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Review of 'Fatal Attraction' (2023, the TV series), Season One

Welcome to the Jung-le

By Paul LevinsonPublished 4 months ago 3 min read

Fatal Attraction -- the new 2023 series -- finished its 8-episode first season on Paramount this past Sunday. Yes, it's the same story as the 1987 stunner of a movie, retold and refigured in all kinds of significant and even profound ways, and I think it largely succeeded.

[And I can tell you there will be spoilers ahead ... ]

First, I saw and very much enjoyed the 1987 movie, though I don't recall a lot of the important details. The Paramount TV series is half a retelling of that story, and half a narrative that takes place 15 years in the future, when Dan Gallagher is released from prison after serving his time for killing Alexandra. As we soon learn, though, he lied when he told he the parole board that he understood the evil he had done in murdering Alex -- he lied to get his freedom, which he intends to use to prove his innocence and find out who really did do the murder.

So that's a pretty strong set-up for a new take on this story, and it's enhanced with an increasing focus on Ellen (Dan and his wife's Beth's daughter), 15 years older, now in college, and immersed in the cognitive rapids of discovering the theories of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud's student, and second only to Freud as the inventor of modern psychology. Jung has popped up in all kinds of places in our theaters, movies, TV, and radio shows -- see this summary on Wikipedia -- but none as explicitly and effectively as with Ellen, who is attracted to Jung's concept of the shadow, the part of us that runs contrary to our ideals, and we must come to terms with, lest it overruns us. Which is just what happens to Ellen, who in the final shocker of the TV series becomes an embodiment of the concept, as her shadow takes her over and she becomes the new Alex, stalking her professor (yikes).

But who murdered the original Alex? The answer gives us the other shocker of this TV series. The killer is indeed not Dan, and nor is it Beth, who in the movie shoots Alex dead in the bathtub after Dan doesn't hold her under the water long enough. I was thinking throughout the TV series that the killer might be Mike, but it turns out to be Arthur, friend of the Gallaghers, whose wife is dying of cancer, and who will later become Beth's partner. I thought this worked well enough -- his wife dying was a plausible foundation for taking such a drastic action -- but it was the weakest part of the new story. First, way too much time was devoted to Arthur in the final episode before he killed Alex -- so much, indeed, that I began to suspect that he was going to be the killer, or why else suddenly spend so much time on him? And, unless I missed it, I didn't see any foretelling of Arthur's propensity for violence earlier in the series.

But, all in all, I found the TV series daring and intelligent, and well worth viewing. The acting was superb, with Joshua Jackson (great in Fringe) as Dan, Lizzy Caplan (great in Masters of Sex) as Alex, Amanda Peet (great in lots of movies and TV series) as Beth, and Alyssa Jirrels (first time I've seen her on screen) as Ellen especially outstanding. And hats off to showrunner Alexandra Cunningham (see Jackie Strause's interview with her in the Hollywood Reporter).

Whether there will be a second season is unknown at this point. I certainly hope there is. Indeed, Ellen's story itself could well take more than one season to be properly told.

tv review

About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Details here. My Twitter. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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