No, I’m not talking about what the Republican party has been doing to America for the past four years. This is my review of the new HBO series, The Undoing, with which I’m absolutely obsessed. I’m not even exaggerating—ever since I saw the first episode last week-end, I can’t stop thinking about it day and night.
Luckily for me, I saw it on Saturday night, almost a week after it premiered. So I had just twenty-four hours to wait for the second installment. But now I’m waiting that full week for number three, which is almost torture. But at least it’s given me time to think of what’s really happening in the series.
Before I watched the show, I had no idea that The Undoing is a murder mystery. I really wanted to see it because of Hugh Grant, who has never been less than entertaining in anything. Despite his presence, I knew it was not a comedy, but that was the extent of my knowledge about the show. I love dramas and thrillers and mysteries, so this one turned-out to be right up my alley. Once I got past the credits with Nicole Kidman’s too-thin-and-ethereal-for-me singing, and a funny-looking little girl probably supposed to be her character at that age, (the red curly hair was my clue on that one,) I got hooked right away.
But this article is not so much a review of the show, per se; it’s more my theory of who the killer is, and the clues I have to support it.
I’m writing this after seeing Episode 2 (of six,) so my opinion may change down the line. But I have a feeling I’m correct this early on. It’s not just a feeling…I have clues to back me up.
And trust me…I’ve watched both episodes multiple times! (Only because of so much pandemic time.)
So–Spoiler Alert! If you don’t want to know all this until the end of the mini-series, just skip down to the last nine brief paragraphs—the beginning of which is highlighted in bold–for the actual review, and then come back here to read my theory after you’ve seen the show. (And any changes to my opinions down the line will be in the Comments section below, where I look forward to seeing yours, as well.)
Here goes. (And I’m using the actors’ names instead of those of the characters, because it’s easier, for all of us.):
I believe Hugh when he insisted that he didn’t kill Matilda’s character. Because…Nicole Kidman did it!!! For sure. When I told that to Mr. X after the second hour, he was skeptical. First of all, he thinks Nicole’s father, played by Donald Sutherland, is the killer. But the only thing killer about him is his way-overgrown brows!!! Why would the make-up people not trim them already??? His character is a gazillionaire—I think he would have someone on call to do that.) Second of all, Mr. X asked why Nicole would be so worried about Hugh in her alone time. But I can explain that. Right now.
Here’s what I think happened:
Nicole couldn’t have followed Hugh to Matilda’s artist studio in Harlem because she stayed at the party they were at the night of the murder. But she could have asked their driver where he took Hugh. But I think it’s more likely that she went to the woman’s studio on her own, to follow-up on the kiss Matilda bestowed upon her in the elevator as Matilda left the party. And Nicole spied her husband and his mistress having sex. And when Hugh left, Nicole lost it on the woman.
Here’s one tiny clue about that situation: She pictured the woman being bludgeoned to death with that mallet, which she could not have done had she not been there.
And here’s another subtle clue: When Nicole is counseling the gay couple, her phone on the table beside her rings, and one of the guys snarkily asks if she has to take it, (which I agree with, by the way, because a therapist should not be having a phone on during a counseling session with her patients!) She explains that it’s her son’s school and would ring for an emergency only, so yes, she does have to take it. And then she just looks down at what I assume is a text message, because it reads, “with all sadness…” I knew right away that meant the woman had died, even though I had no idea that this was even a murder mystery. And the tiny subtle thing is that after Nicole says she has to take the call, she looks down at it for just a second, and a tiny smile comes across her much-worked-on almost-Joker-esque lips* for a nanosecond, and she goes right back to counseling the guys. *(What? You thought that gay patient was the only snarky person on here today?!)
When we watched that episode, the first time, I said to Mr. X, “She just said she had to take the call because it’s her son’s school, but then she just didn’t do it after she looked at it for a second. So what’s up with that?” So when I looked at it for a second time, it seemed even more significant to me. And after I watched the full second episode, I flashed back to that brief moment, and knew she was smiling because she was happy the woman was dead, even though the message hadn’t said that yet because she hadn’t read the full message. Am I a major detective or what??
