The small township of Newton gets rocked by the news of a murdered teenager known as Ben Rifkin. Soon voices on the internet and social media point fingers at Jacob Barber, a classmate of Ben. Jacob’s parents Andrew and Laurie set out on a mission to prove their son’s innocence while the rest of the town is hell-bent on proving his accusation. As the case progresses, it becomes evident that not everyone is what they seem. Andy’s missing father resurfaces, as a murder convict, spending his life in jail. Laurie, on reminiscing about Jacob’s childhood, starts remembering some of the violent traits of his early days. Did Jacob inherit the murder gene? Can the violent streak be inherited from an ancestor?  ‘Defending Jacob’, Apple TV +’s latest offering, isn’t your traditional garden variety whodunnit. If you’re looking for an all loose-end-tied show, let me warn you right there – there isn’t one. The show ends on an ambiguous note, leaving the interpretation completely to the viewers. And that perhaps is the beauty of the show.

Based on the best selling novel by William Landay, ‘Defending Jacob’ deviates from its source material considerably, including a climax that will divide the readers from the viewers. What it primarily retains from the book is the edge-of-the-seat suspense that keeps you hooked until the end. One can also connect with the pain and misery that various characters go through, especially the victims’ parents. And when I say victims, I really do mean both murdered Ben Rifkin as well as accused Jacob Barber. In fact, a deep look into the story and one sees that there are many victims, related or unrelated to the actual murder. There is Sarah, who’s a victim of online sexual harassment. There is Derek, who harbours a deep affection towards Sarah, even goes to the extent of stealing. But her indifference towards him makes him miserable. It can be said, Sarah’s attachment towards Jacob, fulled Derek’s anger to rat him out. The angst, the bullying, the resentment, the hatred, everything that happens in the life of a teenager, makes an appearance in the story. These are the peripherals while the central characters of the Barber family struggle to accept that Jacob could be the killer. The fact that the parents aren’t so sure about their son’s innocence anymore, drives a wedge between them. When the show ends, we see a broken family, suspicious of each other, but never fully convinced about the guilt. This is writing, at its very best. Credit goes to creator and writer Mark Bomback.

Everyone’s beloved Captain America aka Chris Evans leads the show as Andy Barber and also duals up as the executive producer. Co-starring Michelle Dockery as Laurie, Jaeden Martell as Jacob and JK Simmons as Bill Barber, this show has some really talented actors. As Andy, Chris Evans is fantastic and so is Michelle Dockery as Laurie. As the Barber couple, seemingly in love, yet a deep void creeps up between them due to their son’s alleged crime, they both do exceedingly well. Jaeden Martell as the guilt-driven anguished teenager Jacob does well. In the ensemble cast, Cherry Jones and Pablo Schreiber as the lawyers at loggerheads, do great. You crave to see more of JK Simmons, who is in a few scenes, owns the acting space. In an epic showdown between Andy and his father Bill at the prison, as they speak to each other over the phone, Bill, almost repentant about being him being a bad father and a bad human being, tells Andy that unlike him, Andy gets to choose, what he truly wants to be – A good man or a good father. This revelation becomes a catalyst for the events unfurling at the end. With an ending that would get many eyebrows raised, along with the Barber family, we all get to wonder – We’ll never know what actually happened on that fateful day!

‘Defending Jacob’ showcases the tragic irony of relationships, that we really don’t get to know a person completely, even we spend our entire lives with them. If you’re looking for a show to keep you on the edge of the seat yet talks about the frailty of modern family life, well, look no further!

‘Defending Jacob’ – all eight episodes now streaming on Apple TV + worldwide.


The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

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