The Undoing episode 1 recap: Grace’s life is unravelling faster than she can keep up

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Sky’s new crime drama starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant is here, and it’s every bit as thrilling and tense as we hoped. Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode one of The Undoing.

Ever since we first heard that Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant would be teaming up with Big Little Lies creator David E Kelley for a new HBO mini-series, we’ve been waiting anxiously to get our hands on the first episode – and it didn’t disappoint.

Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, The Undoing follows the story of Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman), her husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) and their young son, Henry.

When the series opens, we learn that Grace and Jonathan’s life together is one dominated by privilege: she’s a successful therapist, her husband is a renowned paediatric oncologist and her son attends one of the best schools in New York. 

In fact, the couple’s biggest problem is having to attend a fundraiser on behalf of their son’s school; Grace isn’t keen as she’s on the “fundraising committee” and Jonathan, well, he’d rather not spend the evening socialising over champagne with people he doesn’t really like.

However, it isn’t long before things start to unravel. It all starts when a new mum joins the fundraising committee. The woman – called Elena Alves – doesn’t fit in with the other parents in the group: her son, Miguel, is at the school on a scholarship, and she has a new-born baby to take care of.

Oh, and she’s strangely obsessed with Grace – not only does she stare at her throughout the fundraising meetings, but she joins her gym and gets a little too close for comfort.

All of this tension culminates at the fundraising event, where Grace discovers Elena in the bathroom, crying. Before she can convince her to either stay or accept a lift home, Elena flees the event – and is found dead the next morning.  

At the same time, Jonathan is forced to leave the event early to conduct an emergency operation. After returning home to inform Grace that his patient passed away, he flies off to a medical conference in Cleveland.

The problem? He doesn’t return. As the news surrounding Elena’s death rocks the community and the police start asking probing questions, Grace is left to deal with her own personal tragedy – Jonathan left his phone at home, and there’s no way for her to reach him.

As the hours drag on and Grace struggles to uncover Jonathan’s whereabouts, her ‘perfect’ life is unravelling faster than she can keep up – and it’s the perfect start to a series which promises to be equal parts thrilling and emotionally-tense.

So, has the first episode of The Undoing left you with more questions than answers? Don’t worry: Stylist’s junior digital writer Lauren Geall is here to unpick them all.

Who is Elena?

Sure, we know a little about who Elena is on the surface, but what’s going on underneath? There’s clearly more to her than meets the eye: besides the fact that she’s incredibly intense (especially with Grace), there’s also the fact that she spends her days sitting outside the school gates after she drops her son off, just staring at the building.

It’s also clear that there was something going on at the fundraising event. Not only does she receive a lot of “special attention” (read: harassment) by a group of men, Grace finds her in the bathroom, crying.

“Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed and lost. Do you ever feel that?” she asks Grace, before telling her that she is the kindest of all the mothers at the school. Later on, when she’s about to leave, she thanks Grace for her kindness once again, kissing her on the lips as she does so.

There are a lot of questions left to answer as the show continues – why is she so obsessed with Grace? What do the men pursuing her at the event want? Could they be involved with her murder?

Matilda De Angelis as Elena Alves in The Undoing
The Undoing episode one: who is Elena?

Why are the police acting so suspiciously?

After news of Elena’s murder spreads around the school community, the police turn up at Grace’s house unannounced.

While they arrive under the guise of just “asking a few questions,” it’s clear they want something more from their visit – not only do they ask about Grace’s relationship with Elena and the fundraising event the night before, but they also ask about Jonathan’s whereabouts, too.

There’s also the fact that, when Grace turns around to check her phone, one of the officers starts looking through the paperwork on the Frasers’ kitchen table.

Although the mothers at the school seem convinced that Elena’s husband is to blame for her murder, it seems the police officers investigating the case have other suspicions related to the Fraser family – specifically Jonathan.

But why would they suspect him? And if so, could Elena’s murder be connected to his disappearance?

Why did Jonathan leave his phone behind?

When Grace discovers Jonathan’s phone in his bedside table, you can almost feel her stomach drop. After all, it’s never good news when someone goes missing without their phone on them, right?

Although there’s always a chance that he simply forgot to take his phone, it doesn’t seem likely that that’s the case – especially because he’s supposed to have gone on a work trip to Cleveland.     

Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser in The Undoing
The Undoing episode one: where is Jonathan?

With that being said, where is Jonathan, anyway?

Although Jonathan did say he might not get back from Cleveland within a day, there’s still plenty of reason to suspect he’s not where he says he is.

On top of the fact that he doesn’t seem to be in any of the hotels in Cleveland (at least the ones Grace calls), he also hasn’t got in contact with Grace via email or with someone else’s phone – something you’d presume he would do when he realised he’d left his behind.

With this in mind, it seems likely that Jonathan isn’t in Cleveland at all – especially when you pair the phone stuff with the fact that the police also seem to have a lot of questions about his trip to Cleveland, too.

That leaves us with one, big question: if he’s not in Cleveland, where is he? And why did he lie?

And finally: how is Nicole Kidman’s hair so bloody beautiful?

All I’m saying is that if you didn’t spend at least 20 minutes of that first episode admiring Nicola Kidman’s hair, you’re lying.

Episode one of The Undoing airs tonight on Sky Atlantic at 9pm. It is also available to watch on NOW TV. 

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Images: Sky

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