Defending Jacob Series Premiere Review: Excellent Acting Marred by a Meandering Plot

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How far would you go to save the one you love from the iron fist of justice? 

Lives are changed forever on Defending Jacob Season 1 Episode 1, Defending Jacob Season 1 Episode 2, and Defending Jacob Season 1 Episode 3 when Jacob is pegged identified as the suspect in the slaying of a boy from his school. 

One thing that's evident from the outset is that all of the actors are perfect for their roles. Jaeden Martell, in particular, is still a young actor, but he handles the dark material with ease, and I appreciated the way the journey began with him. 

Accused of Murder - Defending Jacob

Jacob may seem like your typical teenager, but there seems to be a darkness inside him that he's been suppressing. Does that mean he's a deranged murderer? No. 

But him admitting to having found the body and realizing the boy was dead proved that there was a part of him that was affected by the death. 

Is He the Killer? - Defending Jacob

Martell is a talented actor, and I cannot wait to see what he brings to the table is the layers continue to be pulled back on the mystery. 

If there's a motive for murder, there's no light shed on it in the first bunch of episodes. The way Sarah tries to get people to look at Jacob is definitely something we can't overlook. 

Derek was friends with Jacob and then iced him out without a second thought, leading me to believe that Derek could have more to do with the murder than he's letting on, and that Sarah threw out Jacob's name with the aim of keeping Derek out of the crosshairs of the law. 

We're sailing towards an iceberg, this little white peak in the distance getting closer and closer, but really it's been underneath us the whole time.


Still, Sarah is just a 14 year old, and that could explain why the whole scenario was taking a toll on her. It was almost like she realized that she was making a mistake when it was all said and done. 

With five episodes left, there are still many twists in the tale to come, but I'm getting the feeling the man accused of groping the kid is a big fat red herring. 

Jaeden Martell on Defending Jacob

Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery play doting parents Andy and Laurie Barber to perfection. Getting these two for a TV series is a big get, and their characters are just as intriguing. 

Andy would go to any lengths to keep his family safe, but it's clear from the get-go that he's going to be the type of character that makes dumb decisions throughout. 

From lying about his father for seventeen years to getting rid of the knife to showing up at Paula's home in the dead of night asking for help, it's a surprise he has such great credentials. 

There's nothing worse than a kid.


Indeed, Andy is acting differently because of the toll having his son in the frame for a murder he may or may not have committed, but he knows more than anyone that all eyes are on his family. 

Taking a back seat and letting justice play its part is not an option in his book, primarily because he's worried about secrets from the past arriving in the present to blow the case wide open. 

Helping Their Son - Defending Jacob

Andy's visions were obviously from his past. There was no question about that, and having the father in jail for murdering a young girl is a convenient way of advancing the plot. 

What I can't get on board with is hiding that from his wife, Laurie. If he's hidden that, what other deep, dark secrets is he hiding from her? 

Well, that would be my question if my significant other dropped a bombshell of that caliber on me. How is Laurie expected to just trust whatever he says from here on out? 

District Attorney: We have some bad news on the case. The print we lifted from the victim is from your son.
Andy: There's gotta be an explanation. They go to the same school, Jacob's in his class.
D.A.: Yeah, we know that.

There's been a debate for as long as time that a serial killer gene exists, and that it can lead to other members of families to be killers. 

I just wish the show approached the topic more convincingly, because now I can't shake the feeling that Andy could have played a part in it. 

Jacob and His Mother - Defending Jacob

The pilot kicked off with Andy waking his son up, his wife returning from her morning run. What did Andy do in the hours leading up to the inciting incident? 

The beauty of a limited series is that there's a set endpoint, but that's not to say the execution of the show works. 

In those initial episodes, the plot meanders in different directions. There is unnecessary filler, which takes away from the central storyline, and makes it seem like the initial plans of adapting it into a movie would have resulted in a more rounded narrative. 

Before we begin, I want to make something clear. A kid your age charged with first-degree murder is tried as an adult.


If anything, one of the central messages of the show appears to be that communicating with the ones you love is fundamental to keeping relationships flowing. 

Jacob should have opened up about finding the body sooner, but he chose to deal with that internally, and it made him look worse in the long run. 

Troubled Teen on Defending Jacob

Then there's Andy and his revelations of the past. Out of the trio at the center of the story, the only person I felt for was Laurie. 

She's given her marriage her all, and devoted her life to that, as well as parenting Jacob, and now she's lost her job and is having doubts about whether her son is a killer.

Jacob: I swear I didn't do it.
Andy: We believe you.

If all three of them make it out of Defending Jacob without being sent down for murder, this should be a lesson to them. Talk more. 

What did you think of the first three episodes? 

Are you on board? 

Hit the comments below. 

We'll have reviews of Defending Jacob weekly when the episodes are posted on Apple TV+ every Friday. 

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.3 / 5.0 (4 Votes)

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Defending Jacob Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

There's nothing worse than a kid.


We're sailing towards an iceberg, this little white peak in the distance getting closer and closer, but really it's been underneath us the whole time.