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Unbelievable: everything we know so far about Netflix's new true-crime drama

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Pip Cook
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Netflix’s new female detective series is based on shocking real-life events.      

Hot on the heels of HBO announcing a second series of Big Little Lies, it looks like Netflix is stepping up to the challenge with its own woman-centric drama Unbelievable. But unlike Big Little Lies, Unbelievable is based on real-life events.

Unbelievable tells the true story of Marie, an American teenager who was charged with false reporting in 2009 after retracting an allegation of rape. The reasons behind Marie’s sudden change of story were unsettling, and her case became entangled in an investigation that spanned two years and multiple state police departments before it was finally solved by two female detectives.

Written by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), the series is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning article about Marie’s case. An Unbelievable Story of Rape was published on the website ProPublica in 2016, after two journalists began investigating the history of false rape allegations. When they began digging into the truth behind Marie’s story, they were shocked by what they found.

The series will follow the two female detectives who investigated Marie’s case as they’re led down a winding road of changing testimonies, false trails and missing evidence before they finally arrive at the truth about what happened to her.

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We don’t want to give too much away, but the new Netflix series is shaping up to be a must-watch. With a stellar line-up of female actresses, we’re looking forward to another detective series where women play the investigators, not just the victims.

But Unbelievable is bound to be an uncomfortable watch, following in the footsteps of ITV’s Liar by exploring the distressing topic of rape allegations. It’s worth noting here that the vast majority of reports made to police about sexual assault are legitimate - and even if a rape allegation doesn’t result in a conviction, that doesn’t mean the accuser was lying. Research carried out by the Home Office in the early Noughties – the most detailed study ever carried out on sexual assault reports to UK police – showed that just 3% of reported rape cases were false.

The mini-series is due to drop sometime this year, though details of its release remain mysteriously vague. When it does grace our screens, we can expect the streaming service’s most nail-biting true-crime drama since Making a Murderer.

Here’s everything we know so far about Netflix’s Unbelievable.

Toni Colette will star as one of the detectives

Who’s starring in Unbelievable

So far, we know the series boasts an impressive lineup of female stars, including Toni Colette (In Her Shoes, Wanderlust), Danielle MacDonald (Dumplin’, Birdbox, Patti Cake$) and Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie, Welcome to Marwen).

It’s been confirmed that Colette and Wever will play the two detectives who uncovered the truth about Marie’s case, though the actress playing the teenager is yet to be revealed.

Rising star Kaitlyn Dever, who recently appeared alongside Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy, is also reported to appear in the series. Netflix are keeping quiet about who she’ll portray, but Variety reckons she’ll take the role of Marie.

Danielle MacDonald, whose role hasn’t yet been confirmed

What’s the series about?

Unbelievable tells the story of Marie, an American teenager who goes to police with a rape allegation. Just days after making her first report, Marie changes her story and says she lied about the attack – causing the police to charge her with false reporting.

The series will follow the mysterious trail of Marie’s case, and the two female detectives (Colette and Wever) who finally uncover the shocking truth about what happened to her. Be prepared for knuckle-gnawing tension, endless plot twists and a whole lot of high-emotion drama.

Meritt Wever

Is Unbelievable based on a true story?

However much we may wish it wasn’t, Unbelievable is based on true events. The real Marie was actually charged with false reporting back in 2009, after police didn’t believe her claim that she was raped at her apartment near Seattle, Washington. Marie changed her statement multiple times before accepting the charge, and her case was closed seven months after she made the allegation.

And yes, her case was later investigated by two female detectives – Edna Hendershot and Stacy Galbraith – who worked together across their two state police departments to finally uncover the truth about Marie. Pause here for frantic Googling…

So where is Marie now?

We don’t want to give too much away, but it’s reported that Marie left Washington a few years after everything happened to make a new life for herself elsewhere. In An Unbelievable Story of Rape the journalists write that she’s now married with children, though she’s understandably keen that details of her personal life remain undisclosed.

Kaitlyn Dever is rumoured to be playing Marie

Where can we find out more about Marie’s story before Unbelievable drops?

If you want to know what happened to Marie but can’t wait for the series to find out, this isn’t the first time her story’s been picked up. A few years ago, the podcast This American Life released an intriguing episode called Anatomy of Doubt, which features a thorough exploration of the case. It includes testimonies from people directly involved in the investigation – even Marie herself. The content is pretty distressing at times, so make sure you’re prepared before you listen.

You can also read the article An Unbelievable Story of Rape, in which journalists Ken Armstrong and T Christian Miller recount Marie’s story, on the ProPublica website. 

When is the release date?

The release date for Unbelievable is almost as mysterious as the series itself is set to be – all we know is that it’s dropping this year. But what if that’s a false trail?

This article will be updated, so keep checking this page for the latest news and release date for Unbelievable on Netflix

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