The Undoing's predictable ending was actually its stroke of genius

The following article contains major spoilers for episode six of The Undoing.

The Undoing has delivered the biggest non-twist ending of 2020 and declared the only suspect in an open and shut murder trial to be the killer. So why has it proved so controversial?

The HBO drama set Hugh Grant’s Jonathan Fraser up as Elena Alves’ (Matilda De Angelis) murderer from the very first episode, but it still came as a shock to many viewers when he was unmasked during Monday’s finale.

There was a ‘twist’ of sorts, but one far more subtle than people may have expected. It came after Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman) finally stood up to the man who’d torn her life apart, providing information to the prosecution that signalled the end for husband Jonathan.

After six weeks of suspense, it was simultaneously the most predictable and unexpected of outcomes we could have hoped for.

But not everyone is happy with the way things were resolved. Countless viewers – Piers Morgan among them – hit out at the show and called it a disappointment, with many waiting for a shock ending that never came.

It certainly says something about the way TV dramas are consumed online, that having a non-twist ending can end up being the biggest twist of all. The internet has been full of whodunnit theories posted by Undoing fans over recent weeks, all of which were proven incorrect.

The supporting characters turned out to be decent folks, and not the murderous villains many had them marked down as. Best friend Sylvia Steineitz (Lily Rabe) turned out to have Grace’s interests at heart, and in the end Franklin Reinhardt (Donald Sutherland) was just a rich father looking out for his daughter. Another figure of interest, Fernando Alves (Ismael Cruz Cordova), really was a heartbroken widower too, cuckolded and left with his wife’s illegitimate child.

But we should have seen all of this coming.

Viewers were told so many times that it was Jonathan. At one point, his mother literally stared down the camera and told us he was a psychopath incapable of empathy. But we still didn’t want to believe it.

The show’s genius was in getting the viewer to fall under his spell, despite all the evidence piling up against him.

The drama simply couldn’t have worked if Hugh hadn’t delivered such a charismatic performance. His renaissance continues, and he deserves to win big come awards season. In the end though, even his twinkly-eyed charm and the work of maverick defence attorney Haley Fitzgerald (a show-stealing Noma Dumezweni) wasn’t enough to get him off.

The force which ripped this seemingly perfect family apart was coming from the inside all along, and that’s difficult to come to terms with. In the end, we got the most unsettling ending we could have asked for.

Grace didn’t see it coming and neither did the viewers. Sometimes, it’s easier to look for others to blame when the obvious culprit is exactly where we don’t want to look – right under our noses.

The Undoing is available to watch on Sky Atlantic on demand and NOW TV

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