What if the person you loved most in this world disappeared without trace, leaving a handwritten note, a bag of cash, and a simple request conveyed in two words? The Last Thing He Told Me, which premieres on Apple from 14 April, answers that exact conundrum on its way to creating a top tier character driven drama.
Adapted by Oscar-winning writer Josh Singer (Spotlight), from the novel by his wife and co-creator Laura Dave, The Last Thing He Told Me is the epitome of a slow burn thriller, which cleverly circumvents conventions without resorting to cliché.
This is one of the most diverting pieces of original drama Apple has done so far, providing a solid platform for Jennifer Garner to shine.
Read more: New on Netflix in April
In an opening episode which lacks momentum but delivers on the world building front, audiences are efficiently introduced to lead programmer Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who works for a technology firm known simply as The Shop.
Bailey (Angourie Rice) is his teenage daughter from a previous marriage who shares their idyllic houseboat, while Hannah (Jennifer Garner) does her best to occupy the precarious position of stepmother.
A series of events take Owen out of the equation completely, effectively setting up this drama to put both Bailey and Hannah at the forefront. Pivotal supporting players are also introduced early on when things go south, starting with best friend Jules (Aisha Tyler), who works for high profile media outlet the San Francisco Chronicle.
When Hannah returns home to find Owen gone and no answer from his mobile, Jules is the first person she turns to for support. Elsewhere, Bailey is suffering at school when accusations of fraudulent activity within The Shop hit social media, leaving her answerable by association, increasing the resentment towards her new stepmother.
However, as much as these crucial story telling elements might make this opener feel slow, The Last Thing He Told Me more than makes up for it later on as it adds new layers of complexity to the initial premise. New loose ends are created in the process, leaving you keen to follow those breadcrumbs.
With US Marshalls, corporate lawyers, and persistent FBI agents vying for Hannah’s attention – this Apple TV+ original intentionally builds layers of uncertainty into the series which really pay off. Whether that might be the true extent of Owen’s involvement in that fraudulent activity, or what it is CEO Avett Thompson (Todd Stashwick) really knows about Hannah’s husband that he never shared with her.
Read more: New on Disney+ in April
It is the way these minor pieces of information are drip fed to audiences which ultimately makes The Last Thing He Told Me such a solid piece of entertainment. That creators Josh Singer and Laura Dave are also savvy enough to explore the fractured relationship between Hannah and Bailey in conjunction with this helps keep things engaging.
Through the judicious use of flashbacks, audiences are given essential background on Hannah’s first dinner dates with Owen, and how they all feed back into their present predicament. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Games of Thrones) works hard to convey the complexities of this man, establishing Owen as someone who would never simply disappear. Without those fleeting minutes of screen time, in which he comes across as protective yet affable, there is no way that the central tenets of this show would ever convince an audience.
Read more: New on Sky Cinema/NOW in April
That being said, as the clues are slowly pieced together through present day epiphanies and memory induced flashbacks, this character driven drama really kicks into gear. Putting the reality of everything Hannah thought she knew about Owen and Bailey under threat, falsehoods and fraudulent discoveries outside of The Shop are brought to light.
With solid support from Augusto Aguilera (Grady), Geoff Stults (Jake), and John Harlan Kim (Bobby Park), each playing their part in this original mystery to perfection, The Last Thing He Told Me turns into the televisual equivalent of a page turner. As multiple parties decide to pressgang Hannah, railroad her civilian investigation, and peel back the onion further on this man she once knew.
Besides the minor pacing issues which hamper emotional investment in that first episode, there is little to criticise in this Apple original which could be construed as negative. Jennifer Garner effortlessly holds court, bouncing between fraught mother and street wise investigator, while Angourice Rice keeps Bailey plausible without resorting to caricature.
Their on-screen chemistry holds this show together, while every other intricate element of The Last Thing He Told Me makes this some of the best drama this platform has ever made.
What other critics thought of The Last Thing He Told Me
The Guardian: Jennifer Garner is as wooden as her fancy salad bowls (4 min read)
The Telegraph: Plodding thriller is best filed under property porn (3 min read)
Variety: Jennifer Garner carries Apple TV+’s thin but engrossing The Last Thing He Told Me (5 min read)
The Last Thing He Told Me premieres on Apple TV+ from 14 April.