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Unbelievable (miniseries)

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Unbelievable (miniseries) Title Card.jpg
Created by
Based on
Composer(s)Will Bates
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes8 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time43–58 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkNetflix
Picture format4K (16:9 UHDTV in high dynamic range)
Audio formatDolby Digital
Original releaseSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
External links
Official website

Unbelievable is an American drama web television miniseries starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever. It is about a series of rapes in Washington State and Colorado.[2] The show was co-created by Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman, and Michael Chabon. All three co-creators and Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Katie Couric were executive producers. It was released on September 13, 2019, on Netflix.[3][4]

The miniseries is based on the 2015 news article "An Unbelievable Story of Rape", written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and originally published by ProPublica and The Marshall Project. The series received critical acclaim.


A dramatization of the 2008–2011 Washington and Colorado serial rape cases, Unbelievable follows "Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the two detectives who followed a twisting path to arrive at the truth".[5] The program draws from "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" (2015), a Pulitzer Prize-winning article by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong for ProPublica and The Marshall Project.[2]

Cast and characters[edit]



  • Eric Lange as Det. Parker, a Lynnwood Police Department detective in Lynnwood, Washington who is assigned to Marie's case; inspired by Sergeant Jeffrey Mason
  • Bill Fagerbakke as Det. Pruitt, a Lynnwood Police Department detective also assigned to Marie's case; inspired by Jerry Rittgarn
  • Elizabeth Marvel as Judith, Marie's most recent foster mom
  • Bridget Everett as Colleen Doggett, one of Marie's former foster moms
  • Danielle Macdonald as Amber, a victim of sexual assault
  • Dale Dickey as RoseMarie, a veteran detective at the Westminster Police Department
  • Liza Lapira as Mia, a police surveillance expert
  • Omar Maskati as Elias, RoseMarie's data analyst intern at the Westminster Police Department
  • Austin Hébert as Max Duvall, Karen's husband who is a police officer at the Westminster Police Department
  • Kai Lennox as Steve Rasmussen, Grace's husband who is an investigator with the Attorney General's office in Westminster, Colorado
  • Blake Ellis as Chris McCarthy, a serial rapist; inspired by Marc Patrick O'Leary
  • Aaron Staton as Curtis McCarthy, Chris's brother and a suspect; inspired by Michael O'Leary
  • Patricia Fa'asua as Becca, a counselor at the Oakdale Apartments for at-risk youth
  • Charlie McDermott as Ty, a counselor at the Oakdale Apartments for at-risk youth
  • Brent Sexton as Al, Colleen's husband and Marie's former foster father
  • Annaleigh Ashford as Lilly, a victim of sexual assault
  • Scott Lawrence as Billy Taggart, an FBI special agent
  • Shane Paul McGhie as Connor, Marie's ex-boyfriend




On January 22, 2018, Netflix ordered Unbelievable from Timberman/Beverly Productions and CBS Television Studios with executive producers including Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Katie Couric. The eight episode miniseries is based on an article by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong about a case in Lynnwood, Washington.[7] There was also a concurrently-published This American Life radio episode about the same case, Anatomy of Doubt.[8] Grant served as showrunner and also wrote for the series along with Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.[9][10][11]


