|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||43–58 minutes|
|Picture format||4K (16:9 UHDTV in high dynamic range)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital|
|Original release||September 13, 2019|
Unbelievable is an American web television drama miniseries starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever. It is based on reporting by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong originally published by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, about a series of rapes in Washington and Colorado. The show was co-created by Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman, and Michael Chabon, with Grant, Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Katie Couric as executive producers. It was released on September 13, 2019 on Netflix.
A dramatization of the 2008–2011 Washington and Colorado serial rape cases, Unbelievable follows "Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the two detectives who followed a twisting path to arrive at the truth". The program draws from reporting by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong for ProPublica and The Marshall Project, later published as a non-fiction book A False Report.
Cast and characters
- Toni Collette as Det. Grace Rasmussen, a Westminster Police Department detective in Westminster, Colorado.
- Merritt Wever as Det. Karen Duvall, a Golden Police Department detective in Golden, Colorado.
- Kaitlyn Dever as Marie Adler
- Kai Lennox as Steve Rasmussen, Grace's husband who is an investigator with the Attorney General's office in Westminster, Colorado
- Dale Dickey as RoseMarie
- Patricia Fa'asua as Becca, a counselor at the Oakdale Apartments for at-risk youth
- Charlie McDermott as Ty, a counselor at the Oakdale Apartments for at-risk youth
- Austin Hébert as Max Duvall, Karen's husband who is a police officer at the Westminster Police Department
- Hendrix Yancey as Daisy
- Aubrey Fuller as Rosie
- Omar Maskati as Elias, RoseMarie's data analyst intern at the Westminster Police Department
- Elizabeth Marvel as Judith, Marie's most recent foster mom
- Bridget Everett as Colleen, one of Marie's former foster moms
- Brent Sexton as Al, Colleen's husband and Marie's former foster father
- Liza Lapira as Mia
- Eric Lange as Det. Parker, a Lynnwood Police Department detective in Lynnwood, Washington who is assigned to Marie's case
- Bill Fagerbakke as Det. Pruitt, a Lynnwood Police Department detective also assigned to Marie's case
- Vanessa Bell Calloway as Sarah
- Danielle Macdonald as Amber
- Annaleigh Ashford as Lily
- Scott Lawrence as FBI special agent Billy Taggart
- Shane Paul McGhie as Connor, Marie's ex-boyfriend
On January 22, 2018, Netflix ordered Unbelievable to series from Timberman/Beverly Productions and CBS Television Studios with executive producers including Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Katie Couric. The eight episode miniseries is based on an article by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, An Unbelievable Story of Rape written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong about a case in Lynnwood, Washington. There was also a concurrently-published This American Life radio episode about the same case, Anatomy of Doubt. Grant is set as showrunner and is also expected to write for the series along with Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.
On June 25, 2018, it was announced that Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever had been cast in the series' main roles. On July 26, 2018, it was reported that Danielle Macdonald had joined the main cast. In August 2018, it was announced that Kai Lennox, Austin Hébert, Dale Dickey, Omar Maskati, Elizabeth Marvel, Liza Lapira, and Eric Lange had been cast in recurring roles. On September 26, 2018, it was reported that Vanessa Bell Calloway had joined the cast in a recurring capacity.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"Episode 1"||Lisa Cholodenko||Teleplay by : Susannah Grant and Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman||September 13, 2019|
|In Lynnwood, Washington in August 2008, Marie Adler, a former foster child now taking part in a social services program for troubled teens, is sitting traumatized in her apartment while her former foster mother Judith consoles her. Marie tells a uniformed police officer that she has been raped and he asks her multiple questions while he takes her report. Detectives Parker and Pruitt arrive to investigate and make her retell her story multiple times. She is then taken to the hospital where she submits to a physical examination and evidence collection, and is again compelled to retell her story. The police collect evidence from Marie’s apartment, but do not recover much. Marie's foster mother before Judith, Colleen, helps Marie move to a new apartment in the same complex. Judith tells Parker that Marie has engaged in "attention seeking" behavior in the past and wonders whether the rape allegation might be a similar act. Parker and Pruitt decide that Marie's report is untrue and pressure her into retracting, costing her the trust of her program counselors and friends.|
|2||"Episode 2"||Lisa Cholodenko||Susannah Grant||September 13, 2019|
|In Washington state in 2008, Detective Parker closes Marie's case. Someone leaks Marie's name to the news media and she tries to avoid the reporters who stake out her apartment complex. In Golden, Colorado in 2011, Detective Karen Duvall responds to the sexual assault of 22-year old Amber Stevenson and learns that she was raped by a man who had a birthmark on his left calf. In 2008 Washington, Marie has difficulty concentrating at work. The counselors at her program impose a stricter curfew and other measures to monitor her movements. She tries to visit Colleen, who is not home, and Al suggests that under the circumstances it is not a good idea for the two of them to be alone, so a disappointed Marie leaves. In 2011 Golden, Karen’s husband Max, who works for the Westminster Police, informs her that Westminster has an open case with details similar to hers and suggests that she call Grace Rasmussen, the detective assigned to the case. Grace conducts late night surveillance of a site where a recent sexual assault took place and observes a suspicious man wearing a backpack.|
