LONDON: Within the first few minutes of “Anatomy of a Scandal,” the show outlines its very simple premise – and then immediately sets about overcomplicating it. Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller) lives an idyllic life in central London, doting on her children and supporting her charming, successful husband, parliamentary minister James (Rupert Friend). But when James reveals he has been having an extramarital affair with an aide, the photogenic family suddenly finds itself at the heart of the titular scandal with ramifications that go far beyond their shattered home life. As no-nonsense barrister Kate Woodcroft squares off against the disgraced politician, Sophie must accept that much of what she knows — or has come to accept, at least — about her husband may not be the full story.
This six-part Netflix drama takes viewers (via a series of flashbacks and slightly surreal asides) through the full gamut of emotions, from rooting for the charismatic James and sympathizing with Sophie, to the realization that all is not quite as it seems. No spoilers here, but there’s a big twist. Because of course there is.
It’s often very silly. And very American (no surprise, given its executive producers’ work on shows such as “Big Little Lies” and “House of Cards”), which can jar with the very British setting and characters. But that doesn’t stop “Anatomy of a Scandal” from being very watchable. Sure, there are stretches of dialog that you could never imagine actual humans uttering — albeit delivered with such quintessential Britishness by Friend and Miller as to be quite entertaining — but it’s never so overblown as to be unwatchable, although it certainly flirts with that fine line.
There are also some eyebrow-raising parallels (not particularly subtly ones, either) offered up with regards to the current state of UK politics and the privilege of a select few in elected office. It’s a shame that some of these avenues aren’t further explored — particularly with regards to those who benefit due to their proximity to privilege, rather than outright elitism — but perhaps that might have stretched the series out for too long. As it stands, “Anatomy of a Scandal” remains (just) on the right side of being properly ‘bingeable.’
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