WATCH CLOSELY: “Pieces of Her” — The Dangers of Privilege

By Peg Aloi

This Netflix thriller takes some interesting twists and turns as it moves along its absurd way.

Toni Collette and Omari Hardwick in a scene from Pieces of Her, streaming on Netflix.

There seems to be a little too much going on in Pieces of Her, the new limited Netflix series based on the novel by Karin Slaughter. Starring the always excellent Toni Collette (Hereditary), the show is set in various US locations, including Georgia and San Francisco, but filmed entirely in Australia. Collette plays Laura Oliver, a speech therapist who works with war veterans; Bella Heathcote (a fellow Australian actress) is Andy, her somewhat aimless daughter who is employed as an emergency phone dispatcher for the police department. We learn that she moved back to Belle Isle (a dreamy little island enclave near Savannah) to help her mother, a recent breast cancer survivor, through chemotherapy. Andy lives in a little shed in the backyard, rides her bike to and from work, and seems content and unambitious. Her frustrated mother encourages her to go back to school.

If that’s not enough exposition to start off with, wait a bit. There’s plenty more. In the first few minutes there’s a high octane scene between Laura and Andy when a mass shooting unfolds in a diner where they’re having lunch to celebrate Andy’s 30th birthday. Laura leaps up to try and reason with the shooter and she manages to get his gun away for a moment. He then stabs her in the hand and she uses the knife to slit his throat. In the resulting chaos, Andy learns that the shooter saw her in uniform and was hoping that his actions would end in a suicide-by-cop finale. But she doesn’t wear a gun on the job. Video from the crime goes viral on social media and Andy is horrified by all those who are calling her a coward. The reasonable assumption at this point is that the series’s dramatic arc will deal with this mass shooting, including the healing and recovery that follows such a horrific trauma. But no; this tragic and terrifying event is merely a plot device.

After Laura returns from the hospital with her hand repaired, getting a ride from her ex-husband and Andy’s stepfather Gordon (Omari Hardwick), she rebuffs Andy’s attempts to help her. In fact, Laura tells her daughter that she needs to move out and get her own place. It’s very odd behavior: Andy is hurt and confused. Gordon invites Andy to stay with him while they figure things out. Later that night an intruder breaks in and attacks Laura, who, despite having one functioning hand — and probably being doped up on painkillers — manages to subdue him (one of myriad implausible plot devices). Gordon eventually arrives and helps out, but she is still determined that Andy needs to leave.

By the next morning, Laura’s home is completely surrounded by news media looking to get an interview. She eventually agrees to do an appearance on the Today show. The additional visibility places her in even more danger of being found by the apparent cabal of stalkers that are after her. Laura, suddenly shifting gears, then gives Andy a mysterious mission, along with an envelope full of cash, some keys, and hurried instructions to drive to a nearby town, pick up a car from a storage unit, and drive all the way to Maine without stopping. Laura is in obvious danger and wants to get Andy out of harm’s way.

Andy agrees to do this, despite having no idea what’s going on. There’s a suitcase full of even more cash and a gun in the glove compartment of the Toyota that’s waiting for her. Instead of driving straight through to Maine, she stops at a motel and heads to the bar across the road, where she makes the first in a series of increasingly foolish decisions. She meets a stranger (Jacob Scipio), and after finding out he’s a war veteran, asks him to show her how to shoot the gun she doesn’t know how to use. They proceed to engage in target practice by placing empty bottles on top of someone’s car in the parking lot. (I would not be okay with having an inexperienced shooter shooting at my car, or anyone else’s car for that matter, but maybe that is just me.) Andy then proceeds to drunkenly hit on the guy, but soon realizes that she recognizes his truck as the one she saw in her mother’s neighborhood right before the break in. She sobers up and realizes she’s also in danger. But wising up to her predicament doesn’t engender sharper survival skills: quite the opposite, in fact. At one point when Andy realizes that she’s being followed, instead of escaping with the suitcase full of cash, which any reasonable person would do, she decides to hide in the trunk of the car of the people who tried to kill her. Of course, as anyone who’s seen a badly-written thriller knows, all cars have a secret flap that allows you to enter the back seat from the trunk very easily and without being noticed.

I gave up on logic and plausibility after the first couple of episodes. But I stayed with Pieces of Her because I was curious to see just where this increasingly outrageous story would end up. Also the cast (which includes The End of the F*cking World’s Jessica Barden, Wind River’s Gil Birmingham, and Top of the Lake’s David Wenham) is excellent. The pacing kept the far-fetched narrative moving along in a fairly engaging way. But really, as the story unfolds and more and more of Laura’s past is revealed it all became faintly ridiculous. Turns out her family is heir to a fortune made in pharmaceuticals. Laura’s in a witness protection program because of some Patty Hearst-inspired shenanigans in her youth. When her past begins to catch up with her, Laura has to decide if she’s prepared to keep hiding and living her life as someone she’s not. But, even given the tons of misfortune that land on her, it’s hard to care much about threats to Laura or her daughter since they still have suitcases of cash to fall back on. And then there is a loyal bevy of U. S. Marshals overseeing their personal safety. Still, this thriller takes some interesting twists and turns as it moves along its absurd way.

Peg Aloi is a former film critic for the Boston Phoenix and member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. She taught film studies in Boston for over a decade. She writes on film, TV, and culture for web publications like Vice, Polygon, Bustle, Mic, Orlando Weekly, Crooked Marquee, and Bloody Disgusting. Her blog “The Witching Hour” can be found at


  1. Jan on April 16, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    This series is so very interesting. Thank you.

  2. jujubean on April 30, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    it’s crazy how you have to get “privilege in there as represented by a …a suitcase of cash?

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