blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Defending Jacob (2020) s01e03 – Poker Faces

I am a fan of both Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery. I’m not a fan of them together but, individually, I am a fan. Though, sadly—and “Defending Jacob” proves it—Evans is not working with the right directors in the right projects. He comes off in this thing like a not-fun period Dennis Quaid but still young when Evans was always good at being fun.


At one point in the episode, defense attorney Cherry Jones—Evans hired the lawyer defending his personal prime suspect (Daniel Henshall) because conflict of interest does not exist in “Jacob”—tells the couple they need to show no emotion.


Steve Rogers and Lady Mary need to not show emotion. Wonder if they can handle it.

The weird—and bad—thing is how Dockery should be able to handle it, but director Morten Tyldum directs them the same instead of for their specific kinds of stone face. It’s a missed opportunity and kind of where it’s super-obvious “Defending Jacob” is never going to get good.

There’s a big reveal from Evans about his family history in the episode, which they hide in various layers of flashback—first it’s in the present, with prosecuting attorney Pablo Schreiber questioning Evans about defense shrink Poorna Jagannathan, then we cut to Evans in the past telling Dockery he’s got to tell her a secret, then we jump ahead to the meeting with Jagannathan, then we keep jumping back and forth between the meeting and the reveal to Dockery.

And the big secret?

Evans’s dad is in prison for murder. What if it’s genetic predisposition! What if Steve Rogers’s bad genes made son Jaeden Martell a murderer!

Okay, so Defending Jacob: A Novel came out in 2012. Wasn’t genetic killer coding already out by then? Like, this premise sounds like a really boring TV version of Minority Report or something. But the show takes it seriously. Like, sure, science, schmience, let’s just make up nonsense.

Also dated is the homophobic bullying, especially in the way the show’s portraying it. But, also good to know the dead tween was a bigot.

We also find out when Evans says he’ll take care of things, he doesn’t and then Dockery has to do it in addition to making dinner or whatever, and, oh—turns out there were plenty of sociopath signals with Martell as a toddler and whatnot, the show just didn’t divulge because… it apparently makes the parents maybe covering a murder even more sympathetic? It’s unclear.

Also unclear is if the show’s aware its protagonists are like Nancy Myers protagonists with a murderer son (oh, who else saw or read Before and After). The show almost seems to be aware of they’re too absurdly WASP. Like Black lady cop Betty Gabriel tells Evans they aren’t real friends and she feels bad for him if he thinks they are because they’re not… they’re all like super fake. Is that intentional or Bomback’s writing? Gabriel telling Evans what’s up suggests the former, but everything else suggests the later. Always err on ineptness apparently.

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