If you remember 2015 Doctor Foster, Suranne Jones’ character suspected her husband of having an affair from a single strand of hair on a coat.
It was superbly subtle before spiraling into a messy marriage.
In Anatomy of a scandal there is no room for such incisive observation with everything laid bare in all kinds of gratuitous staging, leaving only the question of how Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller) will react to the information.
The 6-part British series is based on the novel by Sarah Vaughan and centers on the infidelity – and more – of sitting politician James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend). He leads a glamorous life, father of two, friend of the prime minister and reveling in all kinds of rich white male privileges.
But when an affair with attractive co-worker Olivia (Naomi Scott) is discovered, his family life and political career fall apart. Fleet Street journalists are hounding him, a party adviser wants him to go free and, although he has admitted to Sophie that the affair was purely physical, he risks losing everything.
But the worst will come when Olivia’s allegations raise questions of consent. With the case heading to trial, gun attorney Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery) is determined to bring it down.
The courtroom is where a lot of the action will take place, when it isn’t interrupted by tacky, over-the-top flashback scenes from both contemporary scenes and his college days. Sophie finds herself wondering if her husband has been hiding a pattern of behavior…
The post #MeToo script by David E. Kelley and Melissa James Gibson – and especially the overt direction by SJ Paulson – leaves little to the imagination. Like a soap opera, it rises and falls with histrionic emotion, sometimes with theatrical metaphors that feel more like a Hollywood saga than a British psychological thriller.
Yet the twists and turns are so ridiculous that you have to embrace them just to see where the next episode takes you (I watched all 6, hopelessly sucked into its very silly maelstrom).
It’s also blatant in its sexual assault detailing – at least under cross scrutiny rather than visual – to the point where it’s probably triggering for some sections of the audience… luckily there’s an online referral for victims that accompanies each episode.
Sienna Miller, whose character tolerates too much for my liking, Rupert Friend and Michelle Dockery deliver all the nonsense with ample flair. You can happily sit back and lose yourself in its soapy tropes, or maybe even watch the hate if it gets too bizarre.
It’s just a shame that such a serious topic gets such over-the-top treatment.
Anatomy of a Scandal airs Friday, April 15 on Netflix.