‘Defending Jacob’ Episode 6 Review: “Wishful Thinking”
In the latest intense episode of Defending Jacob, Laurie Barber continued to panic and unravel while Andy finally snapped.
the united front is crumbling
Laurie and Andy Barber (Chris Evans, Avengers: Endgame) have one very vital thing in common, they both love and want to protect their son. Andy, because he desperately wants to believe in Jacob’s innocence. Laurie, because she fears Jacob is guilty and that she should have done something about his violent tendencies years ago.
There was no scene that displayed this disconnect in the motivations for their shared goal better than the reveal of the DNA test at the psychiatrist’s office. While they learned that Jacob does not have the murder gene (but Andy and Billy do), they learned that he does have many concerning DNA mutations and variants that point to impulsivity, recklessness, and a limited capacity for empathy. The psychiatrist singled out his capacity for empathy as an issue of particular concern.
Andy, despite sharing all the same troubling markers, took the news calmly in stride and insisted that Jacob was a good kid and that all kids have issues. Laurie, unable or unwilling to grasp that Andy is proof that having these markers is not a definite indicator of violent tendencies, heard nothing but the bad news. A brilliant use of sound put us directly in her shoes. The voices around her became muffled as she visually zeroed in on the disturbing phrases written about her son – ‘capable of violence’, ‘antisocial tendencies’, and ‘manipulative behavior’.
As she argued with Andy and repeatedly threw the accusation “You think he did it” at the psychiatrist, she might as well have been shouting ‘I think he did it!’ The despair, guilt, and horror were written all over her face. The psychiatrist’s refusal to answer, but empathetic, emphatic admittance that she wished she could answer, only confirmed Laurie’s fears.
a surprising callousness
Oh Laurie. Last week, after visiting Billy behind Andy’s back, she had the audacity to look into Andy’s eyes and tell him that he had his father’s eyes. His murderous father whom he loathes and has disowned. The hurt in his eyes at that statement was heartbreaking. I didn’t comment at the time, hoping it was a brief misstep. An instance of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time because of the shitty situation they’re in. He reached out and took her hand after, so who am I to judge? But, then she had to go and top herself this week.
When Andy told her that the news story about Billy, Andy, and Jacob’s familial connection had spread, he was clearly upset. He couldn’t tear his eyes off of the screen. Laurie responded to Andy’s devastating discovery with a cold “it is what it is” and walked away. Zero empathy for her husband being rocked by the fact that the world now knows his father is a convicted rapist and murderer. Zero concern. Cold and callous. Even Billy Barber (J. K. Simmons, Spider-Man: Far from Home) reached out to Andy after seeing that their story made the news. It was to insist he didn’t tell anyone, but still — Billy recognized that the information becoming public knowledge would adversely affect Andy and reached out. Laurie walked away.
I’m beginning to strongly dislike Laurie Barber. At the same time, I’m becoming a solid fan of Michelle Dockery. Laurie is fragile, weak, messed-up, desperate, and scared. She is cold and slowly detaching from her family — she didn’t even say good night to Jacob. Props to Dockery for pulling off Laurie’s fear over whether or not she should feel guilt for possibly overlooking signs of violence from her son years ago. She fears that if Jacob is guilty, so is she. You can feel her desperation.
flashes of anger
After weeks of controlling his temper, a man who spent his entire life acutely aware of the destructive nature of anger and violence finally let begin to spill out of him. When blindsided by Loguidice baiting him about his connection to Billy, Andy shoved him up against a wall. Gone was the man who would swallow his rage. Once pulled off of Loguidice by Duffy, he almost went at him again before taking his customary deep breath and raising his hands with an apology. But, it was too late, the floodgates were open.
Hours later, after failing to find any helpful information on Ben’s phone, he finally learned about Jacob’s secret online behavior. He stormed into the house and burst into Jacob’s room, bubbling over with anger. Dumbfounded that his son could not recognize how his actions would make their case more difficult, he yelled at Jacob. When Laurie tried to get him to calm down with the accusation that he was scaring Jacob, Andy doubled-down on his anger, insisting they should all be scared of what’s happening. Again, he apologized moments later.
Leaning towards violence
When a search warrant to Leonard Patz’s house didn’t turn up anything useful, Andy took matters into his own hands. He tracked Patz down, followed him, and rear-ended him twice before getting out of his car to verbally threaten him.
