Apple TV + dips its toe into the well of Israeli TV production again for Suspicion. The show, which stars Uma Thurman and premieres Friday, is a no-nonsense, globetrotting thriller with plenty of real-world resonance.
Suspicion is based on False Flag, created by Maria Feldman and Amit Cohen, a binge-worthy series that centered on the murder of Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. But if the reception that other Apple TV + geopolitical thrillers got is any indication, Suspicion faces an uphill climb to become a hit.
Suspicion recap: Episode 1
Say this for Suspicion – it gets right down to business. Within seconds, we see Leo Newman (played by Gerran Howell) kidnapped in his hotel by a team of efficient criminals wearing masks. The surveillance video of the kidnapping goes inexplicably viral.
Scott Anderson (Noah Emmerich), the special agent leading the kidnapping investigation, only knows that four English suspects were flagged. Anderson questions Leo’s mother, Katherine (Uma Thurman), and it’s not a particularly enlightening chat. She does strategic communication (“high-end public relations”), which means her list of enemies is longer than her legs. Plus, she’s about to be named ambassador to England.
So who do the authorities suspect? There’s Mancunian Oxford lecturer and divorced mother Tara McAlister (Elizabeth Henstridge), computer programmer Aadesh Chopra (Kunal Nayyar) and bride-to-be Natalie Thompson (Georgina Campbell).
And then there’s Sean Tilson (Elyes Gabel). Tilson is probably not his real name. On his flight from New York to Ireland, he puts on a disguise and changes passports. If he’s innocent, he’s doing a great job of hiding it. We know why the police suspect him – you would too – but what about everyone else?
A short list of suspects
Inspector Vanessa Okoye (Angel Coulby) goes to work with Anderson to break down the suspects. Turns out the four of them have a little more in common than they thought. All four were in the same hotel where Leo was taken. They just had different reasons for being there, and happened to all leave for the United Kingdom at the same time.
Natalie’s on the flimsiest ground. She was dealing with a loan shark after her mother borrowed money to give her a wedding present and she took over the debt at the last minute (a task that now falls to her sister, played by Lydia West).
Tara’s also got problems. She publicly opposed Leo’s admission to Oxford because of his family.
Aadesh, who lied to his family about his trip to New York, has a criminal record. It’s not a great day to look guilty.
Meanwhile, Sean is making his way from Ireland to England (meeting old friends, family and enemies along the way) to set in motion the next part of his plan. There seems little chance that Anderson and Okoye can turn their focus from these three juicy suspects to find the real kidnapper in time.
You’d be surprised what a hungry soldier can do
Series directors Chris Long and Stefan Schwartz both worked on FX’s The Americans, which explains the presence of the always-welcome Noah Emmerich in the cast. It also explains the efficiency and well-enunciated unease and paranoia with which they infuse the images.
Suspicion does a beautiful job setting you up to start staring at the edges of the frame for unwanted presences. The show is all about the ways in which innocent people look guilty, so it frames everything they do as a potential crime. Around every corner, some shadowy government agent lurks.
Longtime TV vets Gavin Finney, Neville Kidd and Adam Suschitzky (son of legendary cinematographer Peter Suschitzky) handle photography, so Suspicion is both casually gorgeous and moody, looking at once like the best of procedural and prestige TV. Some of the images of the interrogation room seem like something out of an Alex Garland work.
In general, Suspicion is riveting in all the right ways, from the able cast to the technical excellence.
Everything I do is for her
However, it has… let’s call them minor problems. The idea of a kidnapping video going viral like a TikTok dance is crass and unbelievable. The show also has title card problems like every other major thriller. (Attention showrunners: Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, you do not need to tell us where we are every few minutes, least of all just to say “Midtown, New York.” If you show Times Square, there is no viewer who doesn’t know where we are. Please for the love of god stop doing this.)
Suspicion is wise to drop everything in favor of the mechanics of solving the crime and proving everyone’s guilt and innocence. The show also builds quite a compelling case about how everyone can look like a criminal from what Obi-Wan Kenobi would call a certain point of view.
In the days of technology making spying easier than ever, it’s kind of banally terrifying to think you could be implicated in a crime because a camera saw you near some people who were involved in a crime.
Suspicion also makes an interesting point about the way surveillance works. Inspector Okoye feels no compunction about freeing the suspects after the initial round of interrogation, because where in London can you hide from CCTV? Is it still possible to get away with crime in broad daylight? If you lived in a rural town, could you still commit crime and escape?
The writing is to-the-point and the episodes are put together with snap and verve. It’s too early to call Suspicion a full success, but I’m very ready to see what happens next.
Watch Suspicion on Apple TV +
Suspicion premieres February 4 on Apple TV +. New episodes arrive on Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.
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