On June 25, 2018, it was announced that Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever had been cast in the series' main roles.[12][13] On July 26, 2018, it was reported that Danielle Macdonald had joined the main cast.[14] In August 2018, it was announced that Kai Lennox, Austin Hébert, Dale Dickey, Omar Maskati, Elizabeth Marvel, Liza Lapira, and Eric Lange had been cast in recurring roles.[15][16][17] On September 26, 2018, it was reported that Vanessa Bell Calloway had joined the cast in a recurring capacity.[18]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Episode 1"Lisa CholodenkoTeleplay by : Susannah Grant and Michael Chabon & Ayelet WaldmanSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In Lynnwood, Washington in August 2008, Marie Adler, a former foster child now taking part in a social services program for troubled teens, is sitting traumatized in her apartment while her former foster mother Judith consoles her. Marie tells a uniformed police officer that she has been raped and he asks her multiple questions while he takes her report. Detectives Parker and Pruitt arrive to investigate and make her retell her story multiple times. She is then taken to the hospital where she submits to a physical examination and evidence collection, and is again compelled to retell her story. The police collect evidence from Marie’s apartment, but do not recover much. Colleen, Marie's foster mother before Judith, helps Marie move to a new apartment in the same complex. Judith tells Parker that Marie has engaged in "attention seeking" behavior in the past and wonders whether the rape allegation might be a similar act. Parker and Pruitt decide that Marie's report is untrue and pressure her into retracting, costing her the trust of her program counselors and friends.
2"Episode 2"Lisa CholodenkoSusannah GrantSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In Washington state in 2008, Detective Parker closes Marie's case. Someone leaks Marie's name to the news media and she tries to avoid the reporters who stake out her apartment complex. In Golden, Colorado in 2011, Detective Karen Duvall responds to the sexual assault of Amber Stevenson and learns that she was raped by a man who had a birthmark on his left calf. In 2008 Washington, Marie has difficulty concentrating at work. The counselors at her program impose a stricter curfew and other measures to monitor her movements. She tries to visit Colleen, who is not home, and Al suggests that under the circumstances it is not a good idea for the two of them to be alone, so a disappointed Marie leaves. In 2011 Golden, Karen’s husband Max, who works for the Westminster Police, informs her that Westminster has an open case with details similar to hers and suggests that she call Grace Rasmussen, the detective assigned to the case. Grace conducts late night surveillance of a site where a recent sexual assault took place and observes a suspicious man wearing a backpack.
3"Episode 3"Lisa CholodenkoSusannah GrantSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In Colorado in 2011, Rasmussen determines that the man she surveilled is not the rapist for whom she has been searching. Duvall visits Rasmussen to say she has a similar case and they visit Rasmussen's victim, Sarah. After a strained start, they decide to work their cases together. Duvall surmises that their suspect knows police departments don't share information well, and therefore strikes only once in each jurisdiction so police will not realize that the attacks are the work of a serial rapist. Duvall and Rasmussen spend all night reviewing six years of Colorado rape case files and calling the assigned detectives for additional details. Duvall finds video of a white pickup truck that may be the rapist's and Rasmussen finds a similar case in Aurora. In Washington state in 2008, Marie is overwhelmed by negative social media posts and news stories, and turns to her friend Connor for support. She is notified that police have charged her with making a false report. She worries that she will be dropped from her program, but Ty promises to help her find out what the notification means.
4"Episode 4"Michael DinnerMichael Chabon & Ayelet WaldmanSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In Colorado in 2011, a witness from Amber's college reports someone who might be the rapist but Amber cannot make a positive identification. Duvall interviews the suspect and determines that while the witness is right to be suspicious, the suspect is not Amber's attacker. Duvall and Rasmussen consider the possibility that the assailant is a police officer. Rasmussen asks her husband Steve, who works in the attorney general’s office, to share information on police officers with sealed records related to domestic violence, but he refuses. In Washington in 2008, Marie secures help from public defender Donald Hughes, who expresses surprise that the police charged her for a false report. He remarks that police almost never file charges in such cases and promises to work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor. While Marie visits Colleen and Al, Colleen sees a news report about a woman who was raped in Kirkland, with details similar to what Marie initially reported. She presses Marie to admit her first report was true, but Marie fears dealing with the police again and refuses. In Colorado in 2011, Duvall and Rasmussen learn that a rapist has struck in another Denver suburb.
5"Episode 5"Michael DinnerJennifer SchuurSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In Colorado in 2011, Rasmussen interviews Lily, the victim of a previous attempted sexual assault, who saved herself by jumping from her second floor balcony. She claims that despite her injuries, Harkness, the detective assigned to her case, was dismissive. Evidence matches the other crime scenes, confirming Lily’s case is linked. Duvall checks on a Kansas case that turns out to be unrelated but finds the evidence includes a textbook for investigating sexual assaults, which a rapist could use to avoid detection. In 2008 Washington, Marie’s store manager assigns her to the loading dock and she is accosted by her supervisor. Marie yells at Connor out of frustration and her manager reprimands her for yelling in front of customers, so Marie quits. Colleen wants to contact Kirkland police about a case similar to Marie’s, but Judith thinks continued interactions with police will be too disruptive for Marie. Colleen calls anyway, but when a Kirkland detective contacts Parker, he says Marie’s case was a false report and is not connected. In 2011 Colorado, Amber has trouble coping and engages in atypical behavior, including sex with strangers. Rasmussen and Duvall investigate a potential suspect, police officer James Massey.
6"Episode 6"Michael DinnerBecky ModeSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In Colorado in 2011, Steve reconsiders and gives Rasmussen Massey’s confidential file, telling her even if he is not the rapist, he should not be a police officer. Rasmussen’s attempt to surreptitiously obtain evidence on Massey backfires because Massey recognizes her. He spits in her face before daring her to continue investigating him. In 2008 Washington, Hughes obtains Marie a favorable plea bargain – probation, a fine, and expungement of her record if she does not re-offend. Unhappy at the probation’s restrictions on her activities, Marie drinks and smokes marijuana, then returns to her apartment after curfew, so she’s removed from her program. Marie moves back in with Judith and Judith loans Marie the money to pay her fine. In 2011 Colorado, Elias identifies a car that was near several crime scenes and provides details on the owner, Christopher McCarthy. Duvall shadows a man leaving McCarthy’s house and collects his DNA. Rasmussen and Taggart knock at McCarthy’s door to verify no one is home before entering to search. They are surprised when Chris McCarthy answers the door and realize Duvall is shadowing Chris’s brother Curtis. Rasmussen provides a cover story for their visit and they hastily leave.
7"Episode 7"Susannah GrantStory by : Susannah Grant
Teleplay by : Becky Mode
September 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In 2011 Colorado, Rasmussen and Duvall consider whether Chris and Curtis McCarthy are working in tandem. Elias creates a timeline using social media posts and cell phone records to demonstrate that Curtis is probably uninvolved. In 2008 Washington, Marie attends court-mandated therapy. She is initially uncooperative but is eventually persuaded to talk about topics unrelated to her assault. While discussing film plots, Marie admits her initial sexual assault claim was true but that police coerced her into retracting it. The therapist believes Marie and asks what she would do differently if she could revisit the situation. Marie replies that she would lie sooner and more forcefully in order to stay out of the justice system, because people in authority dislike the truth if it is inconvenient. In 2011 Colorado, police arrest the McCarthy brothers, with Rasmussen giving Duvall the privilege and the credit by declining to participate. Taggart and Duvall find evidence tying Chris McCarthy to numerous sexual assaults. Rasmussen and Duvall question Curtis and determine he is definitely not involved. Rasmussen and Duvall examine the photos recovered at the McCarthy home and discover pictures that identify Marie.
8"Episode 8"Susannah GrantSusannah GrantSeptember 13, 2019 (2019-09-13)
In 2011, Rasmussen emails McCarthy's pictures of Marie to Parker, who realizes he was wrong to disbelieve her. Parker informs Marie that Chris McCarthy has been arrested and gives her a city government reimbursement check of $500 for her fine. McCarthy pleads guilty but refuses to allow police to access a large hard drive containing evidence of additional crimes. Several victims begin to reclaim their lives by providing impact statements at his sentencing while Amber does the same by silently observing from the back of the courtroom. McCarthy is sentenced to 327½ years imprisonment and requests that Taggart interview him so he can provide information to help stop other rapists. Marie sues the city of Lynnwood and her lawyer obtains an offer of $150,000 and an official apology. He recommends negotiating for more, but Marie accepts. Marie buys a car and plans to move away, but stops at the police station first and tells Parker that no one has personally apologized. Parker does so, but Pruitt stands by silently. Before leaving, Marie admonishes Parker to "do better". She later calls Duvall to thank her for catching McCarthy, then continues the drive towards her new home.


