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‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ charts a twisty courtroom mystery around privilege and politics

Anatomy of a Scandal” is a crisply presented, beautifully binge-able mystery that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s an old-fashioned courtroom miniseries with a bit more current backdrop of sexual politics. The content, adapted from a novel, doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s entertaining enough for its multiple twists, some of which are admittedly more strained than others.

While a prominent guy is on trial (thus the “scandal” portion), the six-episode series is defined by two women: the prosecutor and the wife who wants to believe in her husband but has reason to distrust him.

Despite the involvement of writer/producers David E. Kelley (raising echoes of “Big Little Lies”) and Melissa James Gibson (“House of Cards”), the Netflix project centers on Parliament minister James Whitehouse (“Homeland’s” Rupert Friend), whose political and personal status are threatened when he’s charged with raping an aide (“Aladdin’s” Naomi Scott), a situation worsened by the fact that the two had been having an affair.

Whitehouse’s wife Sophie (Sienna Miller), who is troubled by images of the consensual affair while finding it tough to believe that her husband could commit an act of violence, is understandably taken aback by the charge and the subsequent discoveries.

The responsibility of proving such falls to barrister Kate Woodcroft (“Downton Abbey’s” Michelle Dockery), who is taking a significant professional risk by taking on such a high-profile case with consequences for the ruling party.

“Anatomy of a Scandal,” directed by S.J. Clarkson, does a good job of keeping the audience guessing, but it fails miserably in its liberal use of flashbacks to the elite private school where Whitehouse and the Prime Minister (Geoffrey Streatfeild) both attended, implying a “Boys will be boys” attitude that prevailed at the time and may have contributed to their bond.

Dockery, who portrays a heroine with her own secrets well, and Miller, whose outwardly perfect existence is shaken in a way that compels her to reassess what she knows about the guy she married, which is at the heart of the drama.

As previously stated, everything has a retro feel to it, and even the title conjures up images of Otto Preminger courtroom mystery “Anatomy of a Murder.” It’s pass-the-popcorn amusement that also invites thought about changing perspectives on privileged young men’s past behavior — a subject that’s been widely discussed in recent years, perhaps most notably during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings.

Granted, Netflix and its competitors have been churning out similarly theme dramas and docuseries for a while now. Overall, “Anatomy of a Scandal” manages to overcome its weaknesses well enough to establish the framework for what is hoped to be a long-running series of neatly designed standalone thrillers.

The foundations for that are clearly in place. The trick is to come up with the correct creases to fill them out, as this first lesson in “Anatomy” explains.

Also Read: The first images have been released! Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor make their wedding official on Instagram.

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