Anatomy of a Scandal is a compelling courtroom mystery at times brought up by its talented cast.
This review for the Netflix limited series Anatomy of a Scandal season 1 contains minor spoilers. The series will be released on the streaming service on April 15, 2022.
The latest Netflix streaming series is Anatomy of a Scandal, which is particularly appropriate in today’s times while combining classic tropes of law and courtroom television and themes of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to attack rich and powerful men by publicizing crimes instead of letting them stay buried. The result is a slow-burning series that reaches electrifying moments and ultimately delivers satisfying closure.
The limited series focuses on a popular high-ranking Westminster politician, James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend). He is married to a beautiful, intelligent woman named Sophie (american woman Siena Miller). They seem to have a perfect life among the British elite while raising a family. The problem is that a scandal is about to break out. James had an affair with a member of his team, Olivia (from Aladdin Naomi Scott), which lasted five months, and now she’s accusing him of rape. Queen Council lawyer Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery) takes on the case despite the political ramifications.
Anatomy of a Scandal is based on the wildly successful novel of the same name written by Sarah Vaughan. Directed by SJ Clarkson (Collateral) and written for television by David E. Kelley (Palisades, big little lies) and Melissa James Gibson (Americans), the adaptation stands out for its big twist and its interactions with the characters. For example, several scintillating audience scenes are led by standout performances. Scott’s Olivia and Friend’s James face engaging, provocative and captivating questioning and cross-examination.
The star of the series, however, is Michelle Dockery. Kate Woodcroft walks purposefully, as if every step has a purpose. For example, when the hero shots begin, she efficiently moves around using her red and black umbrella like a ruthless Mary Poppins as she rides through a rainstorm. She’s smart, attractive, and a total mystery. She’s the show’s main character for a limited run that could easily carry through to subsequent seasons if needed. While Miller’s Sophie is interesting at first, she remains a despised wife character until a few moments in the final scenes aren’t necessarily so interesting. The magnetic actress does what she can in a limited ceiling role.
The series has a significant plot twist that, while it might be seen as unnecessary by some, is handled in such a way that it sneaks up on you. It’s wonderfully done. I’ll happily admit in an admission of geeky bravado that I guessed it from the start, but it’s still a doozy. While episodes two through five are engaging and can be gripping, the ending might be seen as too neat and clean for some tastes due to those courtroom scenes that create significant tension. It’s not something you haven’t seen in a forensic thriller.
Anatomy of a Scandal can be a gripping courtroom drama, and happily bounces from a second episode where the central theme tries to blur the line of consent that just isn’t true. (James’ lawyer’s main argument is “not here” while having sex in the elevator doesn’t mean “no”). The first six episodes are perfect viewing for anyone who’s a fan of courtroom mysteries enhanced by its talented cast.