Review: Compelling Script and Diverse Casting Makes 'Defending Jacob' Better Than the Book

by Michael Cox

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday July 6, 2021

Review: Compelling Script and Diverse Casting Makes 'Defending Jacob' Better Than the Book

The Paramount and Anonymous Content miniseries "Defending Jacob" is one of those rare adaptations that elicits the phrase, "It's better than the book." The reason for this is rather than trimming out the detail, as in most adaptations, this crime drama actually adds new perspectives, more nuances and plenty of point-of-view character details.

Rather than staying in the first person perspective of the main character Andy Barber (a man who, in the book, is misogynistic and pig-headed), this episodic thriller gets into the head of everyone in the family, broadening our perspective and making all the characters more compelling, while still maintaining a sense of mystery and uncertainty.

Chris Evans plays Andy Barber an assistant district attorney in Newton, Massachusetts who is investigating the stabbing of 14-year-old boy in a local park. Unbeknownst to Andy the victim had a history with his own son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell), a boy of the same age. As the story progresses, Andy realizes that not only is there a history but a chain of evidence that makes Jacob the prime suspect.

Due to this familial conflict of interest and the poor way Andy has dealt with it, he is suspended from his job and no longer completely trusted by his associates. In spite of this, Andy stubbornly works to protect his son, destroying potential evidence and pursuing his own leads in order to turn suspicions away from his son and his family.

In addition to the script and direction, by Mark Bomback and Morten Tyldum respectively, the casting of this series adds interest. Unlike the dour, frumpy and rather two-dimensional character in the book, Michelle Dockery plays Andy's wife Laurie as a restrained, strong and endlessly sympathetic woman. Also Betty Gabriel takes on the role of Andy's detective colleague, Pam Duffy, taking the role out of the hands of a white male, and beefing up and adding texture to the story in general. This casting of Gabriel as Duffy not only adds complexity to the relationship between Andy and the police force, it makes the whole genre less narrow and more appealing. Other women well cast in roles of authority are Sakina Jaffrey as the District Attorney and three-time Emmy Award-winner Cherry Jones as Jacob's lawyer.

The infamous and always interesting J.K. Simmons also appears in this dark family drama as Andy's estranged father, a convicted murderer who may have passed a destructive gene into his lineage, giving them all the propensity for violence.

All these elements come together beautifully with a stunning title sequence and a atmospheric theme song, making "Defending Jacob" an exciting legal thriller, now available to peruse and enjoy at will on DVD.

This DVD collection includes:

- All 8 episodes of this limited series
- Deconstructing "Defending Jacob"
- Crafting Character "Defending Jacob"
- Exclusive, never-before-seen deleted scenes

"Defending Jacob" — arrives on DVD, July 6.