Sienna Miller in Anatomy of a Scandal (Photo Netflix)
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Anatomy of a Scandal
Season 1 | Netflix
Hourlong Crime Drama (6 Episodes) | TV-MA
What's Anatomy of a Scandal About?
In this adaptation of the bestselling legal thriller, a rising British politician is caught in an adulterous affair that ends very, very badly.
David E. Kelley — writer-producer of Big Little Lies, Big Sky, The Undoing, Mr. Mercedes, Boston Legal and so much more — is back with another book adaptation. This time it’s Sarah Vaughan’s bestselling legal thriller set in London, where the lawyers are called barristers, wear powdered wigs in court, and observe remarkable decorum. Basically, though, Anatomy of a Scandal is the same “privileged white people in trouble” miniseries that has been Kelley’s bread and butter — er, jam and scones — for years.
Sienna Miller is Sophie, the wife caught in the whirlwind of her husband’s affair and the subsequent accusations that follow. She’s the reason to stick it out through this unevenly told tale. Unlike Miller’s last prominent TV role, as the loyal wife of Fox News lech Roger Ailes, Sophie responds to new and ever-more-troubling revelations with nuance, emotion, and a growing sense of moral clarity that finally shines through in the series’ final minutes.
Rupert Friend (Homeland) is James, the MP and cabinet member whose longstanding friendship with the prime minister promises to blow up as more secrets are revealed. In flashbacks to the two men’s Oxford days, James is effectively played by Friend’s younger doppelgänger, Ben Radcliffe.
Downton Abbey fave Michelle Dockery is splendid as the Crown prosecutor whose job it is to punish James for the crime she knows, absolutely knows, that he committed.
Kelley co-created Anatomy of a Scandal with Melissa James Gibson (House of Cards, The Americans), and all episodes are directed by S.J. Clarkson (Life on Mars UK).
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
The brutalearlyreviews for Anatomy of a Scandal are not a good omen for Kelley completists who were planning to watch this. Still, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind substandard dialogue or visual gimmicks — and be warned, most episodes end with cheesy effects that make you think you’ve switched to a disaster flick — and you just want a decent page-turner that you don’t feel compelled to binge in one night, this fits the bill.
Pairs well with
Defending Jacob (Apple TV+), a much better legal thriller and a fine example of a novel getting a deeper, fuller adaptation than a movie treatment.
Top of the Lake (Hulu), in which Elisabeth Moss brings real depth to a stock role in a crime series co-created by Oscar winner Jane Campion.