Oct 09

“Unbelievable” Therapist: Major Turning Point

There are many significant turning points in the highly regarded new Netflix series Unbelievable, which is based on a true contemporary case of a series of unsolved rapes. One such turning point occurs toward the end, when the first victim we’ve seen, 18-year-old long-term foster child Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), is mandated to therapy. The Unbelievable therapist: Dara Kaplan, deftly played by Brooke Smith.

Caution, readers: More spoilers ensue.

It’s important to first note that immediately following her sexual assault Marie is found by cops to be “unbelievable” regarding the details. Their treatment of her is indefensible and “unbelievable” of a different sort. As a result, she buckles under the pressure and recants. Over the course of most of the series her life becomes so unmanageable we wonder if she’ll make it out alive.

Meanwhile, two female detectives (Toni Collette, Merritt Wever) who don’t know yet about Marie’s rape are teaming up to investigate subsequent assaults. Eventually they’ll learn of Marie’s allegation as well.

In the seventh of eight episodes, Marie faces the consequences of filing false charges (that are not false at all, remember.) She’s admitted to no one that she lied about lying. An overworked but kind public defender works out a deal for Marie, which involves, among other things, going to therapy.

Therapist Dara lets Marie, who has no faith in talking things out, be silent throughout much of her first session. Eventually, though, Dara encourages her to just talk about a movie she’s seen recently. Make the time go by faster.

This use of pop culture winds up giving Dara some insight. Dara tells Marie, “Whether you were raped that night, or invented a story about being raped that night, I think the truth is you’ve been violated.” Moreover, it’s clear that Marie’s been let down by others, and Dara would like to help by listening to her story—but it’s Marie’s choice.

With only minutes left in the session, it becomes clear Marie will share. Alec Bojalad, DenofGeek, provides further transcript of how the session proceeds.

‘So basically you were assaulted twice. Once by your attacker, and once by the police,’ Dr. Dara says.
‘I guess,’ Marie says.
‘I am so sorry, Marie. It’s brave of you to revisit it. It’s not easy. Can I ask you one thing before you go? Understanding that none of this was your fault, it was something that was imposed on you, I wonder if there’s something of value you can take from it. This might not be the last time in your life that you’re misunderstood or mistrusted. I just wonder if there’s a way to think about it. About how you might manage this kind of injustice if it were to happen again.’
Marie thinks about the doctor’s words for a moment, then begins a careful, halting response that is utterly devastating.
‘I know I’m supposed to say that if I were to do it over, I wouldn’t lie. But the truth is, I would lie earlier. And better. I would just figure it out on my own. By myself. No matter how much someone says they care about you – they just don’t. Not enough. I mean, maybe they mean to or they try to but other things end up being more important. So yeah, I guess I’d start with that. Lying. Cuz even with good people, even with people you can kind of trust – if the truth is inconvenient, if the truth doesn’t like fit, they don’t believe it. Even if they really care about you. They just don’t.’

You can watch the scene below. Note that it also includes powerful snippets from what’s correspondingly happening elsewhere, i.e., the detectives watching contents of a recovered hard drive found in the possession of the newly identified assailant of known victims. (Marie is not yet known to them.)