Bad endings disappoint the most. In a long-list of bitter season finales, mainly, Game of Thrones, Morten Tyldum’s Defending Jacob is the newest addition that could have stuck its landing, if it wasn’t for developing a failed ambiguity or modifying the ending of its source material, which was a mess itself.
A mostly faithful adaptation of William Landay‘s novel, the show could have done away with the elements that made the book less likable. It treads as compellingly as the novel, delves deeper into understanding the psyche of parents of the accused, delivers a riveting courtroom drama, but crashes horribly in its definitive moments, leaving you unhappy and bewildered.
Given that Mark Bomback, the screenwriter of the show, decided to tweak the ending, you wish he had done it differently. The book, at the least, had a proper conclusion to surmise the whole story. The show deviates from the fundamental question of whether Jacob killed Ben Rifkin and is instead focused on a different subject concerning the distance parents are willing to go for protecting their kids in exchange for sacrificing their morality and virtue.
Though it is a thoughtful subject, it is only half-exploited, and the resolution feels less encouraging. Not to give any spoilers, but the actions of Jacob’s parents feel highly juvenile and do not feel true to their characters as developed throughout the season.
Recommended: Defending Jacob TV Premiere (Episodes 1 to 3)
What Defending Jacob gets right, as promised in its first three episodes, is highlighting the turmoil parents bear when their children are indicted for some wrongdoing. The episodes 4 to 6 exhibit at various intervals the necessary changes families of the accused have to make in their lifestyle to avoid any face-off with the public, who, in most cases, tend to make a judgment long before the court gives a decision.
The performances remain uniformly excellent that helps in making the atmosphere of the show very realistic. Michelle Dockery gets more role to chew, and she is terrific as a perplexed mother who is unsure of her son’s honesty but also confined because of her unconditional love for him.
It is a fantastic performance that grants emotional weight to the story, much more than Andy Barber’s relationship with his criminal father (played menacingly by J.K.Simmons). Appearing in an extended cameo, Simmons’ character gets a nice arc that lends a new take on forgiveness, particularly its approach, that is pivotal to the plot.
Other than the A-listers, Defending Jacob is hold up by the men in action: the advocates, both in support and against the accused, played by Cherry Jones and Pablo Schreiber, in precise order.
The actors personify their characters adeptly as the extensive detailing during the courtroom arguments keeps the tension to the boiling point. You feel legitimately confused for what happened exactly? Whether Jacob actually committed a crime or did something go massively wrong?
The soaring perplexity grabs your complete attention for the finale, only to be crushed for a disappointing finish with unanswered questions, making you wonder: was all of it for nothing?!
Ultimately, it is a show that can be watched for the journey, not the end, for its rewards lie in the process of discovering and comprehending the enormous burden of parenthood, particularly, in the prevailing digital age, where it is nearly impossible to monitor children for their countless shady activities.
You can watch Defending Jacob in full on Apple TV Plus. Check the first look below.
Rating: 3 / 5
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