Nothing is more terrifying than the ghosts of your past mistakes returning to haunt you. That’s why the line, “I won’t be ignored”—spoken so convincingly by Glenn Close in the 1987 film Fatal Attraction—was so bone-chilling. Alex (Close) refused to accept that her one-night stand with Dan (Michael Douglas) was just a fling. She wanted it to be more and refused to take no for an answer.
Was she unhinged? Maybe. But she was certainly relentless. As determined as the T-1000 hunting down John Connor. Different genre, same unrelenting and intense focus. And while many romance movies have been built on the idea that being the singular object of attraction is flattering, even inspiring, the truth is, the line between infatuation and obsession gets really thin really fast under the wrong circumstances.
The best type of fiction is when the bounds of what could happen are stretched to the extreme. And Fatal Attraction does precisely that.
It stretches and warps and twists until we’re sitting on the edge of our seats and can’t tear our eyes off the screen. Don’t believe me? Fatal Attraction was an instant box office success. It was the second-highest-grossing film of 1987 and was largely considered the biggest movie of the year. It made us ask questions of ourselves, of our darker thoughts, the impulses we barely contain. How many of our own bad decisions could have demanded our attention? And how far could those consequences go?
The initial movie didn’t go into the after, closing with Dan and his wife giving the police a statement in their living room. But that ambiguous ending opened the door for creative writers to imagine a more concrete end to Dan’s story. What would those consequences look like?
On April 30, Paramount+ released a newly imagined Fatal Attraction as an eight-episode series. It stars Joshua Jackson as Dan, Lizzy Caplan as Alex, and Amanda Peet as Dan’s wife, Beth. And while it largely follows the plot trajectory of the movie, from the film’s trailer, there are some key differences.
In the new series, Alex’s fate isn’t an ending, but part of the beginning. This leads to the second main difference—what happened to Dan.
The story picks up where the movie left off, allowing us to relive Dan and Alex’s “relationship” as a flashback. This reimagining is actually quite clever, given how well-known the plot of the film is, and allows us to give some leniency to the narrative since it’s now a memory. And the stakes for his retelling are high.
In this version, Dan was charged with murder, telling his story to the parole board. It’s a brilliant choice, adding an element of tension right off the bat. This is no longer about how far Alex will go for Dan, but how far Dan will go for Dan. And there’s no way to know if we can trust what he tells us.
Original trailer of Fatal Attraction, 1987
I don’t think having dinner with anybody’s a crime.
Because this is now a series, the one-night stand is what sparks an intense affair between Dan and Alex. We get to see more of what drew the two together, Alex and her state of mind, and what we hope is a far more intense escalation of events.
The show promises to explore Alex with far more care and nuance than the original movie did. While the original movie focused more on the horrifying experience of Dan and his family, the show wants the viewer to see things from Alex’s perspective too. It’s only fair, after all, it does take two to tango. And while she may be the driver in terms of going after what she wants, the trailer promises that Dan isn’t as innocent as he appears.
In charge of drawing out all this delicious tension is an all-star ensemble cast including Alyssa Jirrels, Toby Huss, Reno Wilson, Brian Goodman, Toks Olagundoye, and more. Director Silver Tree, best known for directing episodes of Shameless, You, and The Flight Attendant, among other successful series, will direct the majority of the episodes, with Pete Chatmon and Alexandra Cunningham directing the rest. Cunningham, the creative behind Dirty John, and known for writing on Desperate Housewives, NYPD Blue, and Prime Suspect, among other credits, is also a writer and producer, along with Kevin Hynes (Perry Mason), James Dearden (Fatal Attraction 1987), and others.
Don’t you ever pity me.
Early ratings are a bit divided, with audiences loving it far more than critics. There was a malicious deviousness to the original that placed Alex firmly as the maniacal victim and Dan the blundering victim. And the show takes that away. The multiple timelines give the show a murder mystery element that can take some of that thriller edge away. You know where the story is headed, they tell you up front. But that’s assuming you can trust what you’re being told.
The show is far more psychological, and everyone involved has been very vocal about that. They want to explore mental health in a way that isn’t a leering walk-through funhouse mirror. Alex isn’t meant to be dismissed, as the movie largely allows her to be. She may not make all the right choices, but to write them off as silly or inconsequential is to misunderstand what made the movie so powerful to begin with. At the time, it wasn’t unexpected for men to have affairs. But women were simply supposed to stay quiet about it—you know, just be grateful for the attention.
While Alex may have been a man’s worst nightmare, she should have been cathartic for women—even if they had never had an affair. Instead, she was turned into a caricature. And that was a tragedy.
Now, we get more Alex. More nuance. More blurred lines between good and bad, right and wrong. And that’s always guaranteed to make people uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t pull it off, maybe it isn’t perfect, but I for one, am really glad they tried.
You can watch the show now, on Paramount+.