How Hulu’s Saint X Series Differs from the Book


Spoilers below.

Forensic Files. Unsolved Mysteries. Accident, Suicide, or Murder. The American obsession with true crime is nothing new, but the last decade has seen an explosion in media documenting the darkest recesses in human nature. While the true-crime conversation has grown more nuanced in recent years, prompting questions about whose stories get told and why, public interest in violent tragedies is as strong as ever. Sensationalist headlines continue to draw rapt audiences eager to dissect the latest lurid tale—with bonus points if the story involves a pretty white woman, preferably blonde, as its victim.

Saint X, which premieres today on Hulu, takes our collective obsession with dead white girls to task. Based on the book of the same name by Alexis Schaitkin, the new psychological drama series charts the aftereffects of 19-year-old Alison Thomas’ (West Duchovny) shocking death at an island resort during a family vacation. Nearly twenty years later, her younger sister Emily (Alycia Debnam-Carey) accidentally gets into a New York City cab driven by Clive “Gogo” Richardson (Josh Bonzie), one of the two Caribbean men suspected of killing her sister all those years ago. The encounter sends Emily spiraling, and she becomes consumed with discovering the truth of what really happened to Alison all those years ago.

Over the course of eight episodes, Saint X tackles the same big-ticket topics as Schaitkin’s novel, with special attention paid to explorations of race, class, colonialism, and gentrification. The show largely stays true to the overarching plot and themes of the book, but the story still went through some significant changes on its journey from page to screen. Without the benefit of Schaitkin’s deft authorial voice, the series occasionally flounders in its exploration of these subjects, although compelling performances by Debnam-Carey, Duchovny, and especially Bonzie—easily the show’s breakout star—go a long way towards picking up the slack.

So how is the show different from the book? Ultimately, most of the changes are either too large or too small to affect the story very much. Some scenes are reordered to make more sense in the absence of third-person narration; some characters are added to help externalize some of the most internal aspects of the novel; some minor details with no bearing on the plot, like Emily’s job title, are tweaked. For a more thorough breakdown of the differences, read on.

Story Structure

Saint X is a story that spans several timelines, but the presentation of those timelines differs between the book and the show. In the novel, Schaitkin largely keeps them separate: a brief summary of the Thomases’ island vacation and Alison’s death starts off the book, which then alternates between the present-day POVs of Emily and Clive. It’s in Clive’s sections of the story that we occasionally follow his memory through various chapters of the past. These larger sections of the book are separated by vignettes showing how Alison’s disappearance has affected various background characters’ lives.

By contrast, the series separates the story into four narrative arcs—the Thomases’ week at the resort; Clive’s upbringing on the island; and Emily and Clive’s contemporary perspectives—and braids them together, evenly and expertly, throughout the eight episodes. The show also considerably expands upon the vacation timeline: in place of the interstitial vignettes in the book, the show lingers on these side characters as part of the larger narrative, which in turn lends that part of the story more of a White Lotus-y, ensemble-cast feel.

Celadon Books Saint X: A Novel

Saint X: A Novel

Celadon Books Saint X: A Novel

Now 34% Off

Friends and Lovers

In the book, 25-year-old Emily Thomas is intensely isolated: she has one friend, Jackie, a college acquaintance whom she doesn’t seem to like very much and tells very little about her life; she’s single, and she lives alone in an extremely run-down, illegal studio sublet in a the heavily-Caribbean Ditmas Park area of Brooklyn. She doesn’t have a therapist or other mental health regimen, and other than the extent to which she keeps to herself, she appears for all intents and purposes to be a surprisingly well-adjusted adult. It’s an appearance she fiercely protects by being very selective in whom she tells about her personal history, including her sister’s death.

The show expands Emily’s world somewhat. In place of Jackie, Emily has a coworker and close friend named Sunita (Kosha Patel), who herself gets drawn into Emily’s growing obsession with Clive. TV Emily also has a boyfriend, a doting civil-rights lawyer who frets over her and attempts to use the loss of his own sister to cancer as a bridge to better understand Emily’s pain. (Minor spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.) They share a beautiful apartment that doesn’t quite match the architecture of the unspecified neighborhood where they live, and the boyfriend constantly worries whether moving to a Caribbean area has been bad for Emily’s mental health.

Speaking of mental health: It’s clear from the first episode that TV Emily has had a harder time grappling with hers than in the book. She has a therapist, whom she’s been seeing since an unspecified breakdown several years ago that has resulted in her loved ones often treating her as if she was made of glass. At the start of the series, she’s seen trying to convince her therapist that she is “well” enough to go down to monthly instead of weakly sessions—a request that her therapist grants with great reluctance.

saint x saint x is a psychological drama, which is told via multiple timelines and perspectives, explores and upends the girl gone missing genre it’s a show about how a young woman’s mysterious death during an idyllic caribbean vacation creates a traumatic ripple effect that eventually pulls her surviving sister into a dangerous pursuit of the truth emily alycia debnam carey, shown photo by hulu

Alycia Debman-Carey as Emily.

Courtesy of Hulu

Alison’s Identity

In the book, the character of Alison Thomas is defined far more by her absence than by her presence. The opening pages of the novel—the few during which Alison is alive—offer no more than the sparsest sketch of her, and even that section spends more time examining the way others react to her than it does describing Alison herself.

But the show’s expansion of the vacation storyline presents an opportunity for an expanded view of Alison. It’s the opportunity that the show takes full advantage of, devoting plenty of airtime to her activities and fleshing out her relationships to the other teenagers her age at the resort. Duchovny brings exactly the right degree of insouciance to her performance as Alison, too, with all these elements coming together to form a more substantive portrait of the girl herself—not just the girl other characters want her to be.

This story will be updated.

Headshot of Keely  Weiss

Keely Weiss is a writer and filmmaker. She has lived in Los Angeles, New York, and Virginia and has a cat named after Perry Mason.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

UK pins ‘net zero’ hopes on carbon capture
Garmin Instinct 2X Solar Smartwatch With Built-in LED Flashlight Launched in India: Price, Features
JPMorgan is developing a ChatGPT-like A.I. service that gives investment advice
Succession Series Finale Recap: Game Over
Taylor Swift’s ‘You’re Losing Me’ Lyrics Detail Devastating Breakup Amid Joe Alwyn Split

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *