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Apple TV+'s Suspicion Brings New Meaning to the Term ‘Slow-Burn’

Uma Thurman is the face of the streamer's new drama, but she appears just once in its two-episode premiere
  • Uma Thurman and Noah Emmerich in the first episode of Suspicion. (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Uma Thurman and Noah Emmerich in the first episode of Suspicion. (Photo: Apple TV+)

    There are certain things that will always be popular in fiction: kidnapping plots, wrongfully accused suspects, a ticking-clock investigation, conspiracy at the highest levels, and flashy criminals who can seemingly slip out of any tight space at will. Suspicion, Apple TV+'s latest entry in the streaming sweepstakes, checks each of of these boxes. The college-aged son of a high-powered American crisis consultant is abducted from a hotel in Times Square. Surveillance video from the hotel goes viral — goosed by the fact that his kidnappers were all wearing big rubber masks of the British royal family, and meme-ability of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles stuffing a twerpy little rich kid into a suitcase and rolling him away is pretty much off the charts — and by the end of the first episode, the prime suspects are four Brits, three of whom are rounded up for questioning with the fourth still at large. It's a crowd-pleaser of a setup by any estimation, and yet Suspicion unfolds the elements of its story so deliberately that it risks losing our attention altogether.

    Loosely based on a 2015 Israeli TV series called False Flag — which told the story of five Israeli suspects in the kidnapping of the Iranian defense minister — Suspicion comes from showrunner Rob Williams and director Chris Long, the latter of whom directed nine episodes of the FX series The Americans over the course of its final three seasons, including the acclaimed series finale. You can see the hopes that Suspicion will be able to carry over some of the magic that The Americans had when it came to paranoia and international intrigue. Of the four suspects in the kidnapping, only one — Sean (Elyes Gabel), who appears to be a master of disguise and possibly an international assassin — presents as an obvious criminal threat, and his exploits evading the authorities are the moments when Suspicion comes most alive.

    Meanwhile, the three suspects who are apprehended all seem to one degree or another unlikely international criminals. Aadesh (Kunal Nayyar) is an IT professional trying to land a better job; Natalie (Georgina Campbell) is a young bride on her wedding day; Tara (Elizabeth Henstridge) is a university professor. At first blush, their only tie to the kidnapping is that they all recently returned from trips to New York and were staying at the same hotel. Soon, however, cracks begin to appear in their innocent veneers. Shady personal connections, outstanding debts, and flashes of the kind of moral outrage that might motivate one to act out against the child of an influential American.

    Oh, right: about that influential American. She's a high powered media fixer with a laundry list of enemies, and she's played by Uma Thurman. The fact that she's gone mentioned to this point is due to the fact that she appears in all of one scene in the show's first two episodes, where she tries to impress upon the American federal agent (Noah Emmerich, another connection to The Americans) the importance of getting her son back alive, before he jets across the pond to interrogate suspects despite not having a ton of jurisdictional authority to do so.

    Thurman is a fascinating actress with a laundry list of iconic performances. As has unfortunately been the case with many leading actresses of the 1990s and early aughts, Thurman's career prospects got thinner as the years went on. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Thurman expressed her anger at the system and alluded to having her own reasons to resent the transgressions of powerful men. Her career has turned towards television in the last decade, and despite an incredibly memorable (and Emmy-nominated) turn on Smash, shows like The Slap, Imposters, and Chambers failed to give her the kind of small-screen boost received by contemporaries like Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet.

    Suspicion doesn't seem likely to break that streak for Thurman, if only because the show seems so stubbornly opposed to actually utilizing her. Clearly there's more to her character, particularly in the power she wields and the enemies she's made. She's also the emotional pull towards the crime at the heart of the show, and yet she's egregiously sidelined — at least to start. Her absence might not be felt so acutely if the rest of the plot turned its cards over more quickly, but while the show seems to want to go for slow-burn storytelling, it's instead arriving at a willful refusal to advance its plot more than the bare minimum. There's intrigue, sure, but there comes a point where intrigue alone isn't enough.

    The first two episodes of Suspicion are now streaming on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes are set for weekly release Fridays through March 18.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Suspicion, Apple TV+, Uma Thurman