“Surface” is a lot of escapist fun — for a while, anyway, until, like far too many TV miniseries these days, it devolves into repetition, silliness, and, worst of all when it comes to a mystery story, vagueness.
The Apple TV+ drama set in San Francisco gives us a woman with amnesia — Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Sophie — and follows her struggle to recover her identity. She has been told by her husband, Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s James, and her best friend, Ari Graynor’s Caroline, that she tried to kill herself by jumping off a ferry, resulting in her memory loss — but did she? Is James, so handsome, affectionate, and wealthy, what he seems? Is he gaslighting his wife? Is Caroline? Even Sophie’s therapist, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, is suspect, as she pushes Sophie to move forward.
For the first two or three episodes of eight, the series is a reasonably entertaining game, and I kept trying on different theories about what really happened to Sophie — especially after we meet Sophie’s secret boyfriend, Stephan James’s Thomas, and learn that he’s a cop. The characters are little more than cardboard cutouts, but it didn’t matter at first because it was a cool puzzle to be solved — you know, the summer fare approach. Likewise, the series wasn’t bothering to explore the broader ideas about identity and memory, but that seemed to help it stay light on its feet.
By the second half of the series, though, the twists and turns of the game grew tedious, making the shallowness of the characters more obvious. I just wanted to get to the end already. Ultimately, “Surface” was half of a good time, leading to nothing especially satisfying.