The Last Thing He Told Me with Jennifer Garner as stepmother to a teen whose dad disappears is based on a novel of the same name by Laura Dave. This story about doing what’s best for your kids is women powered: writers, directors, producers, and actors all bring the feminist vibes.
The Last Thing He Told Me was such a good book, I read it twice. When it came time to watch the TV series, I found the action a little slow. The TV series follows the book very closely, so I knew everything that was coming. That reduced the tension in the story for me, which I think accounts for my pacing issue.
The story begins by showing what a loving couple Hannah (Jennifer Garner) and Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are. They had been married just over a year. Owen’s 16 year old daughter, Bailey (Angourie Rice), was not happy about her new stepmother and let it be known in many annoying ways.
Then Owen disappeared. On purpose. All he left was a note for Hannah that said, “Protect Her” and a bag full of cash. This happened just as the startup Owen was part of was exposed by the FBI as making fraudulent claims. Owen was not part of the fraud, but his name and image would be made public during the news coverage of the scandal.
Hannah and Bailey had no idea why he ran or where he would have gone. A US Marshall, Grady Bradford (Augusto Aguilera), was at Hannah’s door almost immediately. She was so upset that she didn’t really register that the guy with the badge was a US Marshall – those are the people who run witness protection. When the FBI shows up asking questions, too, the Marshall involvement feels funny.
It’s a clue.
It’s almost the only clue. Hannah and Bailey follow that clue, which leads them to Austin, Texas.
Bailey remembers things about Austin from when she was only about 4 years old. She remembers a football game where everything was orange. (The Texas Longhorns’ colors.) She remembers a church.
Grady Bradford finds them and keeps warning them that they are in danger and to get out of Austin. They dig for information anyway.
Hannah’s best friend back home Jules (Aisha Tyler) is telling her to be careful. Jules and her wife are both journalists and dig up all kinds of info to help Hannah.
One of her exes, now her lawyer, is telling her to keep quiet and be careful.
They dig for information anyway.
In case you haven’t already read the book twice like I have, I won’t tell you what they learn about Owen or about Bailey’s childhood memories. But it does put them in danger to keep picking at the past and some scary things happen.
Thematically, this suspenseful series is about parenting (and step parenting) and doing what’s best for kids. Bailey is as annoying as only a teen age girl can be, but Hannah sticks by her. Eventually as they work out what’s happening to them, the two bond. We see plenty of flashbacks of Hannah and Owen in love, but the real love story is between Hannah and Bailey.
The aspect of the story I appreciated was women taking charge of their own problems and trusting their own judgement about what to do when life completely falls apart.
The 7 part series on Apple TV+ was developed for TV by Laura Dave and Josh Singer. The entire season is available now. All the directors were women: Olivia Newman, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Lila Neugebauer, and Daisy von Scherler Mayer. There is a long list of women producers, chief among them Reese Witherspoon.
The series is more of a low key mystery than action thriller. I was fascinated by the story and found the series engaging and interesting.
2 responses to “The Last Thing He Told Me: Jennifer Garner stars”
i’m a bit conflicted about this one. i enjoyed the series as a whole. and its near impossible not to like Jennifer Garner. in each episode, though, there was a thing Hannah did that didnt seem smart. i understood and respected the impulse to protect her stepdaughter but substituting her judgment for those of professionals wasn inconsistent with the intelligence she showed in other respects. i suppose there would be very few televisions shows if every character did the smart reasonable thing in every situation.
In a way her bad decisions were part of her autonomy. I disliked the ending. Five years go by and she and Bailey are both doing well when he shows to encourage her to move on. Cruel.