Netflix’s Pieces Of Her is a formulaic slow-burn drama. The show can easily be slotted into the “perfectly average and watchable” category of thrillers, including Apple TV+’s recent Suspicion, or a slew of Netflix’s other one-season offerings like The Serpent or Stay Close. The suspense itself, or its resolution, won’t send any shockwaves, but the buildup is just engaging and exciting enough. Pieces Of Her sits firmly in this serviceable limbo. It’s a middling potboiler that’s well-directed and well-performed—a respite from the bizarre denouements of Behind Her Eyes and Clickbait.
Created by Charlotte Stoudt, this eight-episode adaptation has ample curveballs, red herrings, and reveals strewn along the way. The approach isn’t inventive by any means. There are no pulpy stories or even a fast-paced momentum, but there’s still a certain comfort in knowing the stockpile of mysteries concludes with a satisfactory—if predictable—end.
Based on Karin Slaughter’s 2018 novel of the same name, Pieces Of Her centers on mother-daughter duo Laura (Toni Collette) and Andrea “Andy” Oliver (Bella Heathcote), and Andy’s discovery that she actually knows only fragments, or pieces, if you will, of her mother’s true identity.
Andy is a 911 call center operator drifting through life without any real passion or goals. If she ever had any, she gave them up to move back to the small town of Belle Isle and care for a cancer-stricken Laura. On Andy’s 30th birthday, the two are celebrating at a diner when a shooting occurs. Laura steps in to save Andy in a strange and surprisingly violent manner, one that puts her face all over the news. The media attention draws shady figures from Laura’s past into their quiet suburban life, forcing Andy to go on the run with extremely specific instructions from her mother.
To figure out why she has to relinquish the life she knew, Andy begins to investigate Laura’s origins. Pieces Of Her then splits into two perspectives. The present-day arc is told mostly through Andy’s lens as she gradually uncovers her mother’s grievous background. The flashbacks are told through the perspective of a younger Laura (Jessica Barden), who is struggling to live up to the expectations of her wealthy, demanding father, Martin (Terry O’Quinn).
Pieces Of Her’s central mystery is steeped in intergenerational trauma and the burden of a murky legacy. It’s as much a serious family drama as it is a no-frills thriller. Laura and Andy’s tumultuous bond and respective emotional journeys ground the convoluted premise and back-and-forth between timelines. Much like the book, the series tends to lag as it often shifts focus from the past to the present in order to fill the blanks at a crawling pace. It doesn’t help that only one of the two timelines is truly compelling.
As she depicts Laura’s undoing, Barden is limited to being mostly expressionless, stuck in the anticipatory past and therefore more boring of the two storylines. She becomes involved with a potentially menacing dude named Nick Harp (Joe Dempsie), setting her family on a collision course with disaster.
If Pieces Of Her is engrossing, it’s because of Collette’s stirring work as present-day Laura. She transforms the character into a complex, perturbed woman on the brink of facing her trauma after burying it far underground for decades. Her vivid performance elevates the show.
Andy’s adventures as she looks into Laura’s life before Belle Isle become the show’s other enticing factor. Heathcote effectively communicates Andy’s uncertainty and anxiety at every step. She adds nuance to a character that might’ve otherwise been relatively one-note. With the help of an unexpected new friend, Andy travels from state to state in search of answers. She unearths truths about crimes committed years ago that then play out in flashbacks.
Pieces Of Her spends a lot of time building up to the obvious final reveal, but the payoff doesn’t remotely live up to expectations. The series hasn’t established a properly suspenseful foundation by its end, despite updating some of the key twists from Slaughter’s book. Despite its foreseeable conclusion, Pieces Of Her is still a pleasant thriller, especially due to Collette and Heathcote’s work. Being aggressively mediocre but enjoyable overall isn’t a bad thing—in this case, predictability triumphs any outlandish endings.