Netflix premiere series receives mixed reviews

‘Pieces of Her’ starring Toni Collette puts a stain on its novel’s reputation


Tribune News Service

Mother-daughter duo display feminine strength upon facing life long danger.

Ali Smith, Arts & Leisure Editor

The Netflix series “Pieces of Her” has come and gone from the U.S. Top 10 list since its release March 4. 

This is surprising, though, as the best-selling 2018 novel by Karin Slaughter provides endless new shock waves to the strong mother-daughter story.  

Laura Oliver, a middle-aged mother and veterans mental health worker, seems quiet, kind and unassuming, until the story of her life begins to peel back in seemingly endless layers, all of which is sparked by her life saving courage against a shooter in a local Belle Isle diner. 

Played by Toni Collette in a seamless manner, Oliver’s story is a testimonial of the strength and independence of a woman fleeing abuse.  

Her daughter, Andy, played by Bella Heathcote, transforms from a 30-year-old hopeful artist living in her mother’s guest house into an inquisitive investigator willing to risk it all to uncover the truth.  

As the episodes unfold, one thing is clear about Oliver: she is not as innocent as she looks, for better and for worse. This cyclical ride of chaos continues until the final scene, so hang on, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, expect another jaw-dropping revelation. 

But you will surely have some questions that will simply be left unanswered. I found myself asking if these things really are as simple as they seem, or is there more to the story? 

Not only does “Pieces of Her” tout the theme of abuse at all ends, but it also gives a voice to the power and corruption of pharmaceutical companies. The series reveals through flashbacks a traumatic event in Oliver’s life that shows this issue is not isolated to the opioid epidemic of the modern day, but has been occurring at the hands of corporate greed since the ‘80s and beyond. 

Although I enjoyed the show overall, it hasn’t been well-received by all, and from an analytical point of view, I could see the origins of some of its criticism. 

The series starts off strong, with a mass shooting, a break-in, attempted murder and self-defense killing all within the first episode. 

However, half of those incidents are left unanswered or unresolved by the wrap-up of season one. 

Truthfully, I expected this to be a limited series based on its intensity, and some even said it would have been better as a 90-minute film. But because of the depth of the issues and the importance of the flashbacks, an eight-episode series simply was not enough time to deliver these plots to their ends. 

This could have been a strategy to leave viewers pining for a second season, but viewers expressed the opposite effect.  

The television adaptation and its reception has thus brought a mark of shame to Slaughter’s novel, which was revered by critics. 

“Slaughter has outdone herself with ‘Pieces of Her’ — a novel that sets the standard for psychological thriller writing,” critic Jeffery Deaver wrote. “Rarely in fiction have the past and the present collided with such force and in such a distinctive and compelling voice.” 

This review of the book perfectly describes my experience with the series, but for some, the show was missing explanations by its conclusion that viewers just could not get past.  

Brian Lowry, a CNN reviewer, gave some of the least harsh feedback that I read in this regard. 

“In what feels like a common gripe with this genre, ‘Pieces of Her’ puts the jigsaw puzzle together a bit too slowly, and the payoff in regard to what Laura’s hiding isn’t quite as good as the buildup,” said Lowry. 

Although I disagree with the pacing, Lowry’s point was commonplace among viewers and critics, and Oliver’s secret doesn’t carry the “wow factor” or the seriousness that her character had built it up to be. On this note, many elements of the story were left behind and unaddressed by the close of season one.  

I do believe the show was better than most are making it out to be, and I was disappointed to see it leave the U.S. Top 10 this week.  

Perhaps viewers feel as though series creator Charlotte Stoudt did not do Slaughter’s novel justice, and I would have to read the book in order to come to a decision on that conclusion.  

However, the ‘70s and ‘80s aesthetics and the strong female characters are elements that keep me compelled and hopeful that writers can revive and redeem this series in season two, which has yet to be announced.  

“Pieces of Her” is now available for streaming on Netflix.


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