Unlike Jonathan Fraser, 'The Undoing' Never Had It All

Kyle Koster
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
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*Spoilers for the season finale of The Undoing follow*

In a world where we start posts by imagining the Movie Guy Voice opening a preview by mentioning a person had a perfect life, Jonathan Fraser is the person we imagine. Charming. Almost aggressively unaggressive good looks. A prestigious and difference-making position as a standout oncologist. A solid, still-passionate marriage to an intelligent, beautiful partner. An impressively open and sun-filled Upper East Side home. A doting son interested in the arts and at least open to a storybook father-son relationship.

A new siren on the side with magical powers, an enchantress qualified to make each and every single person she encounters fall desperately in love with her. An obviously fraught idea from the get-go, but certainly one that made all involved feel very alive.

The Undoing was ostensibly about his own personal undoing. The clue is in the name. But after six episodes and tidy resolution, we never truly saw the unraveling. We can understand what drove him to a murderous rage but we never felt it. Pinning things all on the first and most obvious suspect is something the Law & Order franchise should have always done more of, yet it is a tightrope act.

Because if the promise of mystery and suspense falls apart quickly — or worse — the interpersonal ligaments better hold things together for maximum emotional investment. There is no net made out of intrigue. That's just not what happened here. Missteps weren't fatal, yet led to a wobbly performance where everyone's secretly happy with good but unremarkable. As long as it's over.

After six episodes of assuming Jonathan probably did it, we find out that, yeah, Jonathan did it. He is and has always been a sociopath. Perhaps envisioning that in everyone terrifies some people. That a Ted Bundy could be, and so often is, cloaked in respectability. But Jonathan spiraling over the last 12 minutes and last 12 minutes only is an attempt at a late rally that never brings even the game-tying run onto the on-deck circle.

The final act was resolved in a rush as though the clock was running out. Perhaps that's an homage to the aforementioned Law & Order. Or perhaps it's a look behind the Wizard's curtain suggesting that behind all the prestige television at work obscuring the bare bones, this is an hourlong procedural by a different names. A Pygmalion by any other name would still have the DNA of Dick Wolf.

It could be my own murderous monster within, but no one in this series engendered much compassion. From Nicole Kidman and her active eyes or the violin-playing son who seemed to be the only one who knew they could never pick up the pieces together and reimagine them in a tenable position to, dare I say it, Elena Alves, whose justice was less of a noble pursuit and more a way to tell a story that felt woefully too familiar.

The Undoing was a study in golden lives being gold-plated. It may gesture vaguely in the direction of larger Big Little Lies-inspired spinoff. But it never made that human connection. In these mid-pandemic times, sympathy is reserved for the less affluent devils.

Jonathan Fraser was too good to be true. He was also too simple and too bland to matter. Just like the show that pierced the zeitgeist for a brief and slightly stale moment.

Take a one last cursory look because it may be the last time we seen these numbers painted for a long while.

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