WARNING: This article contains some spoilers from episode one of The Undoing and the novel it is based on.
The Undoing is already shaping up to be the next best thriller on television and it’s no wonder, it’s from the team that created Big Little Lies.
Starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant (who are oddly the perfect pairing), the series has been created by Oscar and Golden Globe-winning director Susan Bier and acclaimed television creator, David E. Kelley.
The story centres around Grace Fraser (Kidman), a psychologist whose world falls apart when her husband, Jonathan (Hugh Grant), is linked to the death of Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis), a fellow parent at Reardon, their children’s fictional private school in Manhattan. After only one episode, audiences have been left with the question — who killed Elena Alves?
The Undoing is adapted from the Jean Hanff Korelitz novel, You Should Have Known — however, if you’re already searching for answers — i.e. who the mystery killer is — you’re not likely to find it in the book.
Only two of eight episodes follow the 2014 psychological thriller and according to an interview with OprahMag.com, director Bier intended it that way.
“The best you can do with a good book if you want to dramatise it on screen is do something else with it,” she told the outlet. “By doing that you maintain the actual qualities of the book. But you create something that is possibly different and something in its own right.”
The novel, which is written in third-person, analyses a short time period — the time when Grace is forced to rebuild her life after her assumptions about her marriage are destroyed, something, Bier calls, “discombobulation”.
“How do I tell the story of confusion? Of chaos? Of your world falling apart, but you still need to function and seem to function? How do I tell that visually, and in a palatable way for an audience?” she said. According to Bier, we’ll be guessing until the very last episode.
So, what are the main differences between the novel and the series?
☆ In the book, Grace is ironically the author of a book of marital advice and believes that women get themselves into situations willingly by overlooking the qualities in partners that are lacking. Foreshadow, much?
☆ Jonathan (played by Grant in the series) never appears in the novel, only as Grace’s memories.
☆ This is by far the biggest spoiler — you’ve been warned! While we don’t know for sure if this is what happens in the series, in the novel, Jonathan was having multiple affairs and was fired from the hospital he worked at.
He also was having an affair with Malaga Alves (known as Elena in the show), who was a parent of a sick child at the hospital — Miguel. While he’s known as a “scholarship child” in the series, Jonathan paid for Miguel to go to Reardon, borrowing money from Grace’s father.
☆ In the novel, Malaga tells her lover that she is pregnant again, and he kills her.
Is this what plays out in The Undoing? We’ll have to wait and see.
The Undoing is now streaming on BINGE.