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Whodunnit? ... the costumer: The undoing of 'The Undoing'

Here’s a sure sign that the murder mystery you’re trying to weave is fraying at the seams:

If the audience is far more entranced by what the central character is wearing than whether or not she’s the killer ... you might just have a problem.

Case in point, the recently completed HBO series “The Undoing” — which starred a viral-sensation succession of uber-chic, one-of-a-kind, full-length coats.

And Nicole Kidman.

The outer-garments — knockoffs of which are selling like hotcakes for bargain prices across the internet to customers who aren’t Nicole Kidman — became the primary talking point of the six-part drama; much more so than, for instance, who it was that actually brain-splattered the doomed and demented artist, Elena Alves.

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I’m predisposed to ferreting out spoilers for books, movies and TV shows to discover whodunnit before the climactic reveal.

This preference continued with “The Undoing,” although to my credit I did wait until I’d seen five of the six episodes. You won’t be granted the identity of the murderer from me, however, except to say it was a huge disappointment ... and none of Kidman’s coats of many colors needed to be sent out for dry-cleaning.

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Trapped in the middle of a maelstrom as her cheating husband (a charming, aloof, rakish rogue, surprisingly played by Hugh Grant) is charged in the death of his mistress, our heroine Grace Fraser takes countless Little Red Riding Hood walks through the foreboding streets of a strangely depopulated New York City ... giving her plenty of time to clear the troubled mind beneath her strategically sculptured mane of red hair, while also providing a showcase for the coats made specifically for the series by the production’s costume designer.

In a People Magazine story quoting an interview with Entertainment Weekly (which, in itself, might tell you all you need to know), the actress ruminates on the organic nature of her coats.

“I’m in the coat and then the coat became a part of me,” she said. “That’s what a filmmaker does. They choose visually how to express things, and the coat is iconic.

“In a way, it is the through-line of the whole series. It protects me, but it’s also my identity. It’s got so many layers to it. It’s my barrier and my shield from the world, but it also envelops me.”

Reproductions of the now “iconic” green coat, by the way, can envelop you for somewhere in the $155 to $175 range ... depending on how much of a barrier or a shield you need.

Meanwhile, another segue ...

I’m predisposed to annoyance when the central character in a storm of mystery and mayhem is named Grace.

Or Hope. Or Faith, Stone, Will or Patience.

We, and I’m taking the liberty of speaking for all of us here, are ... not ... that ... stupid.

There are only two reasons to stick someone stuck in the muck presented in “The Undoing” by the name Grace — that she will display the calm countenance needed to circumnavigate the circumstances, or that she will bit by bit fall apart until she must rely on a garment/shield described in Vogue as being “weirdly textured, perfectly tailored and with a slouchy hood ... that looks like it has been unearthed from the annals of a studio prop house. Or possibly Middle Earth.”

Guess which type Grace/Nicole portrays.

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No, actually, not yet.

While we’re on the topic of names: What the heck kind of title is “The Undoing”?

The book by Jean Hanff Korelitz that inspired the HBO series is titled “You Should Have Known” — which, I will grant you, is a bit too on the nose as to the identity of the killer (at least the killer in the novel).

Still ... “The Undoing” is one of those titles that not only is so vague as to become generic, it will require an awkward and stilted explanation in the screenplay.

Something, oh, I don’t know, along these lines, spoken as Grace and her murder-suspect-cheating-husband Jonathan are on a walk by the water:

He: “We can lose ourselves sometimes, but it doesn’t undo who we are. What we had, you and I, is too big to undo.”

She: “But you did, you managed to undo it.”

I mean, Kidman and Grant should have wrangled a few extra shekels out of HBO for holding their noses, rolling their eyes and getting through that exchange.

Now ... end segue.

I know it seems as though I’m picking at the threads of this six-hour fashion show; but I sat through the whole thing and, as previously stated, even waited until after the fifth episode to find spoilers about the killer’s true colors.

So, “The Undoing” had to have something going for it, right?

Was it the public defender who mimicked the style, mannerisms and vocal inflections of — speaking of iconic coats — Peter Falk’s Det. Columbo?

Maybe it was the wise-beyond-his-years son who tells his grandfather that he favors playing the violin “because it’s different” ... since no child going to a predominantly white upper-class private school would have been a product of the Suzuki Method.

It could be the drinking game that spawned from the repeated instances they showed poor Donald Sutherland (who plays the grandfather) super-glued to an art museum bench; or the high-price attorney who gets such a well-earned laugh when she first announces “I’m not funny,” that they repeat the joke later on ... when it isn’t funny, since we’ve already heard it.

Nah, it’s the coats that stay with you long after the murderer’s fate is sealed.

The plum one, the cranberry one, the floral-embroidered drapery and the deep teal casual walker ... but mostly the green icon — the shade of which reviewers have described as “lime,” “alligator,” “pistachio,” “absinthe,” and “bile.”

It protects her, but it’s also her identity.

“Kidman’s portrayal,” writes an editor for Marie Claire, “has struck a chord with many a fashion-lover.”

Lime, Alligator, Pistacho, Absinthe & Bile ... now that’s a law firm which would have helped (SPOILER) beat the rap.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin favors the keyboard at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com ... because it’s different.

Robert Galvin