'The Undoing' Episode 1: Nicole Kidman-Hugh Grant show's upscale family melodrama is akin to 'Big Little Lies'
'The Undoing', starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant has everything that is in the making for an intriguing murder mystery set in a tone similar to that of writer David E Kelley's 'Big Little Lies'. In fact, it comes as a substitute for the very popular series which also starred Nicole Kidman, however, 'The Undoing' seems a lot more about one family and the tragedy that befalls them instead of a depiction of a complex journey of married women.
The latest HBO miniseries centers on how a couple, who until very recently lived in a bubble protected by their white privilege and their status, begin to unravel. The premiere episode starts with a little boy Miguel stumbling upon something in his mother's studio. He seems extremely shocked and before the scene pans to what shocked the little boy, we are taken a couple of days before this incident.
It is here that we meet oncologist Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant), his wife Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman) who is a therapist and bills "criminal prices", possibly $500 for her sessions, and their young son Henry Fraser (Noah Jupe) who goes to one of the premium prep schools that burns a hole the size of $50,000 in his parents' pockets.
This family is everything you believe an affluent family would be like, but instead of the tension or unhappiness we see in couples belonging to this section portrayed in shows, we see a comfortable banter between Jonathan and Grace. At least, that is what it looks like in the beginning.
Very early on in the episode, the couple makes it clear that they are aware of the privilege that comes with their background, but are they really capable of checking their privilege? Hardly. The prejudice that goes hand in hand with privilege is also something that the show draws on very early on to portray the role of a "scholarship mom" or what we know as a mother of a child who won a scholarship to study in a prestigious school that Henry goes to.
Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis) is a mother of two who wants to be involved as a parent and that is why she chooses to take part in the parent's committee that works for the betterment of the school and its standing. However, she hails from Harlem, a neighborhood that is nothing like the Upper East Side and that is clear the moment Grace meets Elena.
Initially, there is just excitement for the baby that Elena brings with her to the meeting, however, she begins to feel like an outsider the moment these mothers begin to discuss "art and money". To add to this, her baby girl ends up fussing and so Elena decides to breastfeed her daughter in the middle of the meeting in front of all of these women.
Grace and the other moms are not comfortable around this and this is apparent, but Grace attempts to cover up her reaction in front of others while she lets her opinions and her prejudice lose in the confines and privacy of her bedroom to her husband. She is shocked that for a woman who feels so much like an outsider that they would do something like this.
However, she also points out that the opinions of other mothers made her worry if she was doing the right thing by helping Henry live in a bubble that doesn't educate him about the true face of a society that he lives in today.
Even until that very moment, nothing seems to be wrong with this couple's marriage or their life for that matter. So when Grace meets Elena again, it just so happens to be at the locker room in a gym and yet again, Grace is confounded by Elena's comfort in her own skin. Her comfort with nudity bothers Elena but she also seems aware that this discomfort has more to do with herself than Elena.
Which is why she possibly comes across as a lot kinder and welcoming than the other women in the committee. However, what Grace really wasn't expecting was to hear about the woman she found equal parts intriguing and discomforting to be murdered in her own studio and left to be found dead by her little boy.
It is the moment that Grace hears of Elena's death that the bubble that she lived in popped and the glasshouse that she had built around herself and her family begins to crack little by little. It also doesn't help that the episode has alluded many a time to the roguishly charming Jonathan as the perpetrator of this crime.
The moment he speaks of killing, in the context of a conversation with one of his patients or the straight face with which he is able to lie to a child who has cancer, all of this topped by his sudden disappearance makes way to the question "Is Jonathan really connected to Elena's death? If so, how and why?" The fact that one of the detectives who is investigating the case seems extremely interested in having a conversation with Jonathan only furthers this speculation and we cannot wait to see how this pans out.
New episodes of 'The Undoing' airs every Sunday at 9 pm ET on HBO Max.