Netflix series based on other media have been great weekend binges on the platform. The latest is Pieces of Her, based on Karin Slaughter’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name. The series is directed by Minkie Spiro with Charlotte Stoudt serving as writer and showrunner and stars Toni Collette, Bella Heathcote, Omari Hardwick, David Wenham, Jessica Barden, Joe Dempsie, and Jacob Scipio.
In it, a mother and daughter’s life in a sleepy Georgia town is rocked by a random act of violence. What starts as a heroic moment, Laura saving her daughter Andy, quickly becomes a cascading chain of events that unravels 30-years of lies, fear, and guilt. While Laura (Toni Collette) sends her daughter away in the hope to keep her safe, Andy (Bella Heathcote) decides to search for the truth instead. Andy makes the choice to embark on a dangerous journey across America, drawing her towards the dark, hidden heart of her family with people on her tail at every moment.
I didn’t know what to expect from Pieces of Her, even mid-way into the season. Laura’s past is deeply hidden, so much so that each layer that’s peeled away by Andy’s search only causes the viewer and the character to ask more questions. Having seen a lot of series and even films about characters making a new life to hide a past, the answer is always “spy” or “spec ops”. There isn’t a lot of in-between when it comes to that, especially when the focus is a reactive moment to violence.
But Pieces of Her isn’t that predictable. Instead, we see a narrative that unwinds itself, reaching into both Laura and Andy’s past, surfacing painful memories along the way. Because of this though, it makes discussing the series’ plot and its execution of certain twists hard. With so much to spoil, it’s hard to find the words. That said, what I can say is that with just eight episodes, Pieces of Her is a series with the pace of a racehorse. Once it gets going, the hits keep coming, and it’s hard to find space to breathe. This leads to often overstuffed episodes and unfocused narrative elements that may have worked as a novel but struggle on screen.
However, the ability of the series to keep you engaged as it weaves around your expectations is something that must be commended. As each piece of the past is pulled back, we get the chance to see new emotions from the characters that transform them over the story. Laura softens, Andy hardens, and the two begin to meet each other in the middle with understanding despite the turmoil. For this part, it should be noted that Collette and Heathcote are fantastic.
Collette understands how to shift from intimidating to vulnerable at the drop of a hat. Laura’s identity as a mother is one built on protection. She lies to keep her daughter safe. She hides to keep her daughter safe. And in the end, she will enact violence to do this as well. But while Laura is a character who has to drop down her walls, Andy is one who has to learn how to build them. Her trusting nature and very visible fear and anxiety change over time as she finds herself in situations that push her to the breaking point. That said, Andy shows toughness in certain elements but never loses her vulnerable core as she trusts too liberally and opens herself up to manipulation even if she thinks that she’s guarding herself. This isn’t bad though, it keeps her human and makes the transformation believable.
And while the mother-daughter core of the series is strong, my favorite relationship in the series is between Laura and her step-father Gordon Oliver. Played by Omari Hardwick, Gordon is a character that is much softer than we’ve seen from Hardwick in the past. He’s a loving father and a caring ex-husband. He loves Laura despite their divorce and he loves Andy despite not being his biological child. There is a tenderness and care between Andy and Gordon that adds an emotional retreat in the series’ darkness.
A mixture of political intrigue, domestic terrorism, secrets, government corruption, and more, Pieces of Her pulls together a mother-daughter relationship that builds over the eight episodes. But like some of the recent Netflix series, a short episode order weighs down a narrative that is trying to speed to the end, making many of the flashbacks some of the most interesting and well-executed parts of the series because they don’t rely on anything else. That said, Pieces of Her is well worth the watch if not for Toni Collette playing a protective mother with a dark past alone.
Pieces of Her is streaming exclusively on Netflix March 4, 2022.
Pieces of Her
A mixture of political intrigue, domestic terrorism, secrets, government corruption, and more, Pieces of Her pulls together a mother-daughter relationship that builds over the eight episodes. But like some of the recent Netflix series, a short episode order weighs down a narrative that is trying to speed to the end.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.