The wait is finally over, Defending Jacob has hit Apple TV+.
Starring Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, and Jaeden Martell as the Barbers, the family is turned upside down as 14-year-old Jacob is accused of murdering a classmate. The series is based on the New York Times bestselling novel and is airing exclusively on Apple TV+. The series’ first three of eight episodes dropped today, and the remaining five will release weekly beginning next Friday, May 1.
The series begins in present day, with Andy Barber (Chris Evans) walking into the court rooms just as he’d done for 10 years as the Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County in Massachusetts, except this time, he’s on the other side of the questioning. He’s distraught, his expression hollow and lifeless, as he’s questioned on the state of his family 10 months ago on the morning of Ben Rifkin’s murder. His answer … happy.
We head back 10 months to Andy walking in to wake up his 14-year-old son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell), who like most teenagers, is not ready for an early morning start. After successfully rousing Jake for his day at school, Andy watches as his wife, Laurie (Michelle Dockery) arrives home from her early morning run. The family congregates in the kitchen as they all prepare to head out to their respective days, deciding that a Christmas trip to Mexico was in the cards, the parents teasing Jacob’s lack of excitement over the news.
The three family members begin their daily grinds. Jacob heads to school, Laurie to her teaching job, and Andy to the courthouses, where we see him get the best of a poor defense attorney before receiving a call that requires his schedule for the day to be cleared. There’s been a murder, a stabbing. Jacob’s school is locked down as Andy heads to the scene of the crime, his longtime friend and fellow officer of the law Detective Pam Duffy (Betty Gabriel) by his side (fans of the novel will recognize this character as Paul Duffy). The victim is Benjamin Rifkin, a student in Jacob’s class at Archer.
Andy receives a call from a nervous Jacob, his school is on lockdown and no one knows why. Andy reassures his son as best he can, unable to get into any details. An investigation begins with a search for witnesses or anyone with information on the murder of Ben Rifkin.
Later that night, the Barbers have all returned home and Laurie and Andy finally head in to talk to Jacob about the events of the day. He’s surprisingly okay with what has happened, at least on the outside, stating that him and Ben weren’t really friends and didn’t know each other very well, that Ben was a little pompous. In bed a few hours later, Laurie confesses her relief that it wasn’t Jacob who was found face down in the park that day before asking if Andy ever missed his estranged father, who had left very early in Andy’s life. Andy replies he hadn’t, that his mother assured him he wasn’t missing much by not having his father in his life. But then we see Andy wake in the middle of the night from a nightmare, him as a child and an older man approaching with a knife.
The next morning, Jacob is driven to school by Laurie. His friend Derek, who had been at his home the night before, shys away from him as Jake walks into the building.
Andy arrives at work, heading into his boss Lynn Canavan’s (Sakina Jaffrey) office, fellow prosecutor Neal Loguidice (Pablo Schrieber) following, and these two do not get along. We also recognize Neal as the man questioning Andy in the opening sequence at present day. Lynn tells Andy it may not be the best idea for him to the on the case due to his personal connections being a possible conflict. Andy refutes the idea, and insults Neal for trying to make a name for himself by taking it over in his stead, insisting he isn’t close to the Rifkins and he can handle it.
Pam and Andy head out to Archer Middle School and begin interviewing the students, and they’re coming up empty handed. Until a student, Sarah, gets Andy alone when Pam leaves to take a call. She asks if Andy had spoken to Jacob about the incident yet, saying nothing else, but sending Andy into thought nonetheless. As Sarah leaves, we see Jacob’s friend Derek corner her in the stairwell, pressing to learn what she told Andy and Pam, startling her as he stares her down as she walks away.
Pam returns with a lead — a convicted child molester, Leonard Patz, that was seen at the park that morning.
Andy feels stifled as he arrives at the memorial for Ben at the Rifkin’s home. He attempts a quick getaway with Jacob, but gets cornered upstairs by Ben’s distraught father, Dan. The fathers talk about what kind of monster could have done this, and end their conversation by silently agreeing there’s nothing that either of them wouldn’t do for their sons.
In the car, Andy and Jacob begin a conversation about the J.D. Salinger novel Catcher in the Rye, where Jacob explains to his father the symbolism of Holden Caulfield’s name before he launches into a discussion about his distaste for metaphors and similes, instead wishing the books would just cut the chase and tell the story — “Say what you mean.” He does however commend the book on its representation of “how phony most people are,” and then accuses the kids at the memorial of acting out their sorrow for their lost classmate because it’s what they were expected to do.
After Laurie and Jacob have gone to bed, Andy is up looking through Patz’s files, and he makes the decision to bring him in for questioning. As he’s getting ready to wrap up for the night, an anonymous email pops up on his laptop with Ben Rifkin’s name in the subject, followed by ‘READ ME.’ Andy opens the email, to a single link that brings him to a memorial Facebook page for Ben, one specific comment thread. Most are hearts, or little notes of grieving and remembrance, until he stumbles upon comments directed at Jacob.
‘Jacob STFU. Dickhead.’
‘WTF? JB go fuck off and die.’
‘So not cool Jacob’
Andy finds Jacob’s comment ‘Ben is dead. Why are you writing him messages? Acting like his best friends’ and then clicks to read the four replies in the thread. One from Jacob’s friend Derek sticking out like a sore thumb.
‘Jacob, everybody knows you did it. you have a knife. I’ve seen it.’
We end with Andy sneaking into Jacob’s room, searching for where his son could be hiding this knife. And he finds one … wrapped in a sock in Jacob’s nightstand drawer.