Hulu’s new weekly true-crime drama series, “The Act,” follows the strange story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy Rose, as they move to a new town, and their secrets are slowly revealed. I had conflicting opinions about the show while watching the first episode, and it was hard to tell how the rest of the show will turn out.
On one hand, “The Act” has two things going for it: its crisp images with oddly striking cinematography and its truly intriguing based-on-real-life story of a small-town murder. Anyone who knows the story of the real Blanchards can tell you the 2015 murder case was about as strange and dramatic as it gets outside of fiction. Without spoiling too much for viewers who want to go in blind, Dee Dee and Gypsy’s tale is one rife with secrets, abuse and Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Reading the details of the case feels like reading the synopsis of a fictional mystery book. It makes sense why the story has been adapted several times in the years since it happened and why Hulu chose the story for their new show. This, combined with the high production value and sharp imagery of the first episode, makes me think the show might hold promise in the future.
On the other hand, the show has a few things working against it. The acting was unconvincing, the script seemed poorly written and the actors, try as they might, were incapable of bringing the story to life. All the characters seemed flat and undeveloped. Dee Dee and Gypsy themselves didn’t see much development, let alone their many neighbors. Everyone seemed like a caricature of the quintessential small-town neighbor, and no one really got a life of their own. Now, I do acknowledge that this is a review of just the first episode of many yet to be released, and the lack of development displayed may as well have been a conscious choice to develop the characters more slowly throughout the rest of the season. But for a 53-minute episode, there wasn’t much to look at.
Another thing I thought hurt the show was that I already knew the story being told on screen, as is likely the case with most of the show’s viewers. They presented everything as mysterious and subtly sinister, which would be the perfect direction to take if the material was original and everyone didn’t already know about every surprise before it was revealed. Unfortunately, I spent much of the episode bored, waiting for them to stop building suspense over a reveal I already knew was coming. I think many viewers will face the same problem. I have no doubt that the show was designed for someone ignorant of the story upon which the show is based.
Overall, it’s hard for me to form a conclusive opinion about the show based on the first episode alone. There were parts I liked and parts I didn’t, and it’s impossible to tell which of these the show will continue with. If you’re interested in a truly mind-boggling true story filled with lies, watchful eyes and diabolical abuse, then you might want to give “The Act” a try. It could get better, or it could get worse. At this point, I can’t say.
Keagan Miller is a psychology junior and columnist for The Battalion.