Dear Edward on AppleTV+ review: a slow-burn slog
US television and film executives love a plane crash. From Lost to Denzel Washington’s 2012 film Flight, Sully to Con Air. And later this month, viewers can line up to watch Gerard Butler attempt to land a failing aircraft in a warzone in the imaginatively-named thriller Plane.
Which brings me to Dear Edward. As an aerophobe myself, let me confirm that if the idea of getting on a plane fills anybody with the jitters, then this is absolutely not the show to watch.
This new series from AppleTV+ attempts to tell the story of Edward, a boy who miraculously survives a plane crash that kills the rest of his family.
As he attempts to piece his life back together, the show (which is based on a book of the same name) expands to tell the stories of other people whose lives were affected by the disaster and charts their path to healing.
That’s the idea, anyway. But I struggled to make it through the first episode which had a full 50-minutes minutes of a plane crashing (interspersed with snapshots of the lives of those about to die), followed by 10 minutes of a man picking his way through the debris, complete with fake bodies in the rubble.
Ploughing on, which was tough, did not prove rewarding. This show from Jason Katims, who has worked on series including Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, while admirable in its ambition, often stumbles under the weight of all its constituent plotlines, asking readers to invest in characters we meet and re-meet all too briefly.
Which is a shame, because so many of its actors are so good. Connie Britton is a delight as scatty housewife Dee Dee; Taylor Schilling shines as the frazzled Lacey (Edward’s aunt), whose mental health is on the decline after nine years of trying and failing to get pregnant. I particularly liked Adriana, a political assistant to her Congresswoman grandmother (who dies in the crash), played by Anna Uzele with an air of weary determination.
Instead of spending too much time with any of them individually, we do end up for long periods at a support group for victims of the crash (attended, conveniently, by nobody except the six main characters) where group hugs and awkward meet-cutes are the order of the day.
Edward’s own story also suffers as a result. Despite being the central character of the show, he ends up being less of a boy and more of a cipher: a person onto whom people around the country can project their grief and hopes, to whom they send countless letters (hence the show’s title).
It’s rather corny stuff, and all too often it lapses into clichéd character beats that lean rather too heavily on a swelling musical score to conjure any sense of emotion in the viewer. Dee Dee finds out that her husband wasn’t being entirely honest about his life or finances; Lacey learns to embrace a different kind of motherhood than the one she had initially envisaged. As for Edward, he talks to his dead brother for two episodes before being bizarrely being told the truth in a supermarket by a stranger.
There are glimmers of light in Dear Edward; moments when the plot clicks or two characters experience a moment of connection that makes it feel almost worth it. But for the most part, it’s a slow-burn slog: watch at your peril.
Dear Edward is streaming now on AppleTV+