|3||"Episode 3"||Lisa Cholodenko||Susannah Grant||September 13, 2019|
|In Colorado in 2011, Rasmussen determines that the man she surveilled is not the rapist for whom she has been searching. Duvall visits Rasmussen to say she has a similar case and they visit Rasmussen's victim, Sarah. After a strained start, they decide to work their cases together. Duvall surmises that their suspect knows police departments don't share information well, and therefore strikes only once in each jurisdiction so police will not realize that the attacks are the work of a serial rapist. Duvall and Rasmussen spend all night reviewing six years of Colorado rape case files and calling the assigned detectives for additional details. Duvall finds video of a white pickup truck that may be the rapist's and Rasmussen finds a white pickup truck is related to a similar case in Aurora. In Washington state in 2008, Marie is overwhelmed by negative social media posts and news stories, and turns to her friend Connor for support. She is notified that police have charged her with making a false report. She worries that she will be dropped from her program, but Ty promises to help her find out what the notification means.|
|4||"Episode 4"||Michael Dinner||Michael Chabon & Ayalet Waldman||September 13, 2019|
|In Colorado in 2011, a witness from Amber's college reports someone who might be the rapist but Amber cannot be certain he is her attacker. Duvall interviews the suspect and determines that while the witness is right to be suspicious, the suspect is not Amber's attacker. Duvall and Rasmussen consider the possibility that the assailant is a police officer. Rasmussen asks her husband Steve, who works in the attorney general’s office, to share information on police officers with sealed records related to domestic violence, but he refuses. In Washington in 2008, Marie secures help from public defender Donald Hughes, who expresses surprise that the police charged her for a false report. He remarks that police almost never charge in such cases and promises to work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor. While Marie visits Colleen and Al, Colleen sees a news report about a woman who was raped in Kirkland, with details similar to what Marie initially reported. She presses Marie to admit her first report was true, but Marie fears dealing with the police again and refuses. In Colorado in 2011, Duvall and Rasmussen learn that a rapist has struck in another Denver suburb.|
|5||"Episode 5"||Michael Dinner||Jennifer Schuur||September 13, 2019|
|In Colorado in 2011, Rasmussen interviews Lilly, the victim of a previous attempted sexual. Lilly saved herself by jumping from her second floor balcony, sustaining a broken pelvis. She claims Harkness, the detective assigned to her case, was dismissive. Evidence from Lilly’s apartment matches other crime scenes, confirming the cases are linked. Duvall checks on a Kansas case that turns out not to be linked to the ones in Colorado. The Kansas evidence includes a textbook for investigating sexual assaults, which a rapist could use to avoid detection. In Washington in 2008, Marie’s store manager assigns her to the loading dock and she is accosted by her supervisor. Marie yells at Connor out of frustration and fear and her manager reprimands her for yelling in front of customers, so Marie quits. Colleen re-engages with Lynnwood police, who assure her Marie’s report was false, but she calls Kirkland police anyway to say Marie’s incident may be related to theirs. In 2011 Colorado, Amber has trouble coping and engages in atypical behavior, including sex with strangers. Rasmussen and Duvall investigate police officer James Massey, who may be a suspect.|
|6||"Episode 6"||Michael Dinner||Becky Mode||September 13, 2019|
|In Colorado in 2011, Steve reconsiders and gives Rasmussen Massey’s confidential file, telling her even if he is not the rapist, he should not be a police officer. Rasmussen’s attempt to surreptitiously obtain evidence on Massey backfires because Massey recognizes her. He spits in her face before daring her to continue investigating him. In 2008 Washington, Hughes obtains Marie a favorable plea bargain – probation, a fine, and expungement of her record if she does not re-offend. Unhappy at the probation’s restrictions on her activities, Marie drinks and smokes marijuana, then returns to her apartment after curfew, so she’s removed from her program. Marie moves back in with Judith and Judith loans Marie the money to pay her fine. In 2011 Colorado, Elias identifies a car that was near several crime scenes and provides details on the owner, Christopher McCarthy. Duvall shadows a man leaving McCarthy’s house and collects his DNA. Rasmussen and Taggart knock at McCarthy’s door to verify no one is home before entering to search. They are surprised when Chris McCarthy answers the door and realize Duvall is shadowing Chris’s brother Curtis. Rasmussen provides a cover story for their visit and they hastily leave.|
|7||"Episode 7"||Susannah Grant||Story by : Susannah Grant |
Teleplay by : Becky Mode
|September 13, 2019|
