'The Undoing' Episode 4 Recap: The Charm Offensive

Olivia Ovenden
·4-min read
Photo credit: NIKOTAVERNISE.COM - HBO
Photo credit: NIKOTAVERNISE.COM - HBO

From Esquire

The restorative power of going for a walk is one thing that many of us can relate to in a year where there's little to do beyond the four walls we are confined to. Less relatable perhaps is having to explain how said walk led to your being caught on CCTV near the scene of a crime you are inextricably linked to. As Jonathan's lawyer Hayley incredulously asks Grace: "You happened to ground yourself by walking within footsteps of your husband's bludgeoned-to-death lover?"

As well as being a legal mediator between Grace and Jonathan, Hayley feels like the reliable mediator between us and the couple who seem to be continually withholding information. "It's what rich, entitled people do when threatened," she says like a bullseye shot.

Hayley takes this attitude all the way to see Jonathan in prison, where she reminds him that she's only there as a favour to Franklin – yes, the very man who just compared her services to those offered by a car mechanic. It is here where Jonathan reveals that he is estranged from his family and that he had another affair years ago after losing a patient. Oh boy.

After being reassured of Jonathan's potential innocence by The Badger – who seems unbothered at being let go and happy for the occasion of a free steak – Grace taps her father up for money while they gaze at some nice paintings. Money, and the power that it brings, underscore the dynamics between everyone on The Undoing: from groups of school mothers to detectives and civilians or parents and children. The problem is that these dynamics are often explored in the most obvious way, as we see when Franklin visits Jonathan in prison and reluctantly agrees to pay his bail while subtly threatening him.

Photo credit: David Giesbrecht
Photo credit: David Giesbrecht

The detective duo rock up yet again to question why Elena called Grace repeatedly in the lead up to her death, and to reveal an oil portrait of Grace which was found in her basement. "I would say she captured you... rather well," says Detective Ramirez. Something nobody, let alone a police officer (!), would say of the Lord of the Rings fan art he is holding up.

Later, on a stroll by the water, Jonathan says to Grace, "What we had, you and I, is too big to undo", which is exactly the kind of weaselly emotional manipulation which we should be paying attention to. This man is not a good doctor, husband or father, and yet the story keeps unfolding to tell us there's more to come. Still, it's a relief when Grace tells him he'll never be her husband again. Whether she can keep to it is another story.

Photo credit: David Giesbrecht
Photo credit: David Giesbrecht

Haunted by her nightmares, Grace takes a stroll through Central Park where she spots Fernando Alvez. Or does she? It has becoming harder to tell reality from fantasy as she hallucinates her way from night to day, eventually passing out in the park. This is clearly meant to question our trust in Grace, but this descent into madness feels more like a gaslit woman than a psychopathic killer.

Jonathan continues to be the worst defendant imaginable by turning up at Fernando Alvez's house to proclaim his innocence. (My friend, this is not a good idea.) The incident feels like the scheme of a very guilty man save for one moment where he says, "I know your grief because I feel your grief. I want whoever did this to be caught". Of course, this is someone who knows how to play to people's emotions, but how many killers feigning innocence would remember to play their grief? Moments later the rug is pulled from us again as we find out that the father of Elena's baby is indeed Jonathan, a fact he knows full well and has been hiding.

Photo credit: NIKOTAVERNISE.COM
Photo credit: NIKOTAVERNISE.COM

"How much fucking charm do you think you have?" Hayley asks him, incredulous that he believed he could win over Fernando. The interaction sees them squaring off about how to convince the world he's as charming as he believes, and the answer they settle on is a television interview which slyly suggests Fernando is the killer.

To use a chess metaphor which Franklin and Grace would heartily approve of, this week's ending feels like check mate, but there's definitely more moves to come.

Some thoughts...

  • Who did it? A weekly ranking: While Grace and Jonathan become more unreliable by the minute, Fernando comes across as the most believable character we've seen so far. A shame he's now suspect number one.

  • Henry attempting to shake hands with the son of his father's potential victim in the playground? Again, we are worried about this child!

  • Donald Sutherland must be one of a very small group of actors who can say the line, "I'm an old fashioned cock-sucker" with malice.

  • Wild theory of the week: Is the mysterious oil painting a deliberate breadcrumb trail left to frame Grace?


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