by Kyle Arango
In this new era of entertainment where Netflix kicked off the streaming wars, every other program has been trying its best to catch up. There are so many of them now that just by sheer process of elimination, some of them are bound to get left in the background. Apple TV+ has been one of those services that has struggled to keep pace since its launch with other services like Hulu and Disney Plus surpassing them. You need content to draw people to your service and while The Morning Show got some eyes, I believe Defending Jacob will draw that attention. This is a riveting and unsettling look at how a family dealing with a murder case deals with the weight of that and this show hits that home.
Defending Jacob is based off the book of the same name that follows Andy (Chris Evans) and Laurie (Michelle Dockery) Barber, the parents of Jacob (Jaden Martell) who is accused of murdering his fellow classmate Ben. Once he is arrested, the family rushes to do whatever they can to figure out a way to prove their son’s innocence, even when many signs point in the opposite direction. This is what drew me in so much about this show was how real it made everything feel. If you are a parent, what would you do if your child was accused of murder and the only thing you have to prove their innocence is their word? It is a struggle we watch Andy and Laurie battle with every day and the consequences of that. That no matter what you do, the longer this drags out the heavier the weight gets on your family’s shoulders. Wounds become scars and questions will always linger in your mind and this show makes that situation profound.
These murder mystery type shows can easily fall into the trap of mismanaged pacing. Where it is dragged out too much and circles around the point a couple episodes too long. Not with Defending Jacob. Coming in at eight episodes, this thing feels like an expertly paced 7:30 hour film. Each episode ends with a new clue or reveal that makes you excited for what’s to come next and now with every episode out, you can binge through this incredibly fast. Director Morten Tyldum directs this show almost like a David Fincher movie. Weaving in beats at the right moments and delivering a stylish directing style that makes it feel lived in. He deserves so much credit for how well this show works. You want people to come back every week excited for what is to come next and this show does just that. Crime is one of the most popular genres out there so these shows and films can get familiar rather quickly. This show avoids that pitfall by expertly pacing the story and mixing it with interesting and complex characters and a payoff you cannot see coming. You follow the show wherever it points you without question which leads to some exciting and thrilling results.
Now, I mentioned he characters earlier, and they are the lifeblood of this show. Chris Evans has made interesting choices outside of his Captain America material but in Defending Jacob, this might be his best work. Evans plays the father whose son is accused and is so dynamic at how he reacts to that. He is able to play cool and calm but can only bottle up emotion for so long until an outburst happens. This is the stuff you see out of movie stars and after this performance, anything Evans chooses I am there for. This man deserves an Emmy nomination and win for this show which I believe is completely possible. It would not be as engaging if he didn’t have Michelle Dockery to bounce off of. She is on another level in this show also. She is a mother whose entire world is thrown off balance after this situation and you cannot help but feel terrible for her as she tries to navigate her emotions. Together these two are powerful forces that are the glue that holds this show together. On top of that, Jaden Martell as Jacob was the exact right choice for that part. He is able to play sympathetic but also questionable whereas an audience you have no idea when, if ever he is telling the truth.
Defending Jacob is the exact show Apple TV+ needs to get their service off the ground. It is everything you want from a crime thriller with twists and turns throughout that will leave you with so many questions. Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, and Jaden Martell are perfect as this shattered family trying their hardest to keep it together in the hardest of circumstances and deserve recognition for it. For all you crime junkies or even people who want binge worthy content, Defending Jacob is the perfect show for just that.