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 98% based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 8.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Heartbreaking and powerful, Unbelievable transcends familiar true-crime beats by shifting its gaze to survivors of abuse, telling their stories with grace and gravity."[19] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[20]

Former United States President Barack Obama named Unbelievable among his favorite films and television series of 2019. In his annual list of favorite films, which he released on Twitter on December 29, 2019, he added a small addendum with the title, "and a quick list of TV shows that I considered as powerful as movies: Fleabag: Season 2, Unbelievable, and Watchmen.[21]

Audience viewership[edit]

On October 17, 2019, Netflix announced that the miniseries had been viewed by over 32 million viewers after its release on their platform.[22]


Year Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2020 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Limited Series Unbelievable Nominated [23]
Best Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie Kaitlyn Dever Nominated
Merritt Wever Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie Toni Collette Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Limited Series or Television Film Unbelievable Nominated [24]
Best Actress – Limited Series or Television Film Kaitlyn Dever Nominated
Merritt Wever Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Limited Series or Television Film Toni Collette Nominated
Peabody Awards Entertainment Unbelievable Pending [25]
Producers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Producer of Limited Series Television Susannah Grant, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Lisa Cholodenko, Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon, Katie Couric, Jennifer Schuur, Becky Mode, John Vohlers, Kate DiMento and Chris Leanza Nominated [26]
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries Unbelievable Nominated [27]
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or TV Film Toni Collette Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated [28]
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Adapted Michael Chabon, Susannah Grant, Becky Mode, Jennifer Schuur & Ayelet Waldman
Based on the ProPublica and The Marshall Project article "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" and This American Life radio episode “Anatomy of Doubt"
Nominated [29]


