If there’s been one show that’s been lighting up the internet recently, it’s Anatomy of a Scandal: the legal-political thriller debuted earlier in April, and ranked #1 on the UK site almost immediately afterwards. There’s been plenty of buzz on Twitter and in the media about how it portrays sexual assault scandals in politics, and how the legal system has loopholes to allow perpetrators to get away with it.
The miniseries, if you didn’t know, focuses on a sexual misconduct scandal surrounding a British MP, who’s accused of having an affair with one of his aides. His wife is forced to deal with the consequences and fallout. But things escalate when he is then accused of rape, and their family and political life begins to fall apart.
Now that the dust has settled after its debut, we’re giving you five reasons why you should make the show next on your watchlist.
As with a lot of high budget TV shows these days, the names bring in the viewers. Sienna Miller, who’s appeared in The Girl, American Sniper and Layer Cake, plays Sophie, wife of James Whitehouse, the accused MP. Miller brings her A-game to portray the troubled woman put through an ordeal that sees her private life put on display to the public. James, who is at the centre of the scandal, is played by Rupert Friend, known for appearing in Homeland, At Eternity’s Gate and The Death of Stalin. A Conservative MP, James is as Machivellian as he is immoral, plotting to become one of the foremost forces in government and good personal friends with the Prime Minister. Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery stars as Kate Woodcroft QC, who is tasked with the prosecution case against James and determined to bring him to justice. Finally, Aladdin star Naomi Scott plays Olivia, the parliamentary aide who has an affair with James and accuses him of rape.
The show deals with some heavy themes over its course, with rape, sexual misconduct and adultery all featuring as central plot points. Sophie, who’s happily married to James at the start of the series, suddenly finds herself in a state of disbelief, hurt and anger, as well as being caught between her loyalty and relationship with her husband and the emerging details of his misconduct. Olivia’s story and her accusations feel prescient in the age of the MeToo movement, and in British political life: only a few days ago, around 50 MPs were reported to be under investigation for sexual misconduct. Not only that, but the show makes a point of demonstrating how the legal system often seems to work in favour of the accused and against the accuser, with loopholes allowing them to get away with it. While the show’s gripping thriller elements are the main draw, it gives you a lot to think about with its thematic decisions.
Anatomy of a Scandal has certainly arrived in a timely fashion, what with Partygate engulfing the Boris Johnson government and new scandals in politics breaking on a fairly regular basis. The show delves into flashbacks of James’ past as member of the The Libertines, a “posh lads” group at university, and this combined with him being close personal friends with the Conservative British PM certainly seems like a pointed comment about the current party of government. At its core, the plot arises from abuses of power, and a complacent feeling of being untouchable in the high ranks of government. The novel by Sarah Vaughan that the series is based on was published in 2018, so while it’s not directly about Boris Johnson, it certainly examines the abuse of power (of any government) that affects lives and evades scrutiny. It’s extra timely that James’ main foil in the show is a QC, given Labour leader Keir Starmer’s past career in that capacity.
The Crazy Moments
One of the reasons why Anatomy of a Scandal has generated such a buzz and feverent discussion on social media is that it has its fair share of crazy and shocking moments. There’s plenty of cliffhangers and revelations throughout the course of the thriller, with dark secrets and new misfortunes befalling it’s characters. The show has also caused a stir with its unconventional camera work and reality bending moments: at the conclusion of episode 1, the news that he is being investigated for rape literally knocks James over, with him falling to the ground in slow motion. Later on, Sophie is shown falling through the air in a courtoom as the stress of the situation closes in on her. While there’s been some disagreement as to whether these moments fit into a serious story, they’ve suddenly generated an interesting discussion point.
Last but not least, perhaps the most talked about and somewhat divisive moment of the show is the main plot twist that’s revealed before its end. While we won’t give the twist away, of course, its safe to say that it has been met with frenzy on social media, with people describing it as “mind-blowing” “shocking” and “one of the most outrageous twists in TV.” Whether or not you think the twist is a great surprise or entirely ridiculous is up to you, and there’s no other way to know other than watching and judging for yourself. After all, there’s nothing more fun and debate provoking than an out of nowhere plot twist.
Whatever reason you watch it, Anatomy of a Scandal deserves a place on your watchlist so that you can see what everyone’s been talking about. At six hour long episodes in length, it’s easily bingeable, and the twists and turns will keep you guessing until the end.