The Girl From Plainville is Part of Hulu’s Ever-Growing True Crime Catalog. What Does it Add to the Story of Michelle Carter?
Hulu’s recent surge of true-crime series has hooked many audiences and delivered fresh perspectives on these well-known stories. One of their more recent explorations The Girl From Plainville tells the shocking tale of Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III.
Meeting briefly on a trip to Florida the two teenagers stayed in contact mainly over text as the two lived 35 miles from each other. It’s reported that though they identified themselves as a couple Carter and Roy only saw each other in person a couple of times. Both Carter and Roy struggled with mental health issues Carter was hospitalized for an eating disorder while Roy had made a previous suicide attempt. The two found solace in each other’s connection to these hardships that many young people face. Roy lost his battle with depression and anxiety, as he was found in a Kmart parking lot dead in his truck due to carbon monoxide poisoning on July 13th, 2014.
A tragic time for Roy’s family and his community but what they didn’t know at the time was Conrad’s death wasn’t just because of his actions. After a thorough investigation, police discovered texts sent from Carter to Roy, actively encouraging him to take his own life. This monumental case solidified “Conrad’s Law” into practice in the state of Massachusetts stating that someone who assists in a suicide can serve up to 5 years in prison.
The Girl From Plainville aims to represent both stories from the lenses of Carter and Roy allowing for a more well-rounded take on the whole ordeal, but does the show sympathize a little too much with the girl who is partly responsible for this young man’s death?
The show implements a fair amount of creative liberty and often jumps around from the main plot involving Carter and Roy’s tainted love story. The beginning of the show focuses a lot more on Michelle’s awkward relationship with her friends and sinister behavior. One of the most memorable scenes in the pilot features Elle Fanning who plays Michelle standing in front of a mirror verbatim reciting a scene from Glee a show that Carter in real life was obsessed with and would even derive quotes from.
The scene is chilling and sets up Michelle as a clearly malicious protagonist whose conscious effort and commitment to helping Conrad carry out his death establish the intentions of her character. We then switch to Conrad’s view and how his volatile family life, mainly due to his father’s side of the family’s ignorant behavior regarding mental health, persuaded him that he had no helpful resources. The show does a fantastic job at conveying the weight of negligence on Conrad and how his intensifying negative relationship with his father contributed to his feelings of hopelessness.
As the show continues the audience is asked to shift focus to separate plots that don’t serve the overarching narrative about these two teenagers featuring another romantic subplot involving Michelle and her close friend Susie(Pearl Amanda Dickson). Conrad also has a couple scenes with his friends mainly to show how his naturally reserved nature didn’t show signs of a deteriorating mental state. These scenes try to serve a purpose in the main narrative but ultimately feel like moments that take viewers out of the primary story.
Towards the second half of the series, we continue to see Conrad and Michelle’s relationship reach increasing lengths of toxicity. Showed in scenes of the two interacting in person while in actuality just texting, this is definitely one of the show’s strongest traits. Displaying both Carter and Roy’s agitations and misfortunes the show is able to communicate both of their story’s in a highly effective way but fails to show Michelle as the main perpetrator in assisting in Conrad’s death. The real texts between Michelle and Conrad which can be found in court transcripts and numerous articles on the web are vicious and manipulative attempts to drive this young man’s mental health into a complete state of depletion.
The second half of the series almost entices the viewer to have sympathy for Michelle as Conrad grows more hostile towards her and tells her multiple times he’s going to end his life only to come back to texting her the next morning.
Michelle describes this in the last episode as “torture” and that Conrad’s constant berating of himself and supposed commitment to suicide drove Michelle to start encouraging him just because she was tired of dealing with his shifting behavior. In actuality, this is a common symptom of suicidality, depression, and even bipolar disorder. The show doesn’t go far enough to condemn Michelle’s actions and even plays up her eating disorder and her lack of friends to try to gain sympathy for her character when in reality her actions ended the life of someone struggling.
Though both characters have their faults, it was The Girl From Plainville’s job to portray Michelle in a more villainous light because of the atrocities committed by her against Conrad. Despite both their transgressions, Conrad was in a more dire state than Michelle and it was ultimately her responsibility if she really claimed to love Conrad as much as she did, to act in his defense and reach out to someone who could’ve helped him.
The show’s performances were another notable aspect that made the series mostly enjoyable to watch. Stands out included Fanning of course, as our titular character, and Aya Cash known for her haunting performance as Stormfront on Prime Video’s The Boys playing lawyer Katie Rayburn whose court arguments were some of the most compelling scenes to watch. Chloë Sevigny as Conrad’s mother Lynn Roy also delivered a resonating and deeply heartbreaking performance that gives depth to a grieving parent that’s usually not portrayed with such intensity as it should be.
With only 8 episodes chronicling this disturbing story, The Girl From Plainville is definitely worth the watch for the fictionalized events but viewers more interested in the real-life affair might benefit from 2020’s take on this harrowing event.
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