Created by Rob Williams
Original Air Dates: 4th February 2022 – 18th March 2022
You can’t beat a good, compulsively watchable television thriller that uses the long-form format to tell a story across a sustained number of episodes which allows the thrills and suspense to build. At first glance, Suspicion looks as if it might be on to something of a winner. The main hook of the story is great, there’s a brilliant cast of familiar faces and an A-list movie star, and it comes from the Keshet stable, which gave us Homeland.
Like that series, Suspicion is a remake of an Israeli series, in this case, False Flag which sees the story transplanted to both the UK and the US. The first batch of episodes feels like a cross between a US political thriller and an ITV production, with its combination of US characters in the political world talking about big plot details while cutting back to London and characters contending with their world of 9-to-5 jobs and complex home lives colliding with the big scale of the main plot.
It feels like a strange combination at first, but it manages to get its hooks into you. There is a level of preposterous right away; a character making an escape from Belfast International Airport (and which is so obviously not Belfast International Airport being used for the location) piles on ludicrous coincidences and plot developments, but nobody watches these types of thrillers for realism. We’ve come for the escape, the fun and the bonkers plot twists.
Except, the more Suspicion goes on, the heftier dose of salt one has to swallow as its eight episodes reach the finale. There is a tricky balance between grit and silliness. Even lauded thrillers over the past twenty years of television such as 24, Homeland or Line of Duty have their moments where you might otherwise roll your eyes, but because it’s so well done you go with it.
The problem with Suspicion is that it feels like it’s constantly trying to top itself with plot twists and big events within it that you never feel you can buy into what it’s selling you as it hurdles towards its conclusion where the silliness gets dialled up to increasingly dumb levels.
That’s not to say that this is all bad or anything. There are moments of enjoyment and every cast member is giving it their all. This is a great ensemble that’s been brought together here; Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar, Agents of SHIELD’s Elizabeth Henstridge, The Americans’ Noah Emmerich, Krypton’s Georgina Campbell and even supporting roles for Mandip Gill and Ben Bailey Smith.
There are a lot of great elements here, but if you’ve come solely for Thurman then you might be disappointed at first as she barely features in the first few episodes and when she does, her increased role comes just when the series starts to buckle under the strain and lose its way.
The exploration of its core cast of characters as they deal with being arrested and accused of the high profile kidnapping of an American media mogul’s son, the impact on their lives and being at the centre of a media and social media storm gets a good work out in those first three episodes. The depiction of social media is broad and very unsubtle, and only gets more out of control as the series continues, but there are the makings of a broadly entertaining thriller here. However, the more that Suspicion gets knee-deep into its plot involving the shady goings-on of Katherine Newman (Thurman) and her business empire, the more it comes undone, eventually leading to a climate change message which is noble but terribly delivered, with everything being clumsily portrayed just when the series should be hitting its peak in the final episode.
Part of the problem here is that plot exposition and explosive revelations, a massive part of this type of series, gets laid down in increasingly haphazard ways. The series commits the cardinal sin of delaying any sense of plot movement to have characters stay in a house for an episode and basically talk about the plot so as to prolong the story just a little bit more, which wouldn’t be a problem but it’s an episode that just goes round in circles and feels rudderless.
Even more sneaky, some of the duller episodes end on plot twists that hint at changing the course of the series which leave you lulled into believing that the episode you watched was amazing when in fact it wasn’t anything special. Things do improve again in the penultimate episode when the series squarely puts its focus and its characters into New York and has them caught up in a grand scale of events that the plot is building to, but it also leads to a finale that just ends up falling into the realm of increasing stupidity and clumsily delivered exposition.
Instead of doing anything tremendously exciting, the only way the series can dispense information is to just have everyone standing in a room talking. The Times Square climax should be when the series has you on the edge of your seat, but it also wants us to believe that everything is playing out to a public and worldwide audience that will drop everything to watch events unfold. Katherine does a television interview of the 60 Minutes variety that is inexplicably broadcast live to what looks like a worldwide audience, while a social media-obsessed public is so enamoured with events that a huge crowd descends on Times Square just to watch the increasingly preposterous plot developments once again being played out on the 24-hour news cycle.
It feels as if the series has maybe something it wants to say about the world of never-ending news coverage and social media, but any message is hard to get on board with when it’s being delivered in such a haphazard way.
If Suspicion had the ability to pull this off, it might have actually worked, but it ends up coming across as cheaply done and beyond its scope, which is a shame. The earlier episodes have an ability to draw you in with their character-driven focus set against the bigger world of New York hotel rooms and espionage antics. It could have had the makings of a great thriller and another great addition to the increasing roster of fantastic Apple TV series, but it ends up being a wasted opportunity, and one where you can see what might have been just on the basis of that promising opening.