Unorthodox: everything you need to know about the “best series on Netflix”

Posted by for Life

People on Twitter are saying Netflix’s Unorthodox is even better than Tiger King… 

Netflix was pretty much the be-all and end-all of our lives before the coronavirus pandemic, so it makes sense that we’re all leaning heavily on the streaming platform during the Covid-19 lockdown. With so many films and TV shows to choose from, though, it can be hard to know what’s worth concentrating on – particularly as… well, as our concentration levels are at an all-time low.

A lot of people will no doubt have told you to watch Tiger King, Netflix’s documentary about Joe Exotic – a gun-toting polygamist who presided over an Oklahoma animal park – and the murder-for-hire plot that led to his arrest. And you’ll no doubt have noticed that the true crime series is getting a lot of (digital) column inches, as armchair detectives all over the globe insist that animal activist Carole Baskin killed her ex-husband, Don Lewis.

This writer, however, would like to steer your attention elsewhere. So can we please take a break from Tiger King for just a moment and talk about Netflix’s Unorthodox instead?

As in, yes, the same show which currently boasts a whopping 95% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That show.

So, what’s the plot of Netflix’s Unorthodox?

In a nutshell? Based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir of the same name, it tells the story of young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman Esther Shapiro (Shira Haas), who flees her arranged marriage that sours as she struggles to consummate the relationship and produce a baby. 

Netflix's Unorthodox
Netflix's Unorthodox: Esty runs away from her marriage.

After making her escape,Esty heads to Berlin with almost nothing – just her passport and a handful of cash – and does her best to start a new life.

Does she manage it, though? Well, you’ll have to watch it and see: no spoilers here, folks.

Maybe just a bit more detail…?

Fine. Much like the critically acclaimed Disobedience, starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, Netflix’s Unorthodox focuses on one of the Orthodox Jewish community’s “chained wives”.

For those who don’t know already, divorce is incredibly difficult to attain within this strict religious sect. Indeed, to dissolve an Orthodox Jewish marriage, a wife must be granted a ‘get’ – a simple document dating back to ancient times that says a couple is no longer married.

Crucially, a get can only be given by a man. And, without a get, women wanting a divorce are stuck in limbo. That’s why Esty is forced to flee with just the clothes on her back and the money in her pocket: there’s really no other way out.

What are people saying about Netflix’s Unorthodox?

Essentially, all those who’ve taken the time to watch the series are positively obsessed.

“I wish Unorthodox was getting a fraction of the press Tiger King is!! Probably the best new thing I’ve seen this year, I could have taken twice as much of it. Shira Haas is unbelievably great,” tweeted one fan.

Netflix's Unorthodox has been praised extensively on Twitter.

Another wrote: “Everyone needs to watch Unorthodox on Netflix… the actors (especially Shira Haas, who plays the lead) are just phenomenal . By far one of the best mini series I’ve ever watched

Unorthodox is hands down the best series to binge-watch right now,” insisted another. “Shira Haas’ brilliant performance gave me goosebumps.”

And even Stylist’s own Alessia Armenise, famed around the office for her discerning good taste (read: dislike of mostly everything), has piled praise upon the four-part series.

“I love that it focuses on a girl so desperate to break free from convention she is willing to risk everything,” she explains, when I ask her what is it she liked most about the show. 

“She wants out of the rules that make her feel small and lesser than a man, yet her culture is so ingrained within her that you see her unable to let go of some of the stricter beliefs that underpin the closed society she was once a part of.”

What else do I need to know about Netflix’s Unorthodox?

How about the fact that Unorthodox is the first Netflix series to be primarily in Yiddish? That’s right: the show switches from English to Yiddish to German, making it all the more necessary to concentrate on the scenes unfolding before you (ideal if your coronavirus resolution is to stop aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, I guess).

Is Netflix’s Unorthodox really better than Tiger King?

If we’re being objective, the two shows are incomparable: they are starkly different in terms of tone, format and subject matter. Unorthodox is, however, the sort of powerful true story that will sit with you long after the credits roll – and will open your eyes to a largely unseen community, one which places an extraordinary amount of pressure on its women.

Watch the trailer for Netflix’s Unorthodox below:

Subjectively, though? This writer infinitely preferred Unorthodox.

So where can I watch Netflix’s Unorthodox?

It’s still available on the streaming platform now – as is Making Unorthodox, the 20-minute documentary that chronicles the creative process and filming.

Happy viewing.

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Netflix

Share this article

Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

Recommended by Kayleigh Dray