Early in their courtship, Hannah ( Jennifer Garner ) brought Owen ( Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ) to visit her “Your first lesson is that a good piece of wood always has something, a quality, that defines it,” she says, standing by a shelf filled with various pieces of wood, waiting to be picked up. Transforms into a stunning bowl or urn. He liked the idea and took it a step further. “You’d probably say the same thing about most people,” he muses. “At the end of the day, one thing determines them.”
Whether this applies to actual people is a question for philosophers or psychologists to resolve. But so are these two guys and pretty much everyone in Apple TV+ Last thing he told me
. In some cases, their singularity of purpose seems refreshing, even inspiring; it turns what could have been a straightforward tale of suspense into an unexpectedly tender celebration of love. But it also flattens the story until only the shiny, smooth surface remains.
The last thing he told me
Bottom line Sophisticated but bland.
Broadcast date: Friday, April (Apple TV+) Cast: Jennifer Garner, Nicola Coster – Waldau, 14 Angourie Rice , Aisha Tyler, Augusto Aguilera, Geoff Stults, John Harlan Kim Depend on Developed by: Laura Dave, Josh Singer
Faithfully adapted from Dave’s bestselling novel by Laura Dave and Josh Singer himself The Last Thing He Told Me in an irresistible The mystery begins. On a seemingly ordinary day, Owen disappeared, leaving no clues as to where he had gone, leaving only a few hints of what was to come: two cryptic notes to Hannah, who is now His wife of a year, Bailey (Angourie Rice), his ex-wife’s teenage daughter, and a big bag of cash. He’s ostensibly evading a federal investigation into an Enron-grade fraud orchestrated by the tech company he works for — but Bailey and Hannah can’t shake the suspicion that there’s more to his run than meets the eye.
It’s a miniseries with seven hour long episodes, and of course they’re right. The more they dig into who Owen really is and what he’s really doing, the less these pieces seem to be. The Last Thing He Told Me
hums to a steady beat, twists and turns descend at regular intervals, and reveals the Grade one time. If some of the later developments are unbelievable (a lot of the plot hinges on a very young child’s ability to retain detailed memories), we’re at least prepared to expect the unexpected when they show up. The drama may never be completely riveting, but it’s well worth watching throughout — not least because much of the early action takes place in Sausalito’s floating house, so raw and beautiful, where Hannah and Bey Lee might as well get a Architectural Digest
Beneath this tasteful brilliance, however, is a pervasive sense of flatness – in the characters, their relationships, and even in the story’s unpredictable turns middle. Owen is portrayed as an incredible ideal husband and father, whose only flaw might be that the death of Bailey’s late mother made him too distressed to talk about her much, and was too protective of his daughter from letting her Vacation with boyfriend (John Harlan King) and his family. Hannah is almost perfect, a doting wife and stepmother who takes care of Bailey unconditionally and serves up grilled cheese sandwiches endlessly – even when Bailey rejects her every offer because her
Defining quality is a stereotypical adolescent roughshod.
The central performance does add some depth to these one-dimensional characters. Garner undercuts Hannah’s sweetness with just enough to make Hannah a convincing mama bear rather than just a frightened wife. At the same time, Rice injects enough vulnerability into Hannah’s teenage angst to make her a character we love rather than one we hate. (She also heard some of the show’s livelier lines. Bailey shrugged when Owen gently pleaded with her to “try harder” with Hannah, “You always tell me that if you don’t have anything nice to say…” ) With the last thing he told me shifted the focus from Owen’s whereabouts to the growing bond between his wife and daughter , it carefully brings them closer and avoids unnecessary conflict or unearned sentimentality.
The problem is that it also largely avoids the confusion, contradictions, and nuances that make the all-important family dynamic feel more like theory than life. It also doesn’t help that Owen’s disappearance happens so early in the episode, leaving us with little time to learn who these people are before they’re thrown into extreme situations. Although the last thing he told me did go back to the days and years before Owen disappeared – at one point time travel to Coster so The distant past—Waldau’s eerie unwrinkled face becomes a case study in the limitations of anti-aging CG—they’re mostly cast in a golden glow of nostalgia, made all the more hazy by the uncertainty of the present.
For his part, when Hannah asked him that the one thing that best defines him was his love for Bailey, his definitive answer was: “I wouldn’t Do anything for my daughter,” his voice turns from flippant to serious. It’s this pure and boundless parental love that serves as the North Star for the characters through all their wild ordeals. With driving motivation gone, it’s easy to understand and impossible to argue against. It’s just that, without any flaws or quirks to add some texture, perfection itself isn’t all that fun.