Netflix mini-series Unbelievable interlinks the stories of a teen rape victim and two detectives on the hunt for a serial rapist, showing how the predominantly male system of US law enforcement is rotten
Riding the true-crime wave as they have done previously with Mindhunter and When They See Us, Netflix expand Pulitzer prize-winning article The Unbelievable Story of Rape into an engaging and downright dismaying mini-series. Telling the story, concurrently, of a teenage rape victim (Kaitlyn Dever) and two detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) who identify and eventually track a serial rapist who has been cunningly avoiding detection because of his deep knowledge of police procedure.
Marie Adler is brutally and repeatedly raped in her apartment complex for vulnerable teens and she’s made to re-live the experience ad nauseam due to two incompetent detectives. As she gives her statement for what seems like the hundredth time, Marie begins to miss out certain details due to fatigue, which in turn leads the police to doubt she was actually assaulted. As her friends, foster family and support network (not to mention the Law) all turn against her, detectives Grace Rasmussen (Collette) and Karen Duvall (Wever) have come together because Karen has coincidently been made aware of several rapes that follow the same MO.
As these stories eventually intersect, we begin to realise why the title works on so many levels: the unbelievable way in which police systems are not linked from state-to-state, meaning the perpetrator is able to carry out his crimes undetected; the unbelievable and heinous nature of the crimes themselves; the unbelievable machinations of a patriarchal police chain of command; and eventually Marie as an “unbelievable” witness to her own rape.
What sets Unbelievable apart from a show like Mindhunter is that it is, first and foremost, from the perspective of the victims and their female counterparts working against a predominantly male system of indifference. It zooms close-up into the minutiae of victim trauma, telescoping back out to reveal how the whole picture is rotten from top to tail.
Streaming on Netflix