Apple TV keeps delivering in 2022. Without a doubt, Apple has been at the forefront of delivering quality TV shows this year. They managed to deliver After Party, Severance, and the magnificent Pachinko all in the same year, and that is something very hard to do. Especially in the current environment where dozens of new TV shows are released each week. If you manage to stand out even among that amount of content, it means you are doing something right.
What Apple TV has managed to do with its shows is achieve a high level of consistency, both in the writing and in the use of filmmaking techniques. Each show is shot in such a way that makes it feel like something important and something that is worth watching, no matter what genre it belongs to. This is something other streaming shows have a hard time doing because they have opted for quantity instead of quality. Thus, making a lot of series feel cheap when they don’t have to.
Surface is a new drama show on Apple TV. The series is created by, who has worked on other prestige shows in the past, including the extremely underrated High Fidelity with Zoë Kravitz. This time, the show stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Stephan James, and Ari Graynor. The show tells the story of Sophie, a beautiful young woman who has survived her suicidal attempt. The result of her surviving jumping from a bridge is that she has lost her memories. Now the mystery of why she jumped in the first place follows her around.
Surface is an excellent psychological thriller. The show doesn’t shy away from talking about heavy subjects like suicide, abuse, and many other psychological conditions. Sophie, our main character, is in the middle of a very strange and unique situation as she has survived her suicide attempt and lost her memories. The path that took her to make that dreadful decision is now a mystery to her. Now, her old life wants to retake her, but something feels off, as if her own unconsciousness pushes her to get away from this life once again.
As the plot moves forward, new elements are being added to the mystery, and of course, those elements are there to push the audience deeper into the rabbit hole. Without noticing, we end up feeling like participants in the mystery, and finding the truth seems to be the only thing that matters. Sophie’s quest to get a new life also becomes quite a nice goal for both the character and the audience. Sophie is distant, and Mbatha-Raw knows how to play that way very well, and yet, it is easy to root for her.
The cast is another one of the strong points in the series. Mbatha-Raw is a fantastic actress, and it is great to see her getting more leading roles in the industry. We will see her soon enough in the next season of Loki. And potentially in the movies as well, as Khan becomes the next Thanos-level enemy in the franchise. However, here she can take on a role that is way more complex and just equally fascinating.
The rest of the cast also does a great job, with Cohen leading the pack. If there is something that the actor brings, it is a sense of unease and expectations. He has focused himself on being the bad guy in several projects, so the minute he first appears here, you cannot do anything but not trust him. The same happens with the rest of the actors, they are playing coy, and it feels like a great way to raise the stakes and make you just as paranoid as Sophie.
Sam Miller, who directed the excellent episodes of I May Destroy You, sits in the director’s seat and does a great job at creating the look of fake perfection. Everything looks crisp, clean, and elegant, but slightly off. Every shot feels like it has a purpose, and that is definitely something that many TV shows lack nowadays. Of course, it makes the ones that do put that heavy focus on visual storytelling that much stronger.
The only thing that might hurt the show is the pacing. Sometimes this type of show stretches the mystery for too long, and it feels like things should be resolved a lot quicker. Like, this could be a movie instead of a TV show. However, this sense of stretchiness isn’t that much of a big deal. Surface really knows how to stand on its own and create a gripping mystery that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats as they watch the show every week.
Surface keeps proving that Apple TV is at the front of the streaming services when it comes to quality releases. The filmmaking is excellent, the acting is quite solid, and the mystery at the core of the show is one that is very easy to follow and very easy to get attached to. Without a doubt, Surface will end up being one of the best shows of the year, and it will appear on my lists towards the end of December.