  1. ^ Dibdin, Emma (September 30, 2019). "Unbelievable Showrunner Susannah Grant Breaks Down the Choices That Made the Show So Powerful". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved October 13, 2019. Adler is simply credited as "Marie" in the credits.
  2. ^ a b Armstrong, Ken; Miller, T. Christian (September 5, 2019). "Netflix Series Based on Our Work Explores Costs of Not Believing Rape Victims". ProPublica. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Cohen, Anne (July 18, 2019). "Netflix's Unbelievable Goes Behind-The-Scenes Of A Real-Life Rape Case". Refinery29. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Colburn, Randall (July 18, 2019). "Netflix unveils trailer for Unbelievable, a limited series based on Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  5. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (January 22, 2018). "Netflix Orders 'Unbelievable' Limited Series From Susannah Grant, Timberman/Beverly, Katie Couric & CBS Studios". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Zilko, Christian (July 18, 2019). "'Unbelievable' Trailer: Sexual Assault Victim Fights to Be Heard in Toni Colette-Starring Netflix Drama". IndieWire. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  7. ^ Bryan, Zachariah; Thompson, Evan (September 10, 2019). "'Unbelievable' story of Lynnwood teen's rape retold on Netflix". The Everett Herald. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Miller, T. Christian; Armstrong, Ken (December 16, 2015). "An Unbelievable Story of Rape". ProPublica. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  9. ^ Franklin, Garth (January 22, 2018). "Netflix Orders "Unbelievable" To Series - Dark Horizons". Dark Horizons. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  10. ^ Busch, Jenna (January 22, 2018). "Unbelievable: Netflix Orders Series from Erin Brockovich Writer". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  11. ^ Ge, Linda (January 23, 2018). "Netflix Orders "Unbelievable" Sexual Assault Miniseries". The Tracking Board. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  12. ^ Petski, Denise (June 25, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Toni Collette, Merritt Wever & Kaitlyn Dever To Star In Netflix Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Otterson, Joe (June 25, 2018). "Toni Collette Among Three Cast in Netflix Rape Drama 'Unbelievable,' Lisa Cholodenko to Direct". Variety. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  14. ^ Petski, Denise (July 26, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Danielle Macdonald Joins Netflix Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  15. ^ Petski, Denise (August 9, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Kai Lennox, Dale Dickey, Austin Hébert & Omar Maskati To Recur On Netflix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  16. ^ Petski, Denise (August 14, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Elizabeth Marvel & Liza Lapira To Recur In Netflix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  17. ^ Petski, Denise (August 27, 2018). "Eric Lange Joins Amazon's 'The Man In The High Castle' & Netflix's 'Unbelievable' As Recurring". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  18. ^ Petski, Denise (September 26, 2018). "'Unbelievable': Vanessa Bell Calloway To Recur On Netflix Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  19. ^ "Unbelievable: Season 1 (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  20. ^ "Unbelievable". Metacritic. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  21. ^ Nyren, Erin (December 29, 2019). "Barack Obama's Favorite Movies and TV Shows of 2019". Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  22. ^ Koblin, John (October 17, 2019). "Netflix's Top 10 Original Movies and TV Shows, According to Netflix". New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "Critics' Choice Awards 2020: Fleabag, Watchmen, When They See Us, Unbelievable Among TV Nominees". TVLine. December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  24. ^ "Golden Globes: Full List of Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  25. ^ Lewis, Hilary (May 5, 2020). "Peabody Awards: 'American Factory,' 'Dickinson,' 'Watchmen' Among Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  26. ^ "Nominations Announced in Motion Pictures and Television Programs Categories – 2020 Awards". Producers Guild of America. January 7, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  27. ^ Peterson, Karen M. (December 3, 2019). "24th Satellite Awards Announce Nominations, 'Ford v Ferrari' Leads the Way". Awards Circuit. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  28. ^ "NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 26TH ANNUAL SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS". December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  29. ^ McNary, Dave (December 5, 2019). "Writers Guild Unveils 2020 TV Award Nominees". Variety. Retrieved December 5, 2019.

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