The final display of anger came in the final moments of the episode. As the family arrived home after Jacob’s birthday celebration, they discovered the car that had been following them for days waiting a few houses down. Without hesitation, Andy grabbed a tire iron from the trunk and stalked towards the car to confront the mystery man. Brandishing the iron as a weapon, he threatened the man to leave them alone. Hauntingly, the man told him to take care of his family before driving off.
It’s telling that Andy’s anger finally began to spill out in the same episode where we learned he has several troubling gene markers. They are suggesting that if his father is a murderer, and his son could be too, Andy might be capable of something just as heinous.
I previous described Chris Evans as portraying Andy with a quiet intensity and that still holds true, but it’s no longer fully quiet and held within. What has been simmering beneath the surface is finally starting to boil over and spill out – and it’s a sight to behold. One moment he’s silently, wordlessly making your heart break with an expression, the next he’s aggressively confronting someone with an unbridled ferocity.
Chris Evans portrays Andy as such a measured man that it’s impossible to predict what he’ll do next as his walls come down. Chris is really having a field day showing off his acting range in Defending Jacob. It’s no wonder that he and the show have been mentioned in an early prediction list for the Emmy awards. He disappears so deeply into this role that I continually forget exactly who it is that I’m watching.
As Andy and Laurie seem to be at odds in their approaches to their son, Andy is finding allies in unexpected places. Matt McGrath finally made contact with Andy and shared his disturbing connecting to Leonard Patz, and Patz’s fascination with Ben Rifkin. Andy’s former boss sided with Andy over Loguidice in granting a search warrant on Patz, despite her trepidation at believing McGrath’s story. After the search warrant didn’t turn up anything useful, Detective Duffy delivered the news to Andy in person at his home over coffee. Earlier in the episode, she had felt a kinship with him after learning about his father. She seems to be leaning into the friendship he insisted he’d felt all along and is more willing to help where she can. There was even a scene of Andy and Duffy going over evidence together at night on a backyard patio.
If the psychiatrist’s office showed us the disconnect in Andy and Laurie’s motivations, Jacob’s iceberg metaphor showed us the different frame of mind each of the Barbers are operating with as they approach the trial. Jacob described the trial as an iceberg with a peak in the distance that they keep getting closer to, when it’s actually been underneath them the whole time. He declared himself ready for the trial and seemed very accepting of what’s about to happen.
Earlier while being yelled at by Andy for the online activity, Jacob had defensively stated nothing was wrong with him. After being told by his parents that the DNA results confirmed that nothing was wrong with him, a weight clearly lifted from his shoulders. This time when he said that there was nothing wrong with him, he said it with hope.
Andy’s reaction to the iceberg metaphor was to express surprise with his son’s use of metaphor. As he’s familiar with trials and the justice system, he seemed legitimately impressed with the apt metaphor. Laurie’s reaction to the iceberg metaphor was a wide-eyed, stricken stare. She said nothing. I believe that to her, it’s the violence within Jacob that’s been just underneath the surface this whole time.
The grand jury
The main narrative of this story has been framed by a grand jury hearing where Andy is testifying. As the hearing has worn on, Andy has become more and more drained. This episode opened on Andy barely keeping it together. Sound was muffled and his face was blurred as Loguidice repeated his name to get his attention. Both his face and the voice came into focus slowly, putting us in Andy’s shoes. Andy was exhausted and beaten down, but adamant that he wanted to get it over with. He was clearly a broken man who was physically pained by recounting this story to the man who prosecuted his son. He was pale and seemingly on the verge of tears, displaying the toll this has taken on him. His last words of the episode set up the final two episodes brilliantly. “A couple more days and it was over. We hit the iceberg.”
Seeing as there are only two episodes remaining, I think it’s fair to add some big obvious questions to this list. I’ve held off until now, because the answers to these questions are what this is all leading towards, so of course they haven’t been answered yet. As we head into the penultimate episode:
- Who is the mystery man who has been following the Barbers? And why?
- Is Jacob Barber guilty?
- If not Jacob, who killed Ben Rifkin?
- What is the purpose of the grand jury hearing?
Defending Jacob continues with episode seven next Friday, May 22nd on Apple TV+. If you want to talk about Defending Jacob or have a lingering question that I missed, visit us in the comments or on twitter to let us know.