In Unbelievable, there are good characters, bad characters, and not-bad characters, and it may be the not-bad characters that are the most believable, and frankly, scary. 

The not-bad characters as I deem them are the minor characters in the series who actually have some of the biggest impact on the story. Their poor decisions and lack of empathy are second only to the evil of the series’ true villain: the serial rapist. I call these characters “not-bad” because they are nowhere near the level of bad on which the serial rapist resides. Yet they are also quite far from the level of goodness on which the two hero detectives reside.They aren’t good and they aren’t bad. And as gut-wrenching as the series is, those are the characters that scared me the most because I saw the humanity in them; I saw a bit of myself.

Foster mothers Colleen and Judith (portrayed by Bridget Everett and Elizabeth Marvel respectively) love Marie. They want the best for her and try their hardest to be supportive. And yet, it’s their disbelief in Marie’s story that makes the police disregard Marie so easily and leaves the door open for the rapist to continue his streak of evil with zero cops on his tail. Of course, if Judith and Colleen had known this would happen they never would have made the choices they did, but that’s the problem with life isn’t it? You can’t see the consequences of your actions ahead of time.

And there is Detective Robert Parker, the cop who fully believes he is doing his due diligence by investigating the inconsistencies in Marie’s story. His treatment of Marie leaves her with no choice but to recant the account of her rape. He is coercing her but doesn’t know he is doing it. He’s a fool of course, but who of us hasn’t been at some point in our lives?

There are many horrors in Unbelievable but most of them were the horrors I expected when I decided to watch. Horrors that, as a woman, I face every day of my life. But the horror of being human, of being fallible, insensitive, careless; that hit me hardest. It terrifies me that I could be one of the minor characters with a major impact. But it’s true that we are all exactly that to someone else. We all have to do what Marie asks of Detective Parker, we have to do better.

Stray Thoughts

  • The rapist doesn’t get to speak until the very end and when he does it’s from the viewpoint of the women. This was a choice that in my opinion helped strengthen the story.
  • I became suspicious of every tall white male in the series (considering that was all we knew about the rapist for most of the series). I imagine that is how rape victims probably feel all the time, they must see 50 different versions of their attacker on a daily basis. I don’t know if this was conscious on the part of the creators but it was chilling.
  • Everything about this series had a sense of stillness to it. The plot unfolded slowly, as did the police work, and the performances were beautifully understated.

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