This post contains spoilers.
Netflix typically knows how to pick ’em when it comes to foreign imports, but Retribution isn’t one of those estimable selections. You’ll burn through the episodes, sure, but the ending plays like a cruel joke.
Formerly called One of Us in its original iteration on the BBC, the drama, uploaded in late January, winds the viewer up for a precipitous and disappointing fall that leaves you wondering why you’d wasted your time with it. Retribution is a four-part miniseries about two families, joined by the marriage of Adam Elliot and Grace Douglas. Mercilessly murdered at the hands of a drug addict, these newlyweds’ stories unwind curiously.
The killer complicates the matter by driving in a sheet of rain to the town they’re from, eventually crashing in front of their farms in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands.
After a fantastic first episode in which these details are laid out, the viewer jostles around a winding labyrinth of “whodunit” spectacles. Shady characters abound. Family members lie. Detectives with hidden agendas get involved. Finally, you’ll arrive at the final episode because the first three require it.
Then you’ll discover an ending so bad you’ll want to smash a hole through your TV with the Roku remote.
Here goes: Grace and Adam, the newlyweds, were actually in the midst of an incestuous relationship!
The puritanical father of Grace, Bill Douglas (John Lynch), finds out that he’s not Grace’s biological dad—it was actually the late, mysterious Peter Elliott. This makes Adam not only her husband, but also her half-brother. Bill finds this out in the worst way: He doesn’t want to pass down his Parkinson’s disease any further down the bloodline, so he and Grace take a DNA test.
Shattered at the reveal, he hires a low-life thug to kill Adam, and then this low-life thug accidentally kills Grace.
Bill admits to the conspiracy that led to their deaths, and American viewers on Netflix are just as annoyed as the British were when this originally debuted in 2016.
Watch #Retribution on Netflix. The twist ending is bananas
— Danielle (@birdnecklife) February 4, 2018
Anyone looking for something new & good to watch on Netflix, I recommend Retribution. Season 1 is only 4 episodes but they will leave u like… pic.twitter.com/BgvAzZnUnE
— Brandon Jones (@follow_the_jo) February 6, 2018
The entire series’ hook rests on two ridiculous plot points: a father’s zigzag application of personal religion, and what we factually understand about Parkinson’s.
First, perhaps contrary to prevailing belief, there’s no proof that Parkinson’s is hereditary, and therefore no test Bill could’ve taken would prove whether his condition could be passed on. Bill’s uneven religiosity tells him that incest leads directly to eternal damnation. However, in his bible, there’s seemingly no perdition for the murder of your son-in-law.
There are sympathetic side stories, particularly with one of the detectives (a drug dealer on the side), which chaotically plays out like one of those side missions in Grand Theft Auto. But it’s milquetoast compared to the folly of the show’s reveals.
The conclusion is so unusually awful that you’re left wondering how it prevailed beyond a BBC showrunner’s initial read. But maybe that’s why Netflix added it to our queues? Retribution may end up as a cult classic, a lesson on how to find yourself locked into an interminable set of plot holes you can’t write your way out of—and we fell for it.
This article has been updated to state that Adam is Grace’s half-brother.
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