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Powerful 'Unorthodox,' based on a true story, now streaming on Netflix

Posted 3/26/20

By Kevin McDonough

Now streaming on Netflix, the powerful miniseries "Unorthodox" relates one woman's remarkable story of escaping a powerful and controlling religious cult. Israeli actress Shira Haas brings a singular intensity to Esther …

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Powerful 'Unorthodox,' based on a true story, now streaming on Netflix

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

Now streaming on Netflix, the powerful miniseries "Unorthodox" relates one woman's remarkable story of escaping a powerful and controlling religious cult. Israeli actress Shira Haas brings a singular intensity to Esther Shapiro, a petite woman raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

Barely educated and raised to marry young and bear as many children as possible, Esther witnesses her own mother's ostracism from the community and then embarks on secret acts of rebellion, like clandestine piano lessons. Once married to the shy Yakov (Amit Rahav), Esther falls under the suspicious eyes of her in-laws, who seem to know even the most intimate details of her bedroom issues with her inept husband.

Seemingly unable to bring children into the world, Esther flees to Germany, where her renegade mother lives in exile with another woman. There, Esther hides out with a group of classical musicians, who take her in like a wounded bird.

A strange and powerful story, "Unorthodox" does a masterful job of evoking the tradition and ceremony of the Hasidim's insular world, as well as casting a sympathetic light on Esther's family, particularly her childlike husband.

Based on a true story and a bestselling memoir by Deborah Feldman, "Unorthodox" avoids the polemical by dwelling on the personal, offering a paradoxical look at a community that can both nurture and suffocate, and a sense of personal liberation shot through with feelings of loneliness, alienation and exile.

"Mysteries of the Abandoned" (9 p.m., Science, TV-PG) enters its fifth season, visiting places slowly returning to natural decay, including an American ghost town that's been smoldering for decades.

• The harrowing 2020 documentary "Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections" (9 p.m., HBO, TV-14) examines the vulnerability of the voting process.

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• A therapist visits the station on "Station 19" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

• The Baxters campaign for Vanessa on "Last Man Standing" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).

• Denzel Washington stars in the 1992 adaptation of the autobiography of "Malcolm X" (8 p.m., TCM), directed by Spike Lee.

• Hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) take stock in a medieval city in the 2008 comedy "In Bruges" (8 p.m., Cinemax), written and directed by Martin McDonagh.

• Saving the date on "Outmatched" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).

• Police informants have a short life expectancy on "Deputy" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• A medical conference unravels on "Grey's Anatomy" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

• A traumatized vet bears watching on "FBI: Most Wanted" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

• A creep peeps at a dancer on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• Maggie has unwelcome news for Gary on the season finale of "A Million Little Things" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

• An evening at the ballet on "Better Things" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).

• The procedural spoof "Tacoma FD" (10 p.m., TruTV, TV-MA) enters its second season.

CULT CHOICE

A noble roman (Russell Crowe) battles a decadent, emotionally disturbed and self-absorbed emperor (Joaquin Phoenix), who insists on inserting himself into the spectacle in the 2000 epic "Gladiator" (8 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).

SERIES NOTES

On two episodes of "Young Sheldon" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG): turning a Paige (8 p.m.); a camping trip to forget (8:30 p.m.) * Carol returns on "Superstore" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * Pepper's big birthday on "Katy Keene" (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG) * A prank backfires on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * Mourning in America on "Mom" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * On two episodes of "Indebted" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14): empty nesting (9 p.m.); in-laws won't leave (9:30 p.m.) * A rush to save Josie on "Legacies" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Somebody pulls the plug on "The Neighborhood" (9:30 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG).

LATE NIGHT

"The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) practices social distancing * Valerie Tosi and Rory Scovel are on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r) * Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen appear on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes John Mulaney and Bad Bunny & Sech on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC, r) * David Spade, Eiza Gonzalez and Grace VanderWaal appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC, r) * Jennifer Lopez, Michael Sheen, Mika and Terri Lyne Carrington visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) * Joel Edgerton, Harry Connick Jr. and Noah Cyrus appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

© 2020, United Feature Syndicate