‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ — The #MeToo version of ‘The Good Wife’

Category: Television

Based on Sarah Vaughan’s best-selling 2018 novel of the same name, the Netflix limited series Anatomy of a Scandal is a high society psychological thriller and riveting courtroom drama about the duplicitous nature of Britain’s rich and powerful.

A political elite born and bred, James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) has always asserted smart decisions and bloody hard work are solely responsible for his rapid upward trajectory of his political career as well as his picture-perfect private life. On the other hand, his doting wife Sophie (Sienna Miller) believes good luck has played a major part in her blissful life until poof!—it’s gone out the window! James is accused of sexually assaulting Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), a young parliamentary researcher with whom he cheated.

The road is paved in #MeToo landmines in modern day Westminster. James is quite annoyed at the criminal trial putting the kibosh on his privileged elite life, but he resolutely believes in the family motto — “The Whitehouses always come up on top.”

Pressured by a fixer to the Prime Minister, James’ childhood buddy and partner in crime, Sophie has to sit through the trial because her presence speaks volumes about his character. Unfortunately she is not spared the disturbing details of the incident in the House of Commons as well as the spectacle of his unchecked wealth, privilege and power on display. Apparently, the assault was triggered by an article accusing James of being “breathtakingly arrogant.” The more she learns about his high and mighty attitude, the more she realizes she has buried her head in the sand about his despicable and sinister side. Is James a garden-variety philanderer or an unfeeling brute who takes his pent-up frustration and anger out on his social and intellectual inferiors?

Queen’s Counsel Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery) has built her reputation prosecuting sexual abusers in cases that aren’t clear cut. This “journey from yes to no” relationship rape case is right up her alley. Kate is utterly convinced of his guilt and hell-bent on making him pay for his alleged crimes. Although whip-smart and tough as nails, Kate starts to unravel under the tremendous pressure from both within and without.

Lurking beneath this picture-perfect couple are their Oxford days in the early 1990s when a wild phase of drunken parties and robust sexual encounters was excused and forgiven with the “boys will be boys” rationale. The privileged and entitled young couple handled their schoolmates — the future PM Tom Southern, Alec Fisher, Holly Berry and Alison Jessop — as means to an end for their dangerous acts with little consequence. Who would have thought that the skeletons in the closet could come back to haunt them big time decades later?

The premise of Anatomy of a Scandal is similar to my all time favorite drama The Good Wife (CBS, 2009 – 16). Through her crosses and losses over 156 episodes, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) transformed into ‘the free woman.’ Sophie, on the other hand, learned her lessons in merely six episodes! I’m not being facetious – maybe just a little bit – but Sophie, the #MeToo version of Alicia minus a job, gets a sudden flash of insight; she has always been part of the problem. Stay woke. Too many embarrassed and humiliated wives remain in the problem camp perpetuating sexism, gender inequality, classism, and unchecked privilege.

Anatomy of a Scandal premieres Friday, April 15 on Netflix.

About the Author

Meg Mimura is a TV critic who actually watches shows zealously in search of thought-provoking and paradigm shifting human drama worth our precious time. She is a member of Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter.