Defending Jacob (2020)

Defending Jacob (2020) Cover

Defending Jacob is a suspensefully thrilling and well-acted 8 episode mini-series that will premiere on Apple’s relatively new streaming service, AppleTV+. The first 3 episodes will be released on April 24th and then you can expect one new episode each subsequent week on Fridays. If you do not currently have an AppleTV+ subscription, now is the time to get one! If you have purchased an Apple product AppleTV+ is included for one year.

Based on the novel by William Landay, a gruesome murder takes the citizens of Newton, Massachusetts by surprise! Well-renowned District Attorney Andy Barber (Chris Evans, Knives Out, Avengers: Endgame) begins to look at who may have caused this mayhem until his 14-year old ill-mannered, yet well-cared for, son Jacob (Jaeden Martell, It, Knives Out) becomes a suspect. Andy and his wife Laurie (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey) become stricken with anxiety as they want to believe in their son’s innocence. The show takes us on an exceptionally enthralling ride filled with great reveals, tense court scenes, and an unpredictable outcome that made it the most entertaining form of TV/Film I’ve seen in 2020.

Both Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell both came from Ryan Johnson’s who-dun-it, Knives Out, to do this murder mystery and they are excellent with communicating an interesting father-son relationship that doesn’t feel perfect but realistic. The performances of Evans and Dockery are also commendable as you will cherish the duo’s relationship as husband and wife and the love that they hold for Jacob. From tears to quivering voices during serious conversations, the audience will form a desire to see Jacob be innocent because if he isn’t that will result in these parent characters (who have been nothing but well-meaning parents) unfathomable agony. This is Chris Evans’s best performance by a large margain- his determination motivated by love for his child was captivating to watch. Supporting characters also deliver exceptionally well performances. J.K. Simmons plays Jacob’s imprisoned grandfather and Cherry Jones plays Jacob’s defense attorney.

The development of these characters is what allows Defending Jacob to pull on your heartstrings and evoke thrills effectively. Because the protagonist and his wife are likable characters, you want to see them win. Additionally, the plot has some pleasantly shocking reveals that don’t quite prove but do suggest that Jacob may have been involved in the murder. Martell’s performance, his well-written dialogue and the suggestive evidence will evoke conflicted emotions. From taking a knife to school to an odd social media post, you will see Jacob’s parents and yourself asking, “Why would you do that!?”

The pacing moves along quickly, especially with the first three episodes. However, the middle set of episodes are slightly lackluster in comparison to the firepower of the opening ones. Details, such as Jacob being evaluated for potentially having a “killing gene” that his grandfather has, were interesting but not necessary. There’s a few details that are explored that seemed to prolong what probably could have been 5 episodes (or a 2.5 hour film). However, this quandary was truly the only single minor “flaw” I could point out. Those who love these characters as I did may not mind the extra length of time we are able to spend with these characters in these middle episodes but just may note the slower pacing. The conclusion is off-the-walls bananas and you will be rewarded with some fascinating dramatic events if you stay tuned til the end!

Production elements that stood out the most to me were the music and color grading. Composer Atli Örvarsson (Pirates of the Caribbean series) develops a score that compliments the thrills you are sure to experience! Additionally, the color grading is filled with lots of blues and cool-saturated colors that give off a sense of dread, eeriness, and that consistent palette made the series one that was aesthetically beautiful to look at.

Final Verdict:An exceptionally enthralling ride filled with tense scenes, well-written characters, and an unpredictable outcome!