conclude with a song to make a lasting impression. Here though, it feels lazy.

Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell, Michelle Dockery in Defending Jacob Apple TV Plus

Nevertheless, Defending Jacob succeeds in capturing the gloom and suffering of the family of a delinquent teenager. It provides a surface-level understanding of what drives a minor to commit a crime.

The first two episodes are excellent. The third could have helped with better pacing and narrative.

The principal cast is excellent. Chris Evans takes charge from the front and never lets up.

The production design, cinematography, and editing is all first-rate. Though, it is highly uncertain if the show will be able to hold curiosity by the end of its intended eight-episodic run.

See it in pristine 4K clarity. It is, at least, worth your time for this weekend.

Rating: 3 / 5

What do you feel about Defending Jacob? Do you think this is another compelling show in Apple TV Plus’ catalog? Share your thoughts below in the comment section.

Mayank Nailwal
Passionate about films & filmmaking since 2002.
%d bloggers like this: