Your next true crime obsession has arrived! The new Apple TV+ miniseries, Defending Jacob, is sure to suck you in if it’s anything like the book it’s based on.
The story follows an assistant district attorney named Andy Barber, who’s investigating the murder of 14-year-old Ben Rifkin. He’s pulled off the case after his son Jacob, a classmate of the victim, is arrested for the crime. But is the high school student really a killer?
WARNING: Major spoilers concerning the source material’s ending revealed below!
Did Jacob Barber do it? ('Defending Jacob' Spoilers)
If the TV adaptation stays faithful to the book, then viewers will be left guessing when it comes to Jacob’s guilt. The novel begins with Andy (played by Chris Evans in the show) suspecting the perpetrator to be local pedophile Leonard Patz.
But when a friend of Ben’s suggests that there was animosity between Ben and Jacob, Andy decides to search his son’s room. He finds a knife fitting the description of the murder weapon and, in his shock, hastily gets rid of it, but Jacob is arrested when his fingerprint is found on the inside of Ben’s sweater.
Despite his discovery, Andy believes Jacob is innocent, as does his wife Laurie (portrayed on screen by Michelle Dockery). Jacob tells police that he tried to revive Ben after spotting his body in the woods, which would explain the presence of his fingerprint, but they still keep him in jail overnight.
At this point, Andy reveals to his wife that his father, Billy Barber, is currently serving a life sentence in prison for rape and murder. At the request of his son’s lawyer, Andy visits his dad behind bars, who acts indifferent towards Jacob’s plight.
More incriminating evidence is released at trial, including a story Jacob posted online that’s eerily similar to Ben’s murder. But before a verdict can be reached, Leonard Patz is found hanging inside of his home, admitting in a suicide note that he killed Ben. The revelation allows Jacob to walk free.
Andy can’t help but feel suspicious over Leonard’s death, and learns that his gut feeling is spot-on during another trip to see his father. Billy confesses to hiring a hitman to kill Leonard and make it look like a suicide so that Jacob doesn't suffer the same fate he did. Andy is understandably angry, believing Jacob would’ve cleared his name in court if given the chance.
In an effort to put that whole nightmare behind them, the Barber family goes on vacation to Jamaica, where Jacob hits it off with a girl named Hope. One day after Laurie notices a peculiar red stain on her son’s bathing suit, Hope is declared missing. Her body turns up several weeks later, and an autopsy discovers that her windpipe had been crushed.
Laurie is now convinced that her son is responsible for both murders, and purposefully crashes her car while Jacob's in the passenger seat to alleviate her guilt. Jacob dies on impact and Laurie suffers critical injuries. Though Andy is questioned about the crash, he refuses to cooperate or incriminate Laurie in Jacob’s death. THE END.
We never find out for sure whether Jacob is the one who killed Ben and Hope, but we think it’s safe to assume that either he did it, or he has the absolute worst luck in the world.
New episodes of Defending Jacob will be released every Friday through May 29.