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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Undoing bails out its main suspect, and immediately proves why he's untrustworthy

Illustration for article titled iThe Undoing/i bails out its main suspect, and immediately proves why hes untrustworthy
Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO
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Well, isn’t Jonathan a sneaky bastard! After spending much of the previous couple of episodes on the ropes, once Franklin bails him out of jail, he immediately starts maneuvering for his own advantage without a backward glance. It’s suddenly very, very easy to see what his former colleague meant about his tendency to form inappropriate and manipulative relationships with the families of his patients.

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Take, for instance, the way he physically moves into spaces he hasn’t been invited into, the ease and arrogance with which he navigates, especially in situations where he knows it’s not welcome. While walking with Grace, he takes her hand, and then after she’s told him the marriage is over, he pulls her in close and hugs her. It’s claustrophobic and a bit creepy, but his calculation works: She accepts the hug, at least briefly, before pushing him back. Later, when she’s in the hospital, he barges into her hospital room, despite a lack of invitation, and then insists on giving her a physical exam despite her protestations, which, again, eventually subside. Franklin, meanwhile, looks like he’s about to combust in these moments. It’s suddenly a lot clearer how this marriage has functioned, the way Jonathan has undoubtedly weaseled his way out of conflict before in this way. The physical exam is utterly pointless— Jonathan’s medical expertise is in pediatric oncology, and while he undoubtedly knows basic emergency medicine, it’s all pretty obviously for show. And yet she succumbs.

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His other physical infringement is more grotesque—he shows up at Fernando’s apartment uninvited, shoves his foot in the door, touches Miguel without asking, suggests their dead family member was unwell, acts like the priority is his defense of his own innocence rather than not harassing a grieving family, and then, out of the blue, offers to adopt the baby Fernando has been caring for. It’s a bit over the top, even by the standards of this show, and to the degree that it works, it’s mostly on Hugh Grant’s shoulders to make it seem remotely believable that even someone as arrogant as him would face the potential legal ramifications of what is clearly witness tampering if not threatening behavior for this poor family in service of pushing Fernando.

But possibly his most heinous behavior is reserved for the end of the episode, when he goes on television and chokes up during the interview. Is he sad because of the trauma that’s been brought on his own family? Nope, he’s sad because he also loved Elena. What a way to reward his wife after she convinced her father to pay his exorbitantly priced bail! He doesn’t stop there, though—instead, he implies that he has some information about who really killed Elena. Someone who might have acted out of rage and jealousy after finding out about the affair. The camera cuts to Fernando at this moment, who looks absolutely ripshit to see him do this, but the show has so far insisted his alibi is airtight. Unfortunately, there’s one other character on this show who could also have been pushed to extremes of jealousy by the affair, and who should really know at this point not to trust him.

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Illustration for article titled iThe Undoing/i bails out its main suspect, and immediately proves why hes untrustworthy
Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO

It’s the strongest episode of the show yet, although it does have some weak moments—the brief interview with a Black woman on TV saying Jonathan was given bail because of white male privilege is shoehorned in very awkwardly. It’s a real telling instead of showing moment, in an episode filled with ways in which the degree of Jonathan’s extreme privilege is very apparent. The brevity, and the way it’s wedged into the episode almost at random, take away any meaningful critique that might be happening there. Of course he’s experiencing privilege! Every thing that he says and does in this episode is him being privileged. Why include this commentator if not to let her make her point more meaningfully than this? Additionally, the show really needs to figure out what it’s doing with Fernando. He’s made it through more episodes than Elena at this point, but with no more characterization than she ever got. They’re both volatile, perpetually near tears. It’s like the show is only interested in them as objects on which the desires and interests of Jonathan and Grace can rebound. It’s possible this is intended as some form of commentary? We only see them through the eyes of these two wealthy and powerful people, and so therefore our glimpse is just as minimal as theirs is. But it’s getting increasingly odd to have Fernando lurk around the edges without offering anything more about who he is.

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Stray observations

  • “I don’t make jokes. I’m not funny.” I appreciate a person who knows their limits! And also it was actually funny when Haley the Power Lawyer had to repeat it later in the episode. She looked offended.
  • Here to express my absolutely correct verdict that you can’t “no homophobe” your use of a homophobic insult, Franklin.
  • Speaking of Franklin, why in the world does he think now is the time to tell Grace he was a shitty husband to her dead mother! Read the room, Franklin.
  • Possibly the weirdest moment in the episode was that Grace watched Jonathan’s big interview with Sylvia…and Sylvia’s kid? I can see needing a friend there, but why is her kid watching with them.
  • So does Franklin keep office hours at the museum?
  • I wish the show had more to say about the media spectacle side of this. We’re told there’s a media spectacle, but the journalists only crowd at very specific moments, and there’s no sign that any of these people have been contacted by journalists trying to get the big story, and Grace and Jonathan are apparently totally unconcerned about the possibility that they might get spotted by the press on their walk.
  • The show keeps dancing around the possibility, and I am firmly on the side of Grace and Elena also had an affair.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Lisa is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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