What would life look like if your memory was deleted and you couldn’t trust anyone?
Such is the premise of the new Apple TV+ thriller Surface, which finds a woman named Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) waking up from an attempted suicide (or so she’s told) without any memory of her life before. Having survived a nasty fall off a boat into the icy waters below, she begins to question everything and everyone around her, as a mysterious man (Stephan James) lurks close by claiming to know the truth.
So what really happened to her? Brace yourself for heaps of twists and turns, as we break down this meaty premiere.
When we first find Sophie, she’s awakening from a nightmare in which she’s drowning. She lives with her husband James (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, read our interview here), and is prepping for her big return to work following the incident. While taking an Uber that’s about to go over a bridge, she’s triggered by the water and nearly has a panic attack. She demands to be let out of the car, amid a sea of honking horns.
At therapy, she’s told she has to accept that most of her memories will never be recovered. She says she feels like she’s woken up in someone else’s life. Her therapist Hannah (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) tells her that the fact that she’s alive is a miracle. Her method of suicide attempt makes her a determined woman, and that determination is going to help her get through her trauma. But what she can’t move past is how perfect everything seems. “If my life was so perfect, why did I try to end it?” she asks.
While out for drinks with her friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), a man appears to be staring at her. Does she know this mystery guy? She can’t even recall.
On her way to an event for James’ firm, a man named Baden stops her. It’s the guy from the restaurant the night before. He tells her James isn’t who she thinks he is. “You ever think there’s more that happened on the boat that day?” he asks. As James walks over, Baden pretends to be asking for directions and slips a book of matches into her purse.
A confused Sophie looks up her medical history while at work at a hospital. While one report is consistent with the suicide story everyone’s been selling her, another shows a broken ulna (forearm bone), with a note warning of potential domestic violence.
Later, Sophie urges James to go on a work trip, assuring him that “what happened before won’t ever, ever happen again… I don’t want to die.” In his absence, she tries a new therapy to help rid herself of the bad dreams, but she can’t get the event out of her mind. She’s also getting new flashes of memories, too.
She asks Caroline about her broken arm. Her friend says the women were shopping and had a few drinks at brunch. Sophie tripped and fell right in front of Chanel. Caroline was the one who took her to get the X-ray. It’s only been half an episode, but everyone who’s not Sophie feels shady as hell, right?
Sophie decides to follow the matches to a lounge in Chinatown called The Li-Bo. When she sits down, the bartender gives her “the usual.” Baden sits next to her shortly after. “You really don’t remember, do you?” he asks. It turns out he’s an officer who was assigned to her case because all suicides must get cleared of foul play. There’s something about her case he can’t shake. People with perfect lives don’t often jump off ferries, he says. He tells her she used to love this lounge. It’s named after a poet who spent his whole life drinking until he drowned. He jumped off a boat into a river. She gets defensive and tells Baden she doesn’t need his help before storming out.
James returns home to find Sophie reading her suicide note. He tells her he was in Portland working when he got the call about her incident, and he prayed he could make it home in time to say goodbye before she died. Whatever happened is over, he assures her, but she doesn’t seem too assured.
In the middle of the night, Sophie tries to remember her Apple ID password to unlock her iPad, but she can’t crack it… until she types in the address of the Li-Bo. She finds footage on the device of her and Baden in a hotel room. He begs her to leave with him, but she refuses. As they initiate sex, she closes the screen.
While out for a run the next day, she runs into Baden. She yells at him that whatever they had is done and to stay out of her life. But he can’t. She then jogs to the dock and finds a coast guard who was part of her rescue effort. The woman says Sophie was saying all sorts of weird things — that a man pushed her off the boat, and that her name was Tess, despite her ID showing a different moniker. But “you weren’t in your right mind,” the woman says. So it probably all means nothing, right?
Have any early theories? Grade the premiere, then drop some comments below!