Apple TV+‘s new drama The Last Thing He Told Me is so boring that I’m going to queue it up the next time my melatonin doesn’t work. It’s full of great real estate porn and lots of wooden bowls I’d expect to see on Etsy, but it lacks all bite as a modern day thriller. The one thing The Last Thing He Told Me does have going for it is star Jennifer Garner. The few times the Apple TV+ crackles with excitement is when Garner’s Hannah Hall deftly gives a hotel concierge a fake name or sneaks past U.S. Marshalls with a simple bathroom trick. And in those moments, I realized, “Holy shit, I miss Alias-era Jennifer Garner. I miss Sydney Bristowe!” And I would have much rather watched a reboot of Alias where Sydney had to protect her own spy babies from her past nemeses than this Big Little Lies-core dreck.
The Last Thing He Told Me proves it’s time for Jennifer Garner to lead an Alias reboot. Let Jennifer Garner be a spy again!
The Last Thing He Told Me is based on Laura Dave’s best-selling book of the same name. Woodworking artist Hannah Hall enjoys an idyllic life married to her hot husband Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) until it’s revealed that Owen’s tech company has pulled a massive con, a la Theranos. As the Feds descend upon the company, Owen goes on the run, leaving Hannah and his teen daughter Bailey (Angourie Rice) only a few strange notes and a duffle bag full of cash. It soon becomes clear that Owen is caught up in a larger conspiracy and Hannah must protect her thankless stepdaughter while piecing together the mystery that was Owen’s life.
For such a potentially juicy concept, The Last Thing He Told Me is boring to the extreme. Its plot is stretched out too thin, its characters denied any endearing attributes, and it will have you yawning. Except there are moments where Garner gets to channel the everywoman charm and spiky intelligence that made Sydney Bristowe such a compelling TV heroine back in the heyday of Alias. Whenever Hannah did anything cool, I murmured, “God, I wish I was watching Alias.”
If you’re on the young side or simply don’t have strong memories of early ’00s ABC hits, Alias was a spy drama created by J.J. Abrams before he made Lost, Star Trek, and a couple of Star Wars flicks. Its absolutely perfect pilot introduced grad student/secret agent Sydney Bristowe. After Syd gets engaged to a perfectly nice doctor, she reveals her double life to her groom-to-be. When her employers at SD-6 realize what’s happened, they murder the dude. Sydney soon learns from her father — whom she never knew was also a spy! — that SD-6 is actually evil. Syd embarks on a wild adventure working as a double agent for the good guys and the bad guys, all while tracking down the mystical artifacts of a Renaissance dude named Rimbaldi.
While early seasons of Alias were bangers, the show soon struggled to make sense of all its wild twists, eventually alienating fans (like yours truly). But Sydney Bristowe survived the series and became a mother. Wouldn’t it make sense to check in with the super-spy 17 years later? To see her juggle parenting teens and fighting past foes?
Jennifer Garner has created a public image for herself based on her wholesomeness. Sydney Bristowe was a role that subverted that wholesomeness as cover for a secret agent. So much of the best drama in Alias came from Sydney’s personal life crashing into her professional one. While that’s relatable for anyone, in Sydney’s case, it was a matter of life and death. Sticking Sydney with the dilemma of trying to protect her kids from their spy heritage and needing to protect them using her skills is a juicy concept. Having her struggle with the realization that she ought to teach her children how to hack it in the family business to survive? Even better. Give us that instead of this slow-moving schlock!
Garner deserves a chance to revisit the role that made her famous in the first place and we deserve a new swing at Alias. At the very least, both Jennifer Garner and TV fans deserve a better show than The Last Thing He Told Me.
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