Apple TV+ has yet to champion a unifying hit like it’s streaming predecessors. But it doesn’t negate the good content available if you’re willing to tread for awhile. Defending Jacob is a prime example. The 8-episodic limited series has everything hit shows possess. A stellar cast. True-to-life storytelling. An unexpected twist. It just needs an audience to spread the word.
Despite its small sample group, the dramatization of William Landay’s 2012 NYT bestseller packs a punch. Great performances from Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery and It’s Jaeden Martell elevate the courtroom drama’s slow burn into an agonizing questioning of morality. When district attorney Andy Barker’s (Evans) son is charged with a classmate’s murder, the trial forces him and his wife Lori (Dockery) to unlearn everything they knew about Jacob (Martell); and, more importantly themselves.
Seeing Evans in a role not elevated with CGI reminds us of his dramatic acting chops. And Martell’s portrayal of the normal teenager is breathtakingly believable. Teen years are plagued with a overall indifference one could interpret has silent rage. He captures those emotions and anxiety easily. Michelle Dockery gets much kudos in my book as she’s a mother struggling to reconcile her own disbelief in her son. Something she can’t help feel is her fault.
Jacob did a great job examining the nature vs. nurture formula when it comes to behavior. How susceptible one is toward living out the dark thoughts in one’s mind. It also made a great statement on life in this social media era as a teenager. Where I think many feel 13 Reasons Why felt too exploitative, Jacob pins the culture of Instagram and the comment section perfectly. The old days of bullying isn’t just within a school’s four walls. The words and images released on the web reach homes and eyes two-fold. And as they say, nothing dies on the internet.
While some feel it’s tepid pace may seem boring, I think these are its strongest moments. The quiet moments of inner conflict. And while talks of a second season always arise, I feel it best to leave this right where it ended.
Watch all eight episodes of Defending Jacob on Apple TV+ wherever it is accessible.