I once wrote that I wouldn’t recommend “Lost” to someone looking for a mystery series. Even though I enjoyed the ride, the wrap-up left me cold — or rather, it left me hot with anger. After working to fit the pieces together for six seasons, it all came down to . . . I don’t know what. Many readers criticized me, emphasizing that the real “Lost” treasure was the friends we made along the way, that the means is an end in itself.
Which brings me to Apple TV+’s pulpy new thriller, “Now and Then,” which offers a fairly good time, with a lot of intriguing twists, a stylized production design, imaginative camerawork, and some sturdy class-related underpinnings. It’s a decent friend along the way, staying more or less entertaining for eight episodes. But, for me, the ending was unsatisfying, and I’m still shaking my head over the illogic. The show, which premieres on Friday, is a means to a loose end.
So this is a mixed review, inviting you to have genre fun with “Now and Then” and its big performances along the way, and warning you to let go of any close plot scrutiny or wind up cross-eyed.
Like so many series these days, the Miami-set whodunit, which is bilingual, toggles between two time periods. The first, in 2000, finds six college friends drunkenly partying at a beach to celebrate their graduation. As one of them films the gathering, the night results in the death of the popular Alejandro (Jorge López). The kids vow to keep the real circumstances of Alejandro’s death a secret, and they manage to escape prosecution, a fact that eats away at the detective on the case, Rosie Perez’s Flora Neruda. She’s certain the friends are lying, and she’s angry and morally outraged they’re free.
Cut to 20 years later, when the five friends are no longer really friends, except for Pedro (José María Yazpik) and Ana (Marina de Tavira), who are married. They all receive a text threatening to expose their lies about Alejandro if they don’t fork over $1 million each, forcing them to meet up and decide what to do. We can see how the youthful optimism and joy of their graduation night has faded along with their warm chemistry, how the duplicity has eaten away at each of them. They are all still a good-looking bunch, but you can see the weariness behind their eyes — not that the strain has stopped them from their long-term efforts to evade accountability and confession.
Pedro, who is running for mayor, is juggling a few lies in addition to the Alejandro story, while Ana is all ambition. They work at presenting a unified front, but they have problems. Marcos (Manolo Cardona) is a drug-addicted cosmetic surgeon, and his college girlfriend, Sofia (Maribel Verdú), is a lawyer with financial issues. They still have chemistry, even though Marcos is engaged to another woman. Daniela (Soledad Villamil), who was behind the camera on the night of Alejandro’s death, is a single mother with a young adult son. They form an ensemble of self-interested people who’ve lost any sense of what’s right, with Flora, the detective, at the other end of the spectrum, her conscience very much intact.
Soon after the blackmail begins, there is a murder in the group, which mobilizes Flora. Played with drive by Perez, she’s convinced the recent death is linked to Alejandro’s death, and, now obsessed, she begins to break the law to push her investigation both forward and backward to 2000. Just as the past has twisted up the lives of the friends, it has left Flora scarred and, now given a second chance, desperate to succeed at discovering the truth. For all involved, the liars and the pursuer of justice, the two tenses noted in the title have merged into one big messy tragedy.
NOW AND THEN
Starring: Marina de Tavira, Rosie Perez, Željko Ivanek, José María Yazpik, Dario Yazbek Bernal, Maribel Verdú, Manolo Cardona, Soledad Villamil, Jorge López, Alicia Jaziz, Alicia Sanz, Jack Duarte, Miranda de la Serna
On: Apple TV+. Premieres Friday.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.