Paramount+’s Fatal Attraction series shows us the first embers of an illicit affair… but it also shows us the damage it can cause once it catches fire.
Sunday’s premiere opens with former lawyer Dan Gallagher (Joshua Jackson) sporting a scraggly beard and facing a parole board after spending 15 years in prison for second-degree murder. He shares his deep remorse for killing a woman named Alex Forrest: “I chose to lose control. I chose to take her life.” All he wants is to be able to reconnect with his family — and his daughter Ellen (Alyssa Jirrels) is in the room watching. She’s studying psychology, and she tells her therapist her father may be getting paroled. But the therapist remembers her saying her dad was dead. Yeah, there’s a lot of baggage to unpack here.
We then jump back to 2008, when Dan is a confident L.A. prosecutor about to be named a judge, and about to turn 40, too. He warns a fellow lawyer that “bad decisions lead to bad outcomes,” but he catches the eye of Alex (Lizzy Caplan) as he gets on the elevator. Dan goes home to his wife Beth (Amanda Peet) and daughter Ellen, who’s around eight years old here, and things seem happy at home. In the courtroom, though, Dan encounters Alex again when she subs in as a victims services representative on a case he’s working on. She watches Dan give a comforting talk to the family of a murder victim, encouraging them to give a voice to their anger — and it looks like she’s already smitten.
Dan and Beth still have a flirty energy between them, although her dad is a jerk, scoffing at the meager pay increase Dan would get for becoming a judge. Well, he won’t need to worry about that: The day after his 40th birthday party (he sang “Torn” at karaoke!), Dan is summoned by his district attorney boss and told he won’t be getting the judge appointment after all. (The governor gave it to a big donor’s son-in-law instead.) Dan is angry and depressed as he heads to a colleague’s retirement party — and runs into Alex again. They chit-chat about the cookie options: Dan goes to a lot of these parties, but Alex just moved to town. As he’s leaving later, they bump into each other in the elevator, and Alex playfully wonders about pushing the red emergency button: “What do you think would happen?” Things are definitely heating up in here, but then the elevator stops and two more guys get on, so Alex excuses herself with a brisk “good night.”
Dan drives home drunk and ends up crashing his company car, ditching it on his investigator friend’s advice and escaping consequences because no one gave him a breathalyzer. (Hey, they just hand him the keys to a new car!) Beth is concerned when Dan comes home late, and she comforts him when he tells her he didn’t get the judgeship. But when Dan goes back to work, he locks eyes with Alex and hangs around her office looking for her. He ends up sitting next to her at a bar and sharing a drink, while back in the present day, Dan gets paroled and meets his daughter Ellen at a coffeehouse. He marvels at all the years he’s missed — and also tells her he didn’t kill Alex! He only said he did to get paroled, and now he’s determined to prove his innocence.
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