We are deep into the murky waters of the slick and well-acted but hopelessly convoluted Apple TV+ crime series “Suspicion” when five people who are wanted for kidnapping ponder whether they should flee Great Britain for the States in an effort to clear their names, and that’s when one of the suspects blurts out:
An eight-episode series premiering with two episodes Friday on Apple TV+, followed by a new episode every Friday.
“You’re saying the five most wanted people in the U.K. should try to cross one of the most secure borders in the world, to return to the scene of the crime they’re accused of, in order to confront the crazy, powerful man they think MIGHT have framed them for reasons no one seems to be able to even guess at?”
Programming note: If you’re five episodes into an eight-episode arc, and one of the central characters has to spell out the madness inherent in the next big plot point, you’ve got storytelling problems.
“Suspicion” arrives with all the credentials of a prestige project. It’s based on the acclaimed Israeli series “False Flag,” it has a cool look and the requisite techno-pulse-pounder of a score, and the talented cast includes two-time Oscar nominee Uma Thurman, Kunal Nayyar (“The Big Bang Theory”), Elizabeth Henstridge (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and the wonderful character actor Noah Emmerich (“The Truman Show,” “Super 8,” “The Americans”). Alas, Thurman’s role doesn’t expand much beyond a glorified extended cameo, as we spend the vast bulk of the time with the five seemingly unconnected individuals who have been identified as the primary suspects in a sensational kidnapping that has attracted worldwide attention. It’s a shame most of the suspects aren’t particularly likable or intriguing, and they’re constantly making stupid decisions — but they still manage to stay one step ahead of the chief investigators in the case, whose actions range from duplicitous to rash to just plain … dumb.
Nor does it help when characters are spouting lines such as, “I don’t need your trust!” and “They’re going in blind, all they have is the element of surprise!”
Yes. We know that. We’re watching the show.
“Suspicion” kicks off in promising fashion, as a group of kidnappers wearing rubbery masks depicting various members of the royal family abduct the 21-year-old son of Katherine Newman (Thurman), who runs a high-tech public relations firm and has recently become the controversial nominee for the UK ambassadorship. Security cam footage of the abduction goes viral — everyone thinks it’s hilarious that the kidnappers are sporting those royal family masks — but things take a chilling turn when the bad guys hack into various systems and demand Katherine “Tell the Truth!” (They even have a nifty logo with three “Ts,” as in, “TELL THE TRUTH!”)
Tell the truth about … what? That remains a mystery until near the unsatisfying end. In the meantime, we meet our suspects, all of whom happened to be in the same New York City hotel where the crime occurred on the night of the kidnapping, but claim they had nothing to do with it.
- Tara McAllister (Elizabeth Henstridge) is an Oxford academic and recently divorced mother who has some outspoken political views.
- Natalie Thompson (Georgina Campbell) is a financial advisor who is in a church in full wedding gown, about to get married, when the authorities burst in and arrest her.
- Eddie Walker (Thom Rhys Harries) is a cocky, hard-partying college student.
- Aadesh Chopra (Kunal Nayyar) works at his father-in-law’s carpet store but dreams of much bigger things, as he is a cyber security expert who can hack into just about anything — or protect just about any system.
- Sean Tilson (Elyes Gabel) is the only one of the quintet who is obviously a criminal, as he’s a mercenary who will snap your neck as if he’s breaking a cracker over a bowl of soup.
While Sean is out there blowing up a boat and sending threatening text messages and doing other mercenary-type activities, the other four suspects, who have no history of criminal activity and no clear ties to the kidnapping victim or his family, are brought in separately for questioning. The grilling is done by National Crime Agency investigator Vanessa Okoye (Angel Coulby) and her American counterpart, the FBI agent Scott Anderson (Noah Emmerich). Vanessa and Scott talk a big game as they butt heads over their respective methodologies, but the truth is they’re both pretty terrible at their jobs, as evidenced by the fact they keep losing track of the various suspects, and more than a few bodies pile up as the Not-So-Fab-Five team up to try to prove their innocence — but IS everyone innocent?
By the time “Suspicion” reaches its heavy-handed conclusion, we hardly care who done it and why they did it.