While it’s a famous man who’s on trial (hence the “scandal” part), the six-episode project is defined by two women: The lawyer prosecuting the case, and the wife who wants to stand by her husband but is given reason to doubt him.
The allegation and related revelations come as an understandable shock to Whitehouse’s wife Sophie (Sienna Miller), who is plagued by images of the consensual liaison while finding it difficult to believe that her husband could perpetrate an act of violence.
Directed by S.J. Clarkson, “Anatomy of a Scandal” does reasonably well in keeping the audience guessing, and fares less so in its liberal use of flashbacks regarding the elite private school that Whitehouse attended along with the Prime Minister (Geoffrey Streatfeild), hinting at a “Boys will be boys” attitude that prevailed at the time and that might have contributed to the bond between them.
At its core, the story is anchored by Dockery, nicely portraying a character harboring her own secrets; and Miller, whose outwardly idyllic existence is rocked in a way that forces her to question what she knows about the man she married.
Granted, Netflix and its rivals have been churning out similarly themed fare, both in dramatic and docuseries formats. Yet all told, “Anatomy of a Scandal” overcomes its flaws well enough to lay the groundwork for what’s intended to become an ongoing franchise of tightly constructed self-contained thrillers.
The bones for that are clearly there. The trick, as this first lesson in “Anatomy” demonstrates, is coming up with the right wrinkles to flesh them out.
“Anatomy of a Scandal” premieres April 15 on Netflix.