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The Undoing Undone

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Spoilers ahoy.

The Guardian critic was disappointed in the final episode of The Undoing (Sky Atlantic). Disappointed in the solution to the “mystery” but also disappointed that it all seemed to get a bit preposterous and silly in the final.

Let me begin by questioning why people weren’t disappointed in being fed yet another portrayal of fabulously wealthy Upper West Siders with their ginormous apartments, palatial beach houses, and breathtakingly expensive private schools. All of this, and yet: Nicole Kidman is a “mom” who drops her 150-year-old son off at super-expensive private school in the morning and picks him up in the afternoon. She’s also a “therapist” with two clients, and her “appointments” run for two minutes per day, after which time she walks home. Sometimes she bumps into her friend, a high-powered lawyer, who also apparently has time to drop her kid off at school and pick them up in the afternoon.

But wait. Sure, these are wealthy people, you say. One percenters. But there are also “poor” people aren’t there not? There are! The murdered woman was a “scholarship mom”, meaning her son was at the supercalifragilistic school with all fees paid (community reach out, hmm?) and his dad is some kind of working stiff janitor/repairman. 

Phew! Working class grit. 

This “poor” couple have two apartments. In Manhattan. In the same neighbourhood as Nicole Kidman, Nicole Kidman’s face, and Hugh Grant. Two apartments: one of them is for her “art”.

Let’s try a thought experiment.

What if we made a TV drama that wasn’t about one-percenters, but about actual ordinary working class (or middle class, if you insist on that category) people? Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman are a married couple. He’s a doctor, she’s a therapist, but they’re paid regular salaries, and don’t have a billionaire father/in-law in the background. They live in Brooklyn, or Staten Island. She’s on the PTA of the local school, a regular public school. It’s so short of funds that they’re constantly trying to raise money, so there’s a fundraiser auction. They’re auctioning things like pamper days and cases of wine, and it takes place in the school auditorium, not some billionaire’s apartment.

There’s this other mother; she’s a bit hot, great tits (that seems to be important in The Undoing), and she’s an artist. She has an artsist’s studio in an old loft. At the local pilates class, she freaks Nicole Kidman out by standing naked in front of her. A few minutes later, Nicole Kidman’s face reacts. Hugh Grant shows some interest, but not much.

And then she turns up dead.

Do we need them to be unfeasibly rich? We do not.

Do we need the most expensive lawyer money can buy? We do not. We just need a lawyer, a scrapper, who wins cases. 

Do we need a palatial beach house? I don’t think so. How about just some small cabin up in the woods? Doesn’t have to be huge. Just a place for weekends, near a lake. They are professionals, after all.

And then the story can play out. Nicole Kidman doesn’t need to be in a helicopter at the end: that’s just showing off.

In other words, what I’d say to Lucy Mangan, the Guardian reviewer, is that it was always silly, cheesy, and unrealistic. It was always hard to believe that these people were living this lifestyle. People who can afford these apartments and these $50,000 per year schools don’t take their own kids to school. They don’t gossip at the school gates in their cashmere coats. These are just TV tropes designed to make ordinary struggling working class Americans think that obscene wealth is just a kiss away, so long as they keep their heads down, work three jobs, and don’t join a union.

This was never a murder mystery: the twist was that there was no twist. This was lifestyle porn, just like all the other shows about the super-rich, or “regular” people living as if they were super-rich, without visible means of support. Like Succession, Billions, Desperate Housewives, Big Little Lies, and so on.

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