“Anatomy of a Scandal” has great acting and a multi-layered plotline until it goes off the rails (or is it leaps the shark?) with a plot twist that defies logic.
According to the plot, British politician James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is accused by one of his staffers, Olivia Lytton (Naomie Scott), of raping her in an office elevator a week after ending their five-month affair.
On the surface, James is a loving husband and father of two, dedicated to his wife Sophie (Sienna Miller) and his adoring audience. His closest friend resides at 10 Downing Street: British Prime Minister Tom Southern (Geoffrey Streetfield), who, like James, hails from a privileged family. The regulations don’t apply to them and their aristocratic buddies.
A rape victim, James reveals his affair to Sophie, who is more sympathetic than she should be (this sounds false). “I was weak,” he says. “Sex was all.” He loses his ministry and pleads not guilty, and Sophie’s support for James wanes. Solicited by criminal lawyer Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery), Olivia details his alleged aggressive conduct (he bit her, leaving a bruise, and tore her blouse and underwear). Kate is having an affair with a married guy who is also her old mentor.
In Episode 3, we learn more about James and Tom — and a shared tragedy they’ve kept up for 20 years — while an anonymous lady claims James assaulted her as well during his Oxford days. Sophie, meanwhile, begins to believe James isn’t the guy she thought he was (hmm, ya think?) while Kate is on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to her own dark secrets and dread of being discovered.
After setting the narrative scenario wonderfully (though predictably), Kelley and Gibson blow it all up with a WTF? surprise that plunges “Anatomy of a Scandal” into daytime soap territory and almost ruins it. But it’s the three main actors — Friend, Miller, and Dockery — who keep the tale together despite the absurdist twist and keep the series weirdly engrossing and binge-worthy.
Like me, you’ll watch “Anatomy of a Scandal” until the conclusion to see how it all ends.