Now moving on to Episode 2, at the end of it, Nicole called the police on Hugh Grant right away, after he showed-up at the beach house and admitted the affair. As soon as he turned around to hug their son, she called the police and said her husband had broken in and they should hurry because she’s terrified. There was no way she was terrified. Yes, of course she was angry about him having that affair and lying to her about still working at the hospital, but if she hadn’t killed Matilda, she would have just told Hugh he had to leave before she called the police on him. She wouldn’t do that to her son to let his father get arrested right in front of him. And she was far from terrified, no matter what. If she hadn’t killed the woman herself, she could’ve just let Hugh leave, and call them afterwards, which she would have to do no matter what, so she wouldn’t become an after-the-fact accessory to murder.
And if she wanted to make sure that she stays on the good side of the cops handling the case, she would have just called them in New York and told them her husband had just been there, and this is what he admitted. Then she would be helping the cops and be out of suspicion herself. But instead, she just called the local police and told them to hurry up over there and get him because she’s terrified. So to my mind, that’s one of her ways to get even with him for the affair he had. (Not to mention that the baby Matilda had was most likely his! Which is just another layer to the whole story. I think Nicole may have surmised that by how like him the baby looked, well before the police told her about that possibility.)
So when I told Mr. X all my theories, he said, “But why did we see her look so confused and concerned in her moments alone, especially at the end of Episode 1 when she couldn’t get in touch with her husband, and then discovers his phone in a drawer in their bedroom?” I think that she was trying to get in touch with him to discuss what happened at the school, to cover for herself, because that’s what someone innocent would do. And I think she really wanted him to be back in town so that he could be arrested for the murder. So I think she was genuinely surprised that his phone was there because she didn’t know he was going to skip town (which he did because he was worried that he would be arrested for the murder.) And I think she really was looking for him in those hotels to find out what was going on with him. None of that is inconsistent with her knowing that she herself is the murderer.
Also in the first episode, when Hugh climbed into bed with her after whatever had happened that night that we didn’t know about yet, I thought it was brilliant that the director didn’t show his whole face; all we saw was his forehead and the side of his eye scrunching-up in distress, so we knew something was wrong. I knew it was something more than that his patient had died somehow.
Speaking of that previous scene with his young cancer patient, it took me three watchings to realize that it wasn’t what was supposed to be happening that night of the fundraiser, but something in Nicole’s memory!
So originally I thought that he had killed the woman because his face is so distressed in the late night bedroom scene. But now we know that he was distressed, because he had just seen the bludgeoned bloody body of his lover! Then upon second examination, I could see the stress on Nicole’s face, as well, which shows me that she had just killed the woman.
And, by the way, Nicole Kidman’s face is soooo plastic now that she doesn’t really have a wide range of expressions, so it’s a tad hard to judge which are her own and which belong to the character.
Okay, murder theories over, guys! You can read the rest now, which basically is a review.
The Undoing is one of the most riveting shows I’ve ever seen! Maybe I’m just isolation-depressed now, but I don’t think that’s the case. I haven’t looked forward to any show so much in my entire life!
But I’m also thrilled that it’s a limited series so we have a resolution to the mystery. (And I’m confident that it will be mine!)
Hugh Grant is great. His delivery is as perfect and humorous as ever, even in this far-from-a-comedy. And he has the same old face, “old” being the operative word here; his visage now features many, many lines and age spots. But, somehow, he’s still so handsome.
Matilda de Angelis is perfect for the part of the girl who gets killed. Her crazy intense stares, accentuated by the perfect eye make-up, are uber-scary! Even scarier is that she had to go full frontal! That was so weird to see all of a sudden.
Both schoolboy actors are excellent. Noah Jupe, as the couple’s son, gives a mature performance, and the producers were brilliant to start all the action of the entire series off with Edan Alexander’s wordless performance. His walk and face tell a story all their own.
If you missed my rant about Donald Sutherland’s Andy Rooney-esque eyebrows in my clues above, here it is again: Why would the make-up people not trim those suckers already??? He’s supposed to be a gazillionaire in this show, so he would have someone on call to do that. I can’t even look at him because of that grossness. He, or someone around him, should know better!!! (And maybe now he will!)
And lastly, one of the absolute best things about the entire series for me is seeing all the fabulous New York City locations! I was supposed to be in the Big Apple all last month, so I’m finding those visuals to be both wonderful and heartbreaking right now. C’est la vie.
So I’m telling you—if you can get The Undoing on your TV system, I highly recommend that you watch it.
And when it’s all over, I will read the novel on which it’s based. So, it’s a double good use of my isolation time!