This image comes from the official teaser trailer for "The Undoing," owned by HBO Max.

The elements that make an excellent psychological thriller are subjective, but “The Undoing,” an adaptation of the novel “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz, is guaranteed to meet your expectations. The pilot opens with the soft, smooth jazz of “Dream A Little Dream of Me” and a montage of children innocently playing in the opening credits. “The Undoing” has a way of captivating its viewers with its strong elements of mystery and compelling themes. Miguel Alves (Edan Alexander, “Succession”), runs down the street in a hurry, he opens the door to a shop where he stands, frozen, immediately drawing the viewers attention with the suspense of this one scene. 

Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”), a psychiatrist married to oncologist Jonathan Fraser (Hugh Grant, “Big Little Lies”), lives in a wealthy, upper-class area of New York. Together they raise their son, Henry Fraser (Noah Jupe, “A Quiet Place Part II”), who attends an expensive private school along with the children of Grace’s girlfriends. As a part of the school’s committee, Grace and her girlfriends have a meeting to plan a fundraiser when outsider Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis, “The Big Other”) straggles in. The next day, Elena is found dead by her son Miguel in a gruesome bloodbath in her art studio. And Grace’s husband? Nowhere to be found. 

The episode subconsciously lures the viewer into the world of the one percent and compels them to believe that all that glitters is not really gold. A rich family may seem perfect on the outside, but there is always an ugly truth that lies beneath the surface. This show doesn’t necessarily make you want to shout “Eat the rich!”, but it does you reveal that people in a place of privilege have secrets — and they are capable of hiding them much better than the average joe. 

On the other hand, there’s a contradiction between Grace’s career as a couple’s psychiatrist and her own life, where there’s something obviously wrong with her marriage. To society, considering everything the wealthy may be able to acquire through their way of living, everything may seem perfect on the outside. So it makes one think, do people of higher statuses only pay attention to one another on a surface-level basis? In other words, do they feel the need not to be more involved with their partner’s lives because they’re blinded by wealth and money? Could Jonathan be involved in an affair with Elena? It’s odd that Elena was instantly drawn to Grace as if she had some sort of unknown connection towards her. However, it’s too soon to make final conclusions on such a situation.  

Additionally, the music in this episode was the perfect vehicle for the tone. Throughout the episode, there were constant scores of ominous, orchestral music, working wonderfully to prepare the viewer for a sudden event. It helped push the show into its narrative of suspense. All the actors and actresses were dedicated to their roles and portrayed their characters exceptionally well. However, the cinematography was bland. For certain scenes that were meant to illustrate a dark and foreboding tone, the lighting stayed consistent and did little to help set the scene. 

For those who have a love for suspense and thrillers, “The Undoing” is the perfect match. With its appealing way of drawing the viewer in throughout the entirety of the episode, it’s bound to keep your attention and leave you wanting more. The commentary on the underlying issues within the upper class only adds to the mystery and makes it all the more ominous.

Daily Arts Contributor Jessica Curney can be reached at jcurney@umich.edu.