WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Defending Jacob, now streaming on Apple TV+.
Defending Jacob is based on the 2012 crime-mystery novel from William Landay which dissects the woes of the Barber family in Massachusetts. After a young boy, Ben, is found dead at a park in the suburban area of Newton, the pressure mounts on district attorney, Andy (Chris Evans), to get some leads.
However, as the case stalls, Andy begins to crack, with his world thrown into further disarray as his own son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) gets implicated in the crime. With Andy taken off the case, his marriage to Laurie (Michelle Dockery) begins to show signs of frailty as well, and he turns into a shady, yet sympathetic, villain as he tries to do anything and everything so his son won’t be found guilty.
Jacob’s reticent because apparently, Ben bullied him, so the boy doesn’t care if Ben’s family is apoplectic and seeking justice. The other kids showed remorse but Jacob’s content to just play video games online. And it’s the digital sphere which clues Andy in as he finds Jacob on social media lashing out at people for fake mourning. He thinks they’re not being genuine as people didn’t like Ben.
This leads to Andy searching Jacob’s room and finding a knife the boy hid away. Now, if he did use it to stab Ben, it’d be dumb to keep it there so this red herring is just there to divide Andy’s family as later on, a second knife is discovered to be involved. Still, Laurie lashes out at Jacob for keeping secrets, but Andy gives him the benefit of the doubt. It comes to a head when a fingerprint on Ben’s clothes is matched to Jacob, who seemingly tugged at the kid. Andy’s informed by his superiors Jacob has to be arrested and he races home before they can come with a warrant. Luckily, he already disposed of the knife in the neighbor’s trash but was hoping to beat them there to remove any other possible evidence.
His colleague Pam (Betty Gabriel) arrives with the warrant, though, disturbed to see he’s acting like an accomplice. They find nothing, however, Andy’s frantic behavior raises Pam’s suspicions. To make it worse, when cops pick Jacob up from hiding, he confesses he found Ben’s body but ran away and didn’t tell anyone. Laurie doesn’t buy this and recalls Jacob had violent outbursts in the past, which leads to her and Andy disagreeing as the defense team tries to build a case. Andy feels like he’s losing her, and as the show flashes forward, Andy’s on the stand, perjuring himself as his rival cross-examines him. He’s hostile, yet working the opposition as he knows the court game to a tee.
One has to wonder how could he defend Jacob so much, especially after he kept it a secret. In any case, when flashbacks show Andy sneaking around the case, it’s clear he’s lost. Andy was trying to name Leonard (Daniel Henshall) earlier on, but his team indicated there was no evidence to press forth. After Jacob’s taken in, Andy pays Pam a visit and actually tries to get her to continue following up on Leonard, playing the friend card. Pam’s outraged as she states they’re cool on the job but they’re not friends. She knows Andy’s compromised and once more warns him interference won’t be taken lightly. He has no limits, but admittedly, we empathize and feel sorry because so many of us would do the same to save our kid in that situation. We want to believe in the best in them, and as Andy shows, we’ll ignore red flags and warning signs towards the truth.
Written by Mark Bomback and directed by Morten Tyldum, Defending Jacob stars Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Pablo Schreiber, Cherry Jones, Jaeden Martell, Sakina Jaffrey, Betty Gabriel and J.K. Simmons. The miniseries is now streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes out every Friday.
Defending Jacob just turned Chris Evans into a shady yet sympathetic villain as his Andy Barber tries to save his son from a life in prison.