‘Dear Edward’ shows tears, laughter of those reeling from a plane crash — including the boy who survived it
Keep tissues close at hand during Apple TV+ series about the ways we grieve.
The Apple TV+ series “Dear Edward” is the latest in the line of Plane Crash Aftermath shows, from “Lost” to “Yellowjackets” to “The Wilds” and “Manifest.”
Given that Jason Katims of “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” is the showrunner, keep the box of tissues close at hand. Nearly every episode has at least one moment that will grab you by the heart, usually right near the end.
Fortunately, most of the emotionally resonant moments are legitimately earned, thanks to the sometimes poetic writing and the strong performances from a cast including Connie Britton, Taylor Schilling, Anna Uzele and Idris DeBrand.
A series with three episodes available now on Apple TV+. A new episode will premiere each Friday through March 24.
“Dear Edward” is based on a 2020 novel by Ann Napolitano, which was inspired in part by the crash of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 in 2010, which left 103 souls dead and just one survivor.
In the premiere episode, directed with a sure-handed touch by Fisher Stevens, we’re just getting to know the characters who will become the main players in the series when a commercial flight heading from New York to Los Angeles crashes in a field in Colorado. Everyone onboard dies except 12-year-old Edward (Colin O’Brien), a sensitive and brilliant boy who was having trouble coping with the world outside his family’s protective cocoon (he was home-schooled) even before this tragedy.
With the media swarming around, Edward — aka “Miracle Boy” — moves to the upstate New York home of his Aunt Lacey (Taylor Schilling) and Uncle John (Carter Hudson). That Lacey and John have been trying for years to have a child, with Lacey having two miscarriages, and that Lacey had a sometimes contentious relationship with her sister (Robin Tunney), only complicates matters. Suddenly, they’re trusted with the care of a 12-year-old, under the worst possible circumstances. Edward withdraws into himself while Lacey and John struggle mightily to connect with him.
In storylines that quickly interconnect via the effective device of a survivor’s group at a church, we meet a number of others who lost someone in the tragedy.
Among the standouts in the almost too-large cast:
- Connie Britton’s Dee Dee is a Real Housewife of New Jersey who’s kind of a cross between Britton’s down-to-earth Tami from “Friday Night Lights” and her self-centered Nicole from “The White Lotus.” The forever upbeat chatterbox has a way of sucking the air out of every room she enters and is gleefully oblivious to this fact as she spends her days spending money, loudly expressing her opinions and doting on her college student daughter Zoe (Audrey Corsa) — but her privileged world comes crashing down when she learns a number of shocking truths about her late husband.
- Amy Forsyth’s Linda is pregnant and without means and on her own, as her boyfriend had yet to tell his wealthy parents about her.
- Anna Uzele’s Adriana decides to run for the congressional seat of her late grandmother, a towering and pioneering political legend. At the survivor’s group, Adriana becomes friends and eventually perhaps something more with Kojo (Idris DeBrand), who is from Ghana and has come to New York to say goodbye to his late sister and take custody of his young niece Geena (Vanessa Huszar).
We get myriad other storylines, some more compelling than others.
Schilling is an absolute rock as Lacey; there’s something about the performance that is so raw and real and natural. Young Colin O’Brien is tasked with doing some heavy lifting as Edward, and he does fine work, but his particular journey becomes a bit repetitive, as Edward continually spins out when the pressure becomes too much. The gimmick of having Edward talking to his older brother Jordan (Maxwell Jenkins) as if Jordan is still there by his side is more unsettling than dramatically effective.
Still, there are beautifully rendered scenes involving Edward and Lacey, and Edward and his new best friend, a roller-skating dynamo and fellow “weirdo” named Shay (Eva Ariel Binder).
And just when Britton’s Dee Dee seems on the brink of becoming too unbearable with her domination of every conversation, we get a scene when she drops the façade, and we see how much pain she is in — just like everyone else whose lives were forever, drastically changed by that fateful crash.
“Dear Edward” never backs away from the inherently gut-wrenching nature of this story. There are moments of lightness and laughter, times of joy and optimism, but we’re never far from another reminder this is primarily a series about the ways in which we grieve. Most of the episodes end on a poignant note, accompanied by appropriately moving songs such as “Death With Dignity” by Sufjan Stevens, “Morning Is Mended” by Steve Gunn, “Shrike” by Hozier and “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young.
The 10-episode run ends with the promise of a second season, and that seems like a mixed blessing. Most of the stories seemed to have reached a dramatically satisfying conclusion. It might have been best to say our farewells to Edward et al. at this point in their lives. We shall see.