The Act season 1 review: Who is at fault?


The Act finished its first season, telling the story of the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard and subsequent arrest of her daughter Gypsy.

Everything in The Act, much like criticisms of The Act, need to be taken with a grain of salt. When talking about a show that’s based on real life, there is always going to be another side of the story that colors the way that show looks. In this case, there are wide ranging complaints about inaccuracies coming from those close to the family directly depicted in this show.

When you take those into account, which basically say that Gypsy was much more innocent than The Act implies, it makes it look like there was a goal for this show—to say that Gypsy was not as innocent as everyone seems to think.

Now, creator Michelle Dean wrote the original BuzzFeed article that brought the Gypsy and Dee Dee story to light back in 2016. It’s a wide ranging report that led to her and co-creator Nick Antosca to creating this series. Some of the complaints levied against The Act can be set aside as potential biases. After all, we’ll never know the whole story because Dee Dee isn’t able to tell us what really happened, so the loudest detractors are those with a personal connection to Gypsy.

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But even setting aside how Gypsy is depicted, Dean’s version of the story makes choices, presumably to add drama, that don’t really make sense.

Looking at the last episode of the season, Dean hinged a big conversation between Gypsy and her dad Rod on the idea that the two never interacted (or at least not that Gypsy could remember). But, in her own report, she describes Gypsy and Rod having an extensive relationship.

He still wasn’t around a ton and he started a new family, but they had contact. It’s a strange change to do that to add some kind of conflict when the truth is just as fascinating. Rod did have contact with Dee Dee and Gypsy and thought he was in the loop. Then, he was just as stunned as everyone else to find out that Gypsy could walk.

If you want to add to how manipulative Dee Dee was, why not leave that in? It’s absolutely insane.

Anyway, the quality of the show overall is great mostly on the backs of fantastic performances by Joey King (Gypsy), Patricia Arquette (Dee Dee) and Calum Worthy (Nick). King, especially if you’ve watched her in anything else, absolutely melts into the role and knocks it out of the park with her combination of vulnerability and defiance.

Similarly, Arquette’s ability to flip from sweet mewling to anger on a dime fuels the tension throughout the beginning of the season. Every time Gypsy tried to get away with something, you had to hold your breath, hoping Dee Dee wouldn’t find out.

For a story that had to jump around in time a bit to capture the full scope of the story and characters, Dean, Antosca and crew did a great job keeping the story from feeling choppy or disjointed.

Though, they did make one odd choice in the final episode: going back to the murder.

Early in the season, the show popped to the future a few times as a framing device to show the aftermath of the murder and build anticipation of the big event. But then the show got to and passed that point in Gypsy’s chronology. We don’t see what happens between Nick and Gypsy inside the house, instead skipping right to them leaving. And that felt fine.

From that moment on, the story’s tension hung on what’s going to happen when Gypsy inevitably gets caught. Then, in the final episode, The Act cuts back to what happened inside the house the night of the murder.

It felt like this was a big moment they thought they were building to, but even King and Worthy’s great acting couldn’t save it from feeling unnecessary. We’d seen the result of Gypsy’s decision and had multiple episodes watching her emotionally deal with what happened.

6 major times The Act strayed from the real story. dark. Next

Rather than giving the audience a chance to sit with Gypsy once she learns she’ll have to spend 10 years in jail or sit with Nick when he realizes he’ll be in prison for the rest of his life, we’re given the murder scene. It felt like, emotionally, the show had moved on from that moment. It seems like it was meant to give a powerful juxtaposition of Gypsy post-murder compared to Gypsy in prison, but it felt hollow.

Despite a disappointing ending to the season, The Act is still a gripping retelling of a fascinating story. The Act is billed as an anthology series that tells true crime stories, so hopefully Hulu has more hard-to-believe stories up its sleeves for future seasons.

What do you think? Did The Act fulfill your expectations? Sound off in the comments!