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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

The Undoing — a gripping HBO series based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s “You Should Have Known.” The series follows Grace Fraser, a therapist and loving mother, through her life in New York City. Her life seems picture perfect — her job, son, friends, and husband all seemed to set her up for a lifetime of happiness. But after the murder of a fellow mom in her city, things in Grace’s life begin to lose their picture perfect frame little by little. As she begins to dig up secrets about the people around her, things don’t seem so happy anymore.

skyline of New York at night
Photo by Luca Bravo from Unsplash

If this sounds interesting to you now, I would urge you to stop reading and to go watch the six part series on HBO Max. In order to fully unpack this series, some spoilers need to be discussed, and I would hate for anyone who is interested in watching to read the spoilers in this article. 

Let’s start by discussing the murder victim, Elena Alvez. Discovered in a horribly gory state by her son Miguel, Elena had died before we as an audience got to know much about her. At this point in the series, we knew that her son Miguel attended the same school as Grace’s son, Henry. Elena wanted to be more involved with the school and joined the auction committee with Grace, which is our first interaction with her. Our few interactions with her were short, awkward, and mysterious. I felt that the choice to keep her life private in the beginning was a great one, because it kept me wanting to know more about her in order to decide who could have killed her in such a horrible way. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a character as mysterious as her, and I think that the series did a great job of portraying her in this way. 

After Elena is found dead, the series shows a change in Grace’s husband, Jonathan. He comes home from a late night at his work as an oncologist, gets into bed with Grace, and shows his saddened state before making love to his wife. While at the time, we think that Jonathan is upset by one of his patients passing away, things become more grim when he disappears from Grace’s life, leaving his cell phone behind in his night stand. Grace then goes on to find out about Jonathan’s job termination three months prior, and that the reason for his termination was inappropriate conduct with the parent of a patient. Which parent are we talking about? You guessed it: Elena Alvez.

From this point on, Grace is gripped with curiosity, paranoia, and fear. She takes her son Henry to their vacation home in Lake George to get away from the press, though quite frankly I think that she left to escape her emotions from the whole ordeal as well. During this trip, Jonathan makes his reappearance by covering Grace’s mouth and asking for her to listen to his explanation. She does, but follows by calling the police. In addition, we found out later that during this trip Henry found the murder weapon, a scuplting hammer. This was huge to the investigation, and I really feel that it was brushed over. Once this came to light, the goal was protecting her son Henry from charges of tampering with evidence. While I do think that protecting Henry was a good reason to suppress this evidence, I do not think that enough air time was given to what they actually did with the weapon. 

The rest of the series follows Grace as she struggles to come to terms with everything that was going on. Not only did she have to cope with the fact that her husband, whom she had been happily married to for years, had an affair with another woman, but she also had to decide whether or not he was capable of murder. The irony between her profession as a therapist and her struggle to see the truth is an apparent theme throughout the show, and it is something that definitely clouded her mind in many episodes. 

It was at this point in the series that I started to grapple with theories. Did Jonathan really kill Elena? Could it have been someone else? I honestly was not sure. There were a few options as to who the suspects could be in the eyes of the audience. Jonathan was an obvious one; he had been having an affair with the victim and was the last person to interact with her. All arrows seem to point to him, which is exactly why I did not think that it was him. I genuinely thought that there would be a twist, some sort of change in direction that would give the show that “television edge” or “show biz” aspect of the series. For this reason, I decided to go with two separate theories.

Hero image appropriate for article on Unhealthy Relatioships - image of a question mark
Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

The first, and who I truly thought would end up being the murderer in the end, was Grace’s dad, Franklin Renner. As we find out in the show, Franklin loaned Jonathan a whopping $500,000 in order to help keep their family afloat after Jonathan was terminated from his job. If money isn’t motive enough for you, Franklin told Henry’s school that he was the kind of person that “fucks over anyone who hurts me, or a loved one.” I thought that maybe, just maybe, Franklin could have killed Elena in order to “fuck over” Jonathan by killing his mistress and getting him arrested for it. The perfect frame. The perfect theory. I thought I had this one in the bag. Turns out it was not that complicated. 

My second theory would have been a doozy if it were true. I thought, in classic TV twist fashion, that Grace killed Elena. It was hard to get past how emotional Grace was about everything during the series, but once I did that, the motive would have been so clear. Elena had an affair with her husband. Simple as that. This theory was strengthened when Grace got on the stand to testify in Jonathan’s trial for murder, and completely flipped the switch, portraying Jonathan in a light that could only be that of Elena’s murderer.  Another framing. Another possible theory, but not the right one. 

When the series finale revealed that Jonathan did in fact murder Elena, I was very surprised. This did not fit the TV bill, the obvious suspect is never the killer. But this time it was and I found myself staring at the screen in awe. This whole time I was so focused on who was framing Jonathan, that I stopped looking at him completely. The show fooled me, just as it should have. 

While I could say so much more about this show, I will stop it here. This show was amazing and I was enthralled by the mystery of each and every character. Well done HBO, well done. 

Want to watch the series yourself? You can do so on HBO Max HERE.

Mya is majoring in Strategic Communication and is the current President of Her Campus Utah. She enjoys movies, road trips, writing and having dinner parties with her best friends. Her favorite things to write about are fashion, beauty and lifestyle.
Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor