TV Series Review: Unorthodox


Graphic by Rivy

Lila Caminiti, Features Editor, Senior

Stories of resilience and escape tend to capture the attention of the general public, and Netflix’s new hit Unorthodox is no different. Released on March 26, 2020, the four- part series Unorthodox still has fans raving. It tells the story of Esty, a 19-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman living in a tight knit Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Fed up with the strict and stifling restrictions within her community, Esty makes the shocking move to “escape” to Berlin, Germany. What follows is a captivating chase and a journey of self-discovery.

Unorthodox is based on Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots, the memoir of Deborah Feldman – Feldman left her own Brooklyn community in 2014. Although the show is based in truth, there are certainly some departures; for example, in the show, only the events that occur in Esty’s hometown of Williamsburg are true – everything occurring in Berlin is fabricated. While Unorthodox is absolutely captivating, the show must be taken with a grain of salt; the show only depicts one woman’s experience. That being said, to form an opinion about the entire Orthodox Jewish community based on the show Unorthodox could contribute to anti-semitism and the proliferation of harmful stereotypes.

Unorthodox is headlined by Israeli actors Shira Haas and Amit Rahav. Haas, who stars as main character Esty Shapiro, has played in a multitude of popular shows and TV shows, but was relatively unknown to American audiences. Her husband, Yanky Shapiro, is played by Rahav in his breakout role. While both actors truly shine in their respective positions, Shira Haas rightfully made headlines with her spectacular acting. Although there are just four episodes, Haas portrays Esty in a way that makes her feel like a close friend rather than a character, managing to capture her internal conflict as she wrestles with the meaning of faith and religion, well as her excitement and anxiousness about leaving her community. 

My sole critique of Unorthodox would have to be its brevity. The show is extremely “binge-able,” and with just 4 episodes, it goes by pretty fast. In a few more episodes, there could have been many interesting storylines – I personally would have loved to see more of Esty’s life in Williamsburg. However, the focus on Esty’s life in Berlin and her community’s journey to find her both allow for an overall theme of personal growth.

I would absolutely recommend Unorthodox to anyone who enjoys dramatic television, especially because it is a relatively quick watch. The combination of superb acting and a fascinating plotline make it nearly impossible to turn off. All in all, Unorthodox is a gripping story of faith and resilience.