Review: ‘Unbelievable’ tells harrowing, hopeful story

Lindsey Bennett
Print Editor

Netflix launched a new miniseries in September that was released to critical acclaim.

“Unbelievable” is adapted from a 12,000 word article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” by Ken Armstrong and T. Christian Miller published in 2015. It follows a series of rapes in Washington and Colorado from 2008 to 2011. The story won several awards, including the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

Netflix separated the story into eight 42-58 minute episodes. The first episode takes place in Lynnwood, WA, and introduces an 18-year-old victim under the pseudonym Marie Adler, played by 22-year-old Kaitlyn Dever. The scene opens with Adler distressed in her apartment after calling the police to report her attack.

“Unbelievable” is one of Dever’s first starring roles, having previously acted in shows such as FX’s “Justified” and the ABC sitcom “Last Man Standing.” She also appeared in films like critically acclaimed “The Spectacular Now” and “Booksmart.”

Following Adler’s report, the young woman is forced to recount her traumatic story several times, undergoes invasive hospital procedures and is questioned intensely by the police. All of these events happen in the first episode, highlighting the whirlwind of steps that occur when victims report sexual assault.

Kaitlyn Dever performs a scene from “Unbelievable” on Netflix. © 2019, Netflix. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. Photo from Netflix/TNS

The local detectives who handle Adler’s case are highly suspicious of her accusation due to events in her past. Because of their doubt and the subsequent accusatory questioning, Adler redacts her official statements and undergoes criminal proceedings. Each day, the victim faces daily scrutiny from friends, employers and the public.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), three out of four rapes go unreported. “Unbelievable” vividly depicts why this fact exists. However, the show also brings awareness in hopes that the ratio will lower and victims will be treated with more understanding.

It took several other sexual assaults by the same attacker and the chance connection of two female detectives, Karen Duvall and Grace Rasmussen, to finally link the crimes. After this meeting, the two detectives work together to find the criminal.

The two female detectives are based on real-life officers Stacy Galbraith and Edna Hendershot and played by Merritt Wever and Toni Collette.

Following the release, Dever revealed how the real-life Marie reacted to the show in an interview with Forbes, “Her reaction was incredible. She said it is perfect and she got closure from watching it. I was overwhelmed with a lot of feelings. My heart dropped. It brings me so much joy knowing she feels that way. It makes me so happy and that’s all I need at this point. I don’t need anything else.”

“Unbelievable” is a devastating yet informative series that gives weight to victim’s words and shows how valuable closure is for victims of sexual assault. The show is available to stream on Netflix and rated TV-MA.

Safe Connections crisis helpline: 314-531-2003


Lindsey Bennett – Print Editor

This is print editor Lindsey Bennett’s second year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.


Support Our Sponsors

Leave a Reply