Netflix’s limited series ‘Unbelievable’ delves into 2011 Colorado serial rape investigation
Before we dive into this week’s review, here’s a quick trigger warning — the following review is about a series that revolves around a very real serial rapist, viewers will see a similar warning if they choose to watch the series.
Netflix’s latest limited series “Unbelievable” is based on the very real investigation of a serial rapist who plagued Colorado in 2011. Blessedly, Netflix was clever enough to not focus on the rapist himself (let’s not give a platform to the boils of society) but the detectives and the survivors who brought him down. The series also delves into how rape cases can be mishandled, as one of the victims had reported her rape, but due to her personal circumstances law enforcement didn’t believe her.
“Unbelievable” is a fictionalized account of the 2011 case, so names have been changed. When the pilot begins the audience meets Marie Adler, a young woman who just aged out of the foster system in Washington, who reports being raped in 2008. Let’s just say that investigation doesn’t go very well. From here the audience watches as Detective Karen Duvall investigates an odd rape in Colorado, where she learns from the survivor that her rapist took away anything that could potentially have his DNA on it. When Duvall learns of a similar rape case that occurred in a different district, she teams up with the lead detective there, Grace Rasmussen, and they discover the rapist has more than two victims. This is not necessarily an easy series to watch given that it revolves around violent, meticulous rape; however, “Unbelievable” is shot and written to highlight the strength, tenacity and trauma of the survivors and detectives who brought down a monster.
Kaitlyn Dever (“Last Man Standing” and “Book Smart”) provides a heartbreaking portrayal of Adler as she suffers the trauma from her rape and then the additional trauma of not having her support system believe her. (Folks, a quick aside, if someone tells you they’ve been assaulted, your default answer should be to believe them. Would you doubt them if they said they had been mugged? No. Listen to people when they share their story.) Toni Collette (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “United States of Tara”) shines as the dynamic, brassy Detective Rasmussen. Merritt Wever (“Godless”), on the other hand rivets the viewer with her even-keeled performance of Detective Duvall’s determination and simmering rage. Together Collette and Wever create a stalwart task force dedicated to capturing the scumbag, an investigation that leaves audiences glued to their seats.
“Unbelievable” has one season available on Netflix. Viewers might also enjoy watching “When They See Us,” the Emmy-nominated limited series about the Central Park Five, which is also on Netflix.