Like other stories about terrible rich people, HBO’s glitzy murder mystery The Undoing is entranced by a world it finds immoral.
Is any capitalist endeavor more menacing than the control of nature itself? The conquest of occupied lands, the rerouting of rivers, the hoarding of purified air—the American elite has always maintained itself in part by manipulating the environment. The wealthy characters on The Undoing, a new HBO miniseries set in New York City that premiered Sunday, can’t harness the East River. They don’t set about planting flags in Central Park or claiming Fifth Avenue. But with a selective private school, Reardon, as their home base, they still exert a nearly godlike rule over their surroundings and those who dwell there.
The show begins with a premise that’s most easily summed up as Big Little Lies: Manhattan—a murder mystery that takes place in the land of the uberrich, where daunting architecture is set against the backdrop of a concrete island rather than an ominous sea. Nicole Kidman plays Grace Fraser, a successful family therapist; her husband, Jonathan, is a children’s oncologist, played by a characteristically charming Hugh Grant. Their family, which includes their 12-year-old son, Henry (played by Noah Jupe), seems happy—picturesque, tidy. In addition to sharing a star (Kidman) and a lead writer (David E. Kelley), Big Little Lies and The Undoing are also both adapted from novels.