Almost exactly a month ago, Apple became the first corporation in history to reach a market cap of $3 trillion. While I’m sure this was a reason for the 45-year-old company to celebrate, it doesn’t seem like any of this money went into hiring quality writers for their new Apple TV+ thriller series, "Suspicion." Unless you're bored out of your skull, you should save your curiosity for a better show.
Uma Thurman plays Katherine Newman, a communications strategist who works exclusively with villains. Cooper Newman Public Relations specializes in constructing “a version of reality that is usually at odds with someone else’s.” Her son Leo (Gerran Howell) is kidnapped at New York City’s Park Madison Hotel by five assailants, disguised in flabby rubber masks of the Royal family. The kidnappers post the video of the abduction on the internet; it promptly goes viral and becomes a meme.
The cast of “Suspicion” is the Benetton of suspects, which is to say its diversity is performative and lacks depth. Kunal Nayyar makes the best of a bad job as hacker Aadesh Chopra, who is arrested at his family home, where he lives with his wife, adult brothers, and their carpet cleaning business owner parents. Georgina Campbell, saddled with a plot nowhere near the terrific “Hang the DJ” episode of "Black Mirror," plays financial adviser Natalie Thompson, arrested during her wedding. Tara McAllister (Elizabeth Henstridge, doing her best Keira Knightley impression), a lecturer at Oxford University, is escorted out during a class. Tom Rhys Harries’ performance as Eddie Walker, a failson who doesn’t appear to be anything more than a loafing college student partying in New York, provides some of the only decent acting on the show. (There’s one other good performance: Nancy Crane plays Nancy Harper, a no-nonsense version of Diane Walters, who subjects Katherine to a withering live interview.) Sean Tilson (Elyes Gabel, whose accent work tends to wander from Wales to Scotland to Ireland and back) is never actually arrested, and though I watched the entire show, I still can’t tell who he worked for. All five, however, were at the Park Madison Hotel for reasons about as flimsy as my dog’s weakest chew toy.
I would liken the show’s approach to suspect interrogation to “Rashomon,” but that would convey a level of generosity “Suspicion” does not deserve. Every aspect of the production—wardrobe, dialogue, score, direction, cinematography—frequently comes off as the efforts of an AI program that has been fed the Jason Bourne and “Mission: Impossible” franchises. Both those series of films offer brisk writing, terrific direction, and, most importantly, charismatic performances. The creators of “Suspicion” are using conspiracy thriller tropes so dated I began to wonder whether the show is actually meant to be set in the early aughts. A dull synth and bass-heavy background score—provided by Gilad Benamram, who previously worked on “Fauda”—cannot serve as a substitute for a quality plot.
Perhaps the most hackneyed character dynamic is the post-9/11 tug of war between the practices of British and American authorities. Noah Emmerich must be as bored here as Thurman; “The Americans” alum plays Scott Anderson, an FBI officer who flies to England to assist the investigation. His brash, guns-blazing methods contrast oh-so-unoriginally with Vanessa Okoye (Angel Coulby), a by-the-book officer and chief interrogator from the UK’s National Crime Agency.
“Suspicion” is a remake of the Israeli drama “False Flag”—that name, if you ask me, gives away a tad too much—but instead of Israelis who happened to be in Moscow during an assassination, our motley crew are accused of kidnapping the only child of a crime boss-style PR sorcerer. The kidnappers don’t want money. They instead plaster social media and hack, seemingly, the entire internet, with three T’s: tell the truth. The slogan, aimed at Katherine, turns into a popular hashtag, international protests, even cable news analysis fodder. It’s fairly late in the game when the audience finds out what “the truth” refers to, and it casts unwelcome light on the show’s ideological underpinning. "Suspicion" seems to suggest that those challenging the status quo are just as morally bankrupt as those who manufacture fake news.
Everything about the show is baffling, including its pedigree. Jennifer Ehle pops up for a two-minute scene with her sister Katherine. Chris Long, celebrated and award-winning director and executive producer of “The Americans,” directed the pilot. Even the costume and hair departments take the path of least resistance: Aadesh’s entire family is almost always dressed in red, orange, and yellow. They’re Indian, how original! Katherine’s long straight hair is slightly curled at the ends, reading as a long blond tree at her back, and her clothes scream insurance company middle manager.
Sometimes good ingredients result in a great final product, but in this case, almost none of the ingredients were of good quality to begin with. “Suspicion” raises too many doubts, and fails to resolve any of them.
All eight episodes screened for review. The first two episodes of "Suspicion" premiere today, February 4th on Apple TV+, followed by one new weekly episode every Friday.