|In 2011 Colorado, Rasmussen and Duvall consider whether Chris and Curtis McCarthy are working in tandem. Elias creates a timeline using social media posts and cell phone records to demonstrate that Curtis is probably not involved, leaving Chris as the prime suspect. In 2008 Washington, Marie attends court-mandated therapy. She is initially uncooperative, but her therapist persuades her to talk about topics unrelated to her sexual assault. In discussing the plots of zombie films, Marie eventually draws comparisons between movies and how she has been treated. She admits that her sexual assault claim was true but that police coerced her into retracting it. The therapist believes Marie and asks what she would do differently if she could revisit the situation. Marie replies that she would lie sooner and more forcefully in order to stay out of the justice system, because people in authority dislike the truth if it is inconvenient. In 2011 Colorado, Rasmussen and Duvall arrest Curtis McCarthy. After examining and questioning him, they realize he is not implicated. While searching the McCarthy home, Duvall and Taggart find evidence implicating Chris. Rasmussen declines to take part in arresting him, giving Duvall the privilege and the credit.|
|8||"Episode 8"||Susannah Grant||Susannah Grant||September 13, 2019|
|In 2011, Rasmussen and Duvall identify several of Chris McCarthy’s photos as having been taken in Washington in 2008. Rasmussen sends them to Parker, who identifies Marie and realizes she told the truth about being assaulted. Parker informs Marie that McCarthy has been arrested, and gives her a city government check for $500 as reimbursement for her fine. McCarthy pleads guilty but refuses police access to a large hard drive containing evidence of additional crimes. McCarthy’s victims provide impact statements at his sentencing and he receives more than 300 years in prison. McCarthy requests that Taggart interview him so he can provide information to help stop other rapists. Marie sues the city of Lynwood. Her lawyer obtains an initial offer of $150,000 and an official apology. The lawyer wants to negotiate for more, but Marie accepts. Marie buys a new car and plans to move away from Washington, but stops at the police station first. When she tells Parker that no one has personally apologized to her, Parker does so, but Pruitt stands by silently. Marie calls Duvall to thank her for catching McCarthy, then continues the drive towards her new home.|
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 95% based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 8.37/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Heartbreaking and powerful, Unbelievable transcends familiar true-crime beats by shifting its gaze to survivors of abuse, telling their stories with grace and gravity." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
- Armstrong, Ken; Miller, T. Christian (September 5, 2019). "Netflix Series Based on Our Work Explores Costs of Not Believing Rape Victims". ProPublica.
- Cohen, Anne (July 18, 2019). "Netflix's Unbelievable Goes Behind-The-Scenes Of A Real-Life Rape Case". Refinery29. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
- Colburn, Randall (July 18, 2019). "Netflix unveils trailer for Unbelievable, a limited series based on Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting". AV Club. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (January 22, 2018). "Netflix Orders 'Unbelievable' Limited Series From Susannah Grant, Timberman/Beverly, Katie Couric & CBS Studios". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Zilko, Christian (July 18, 2019). "'Unbelievable' Trailer: Sexual Assault Victim Fights to Be Heard in Toni Colette-Starring Netflix Drama". IndieWire. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- "Marie Adler". September 16, 2019.
- Bryan, Zachariah; Thompson, Evan (September 10, 2019). "'Unbelievable' story of Lynnwood teen's rape retold on Netflix". The Everett Herald. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- Miller, T. Christian; Armstrong, Ken (December 16, 2015). "An Unbelievable Story of Rape". ProPublica. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
- Franklin, Garth (January 22, 2018). "Netflix Orders "Unbelievable" To Series - Dark Horizons". Dark Horizons. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Busch, Jenna (January 22, 2018). "Unbelievable: Netflix Orders Series from Erin Brockovich Writer". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Ge, Linda (January 23, 2018). "Netflix Orders "Unbelievable" Sexual Assault Miniseries". The Tracking Board. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (June 25, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Toni Collette, Merritt Wever & Kaitlyn Dever To Star In Netflix Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- Otterson, Joe (June 25, 2018). "Toni Collette Among Three Cast in Netflix Rape Drama 'Unbelievable,' Lisa Cholodenko to Direct". Variety. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (July 26, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Danielle Macdonald Joins Netflix Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (August 9, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Kai Lennox, Dale Dickey, Austin Hébert & Omar Maskati To Recur On Netflix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (August 14, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Elizabeth Marvel & Liza Lapira To Recur In Netflix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (August 27, 2018). "Eric Lange Joins Amazon's 'The Man In The High Castle' & Netflix's 'Unbelievable' As Recurring". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
- Petski, Denise (September 26, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Vanessa Bell Calloway To Recur On Netflix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
- "Unbelievable: Season 1 (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
- "Unbelievable". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- Official website
- Unbelievable on IMDb
- An Unbelievable Story of Rape (ProPublica and The Marshall Project article written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong)
- An Unbelievable Story of Rape as published by The Marshall Project
- Anatomy of Doubt; episode 581 of This American Life on program's website