It’s a wild thing we do to ourselves, isn’t it? Just voluntarily walking into a TV series that we know will emotionally devastate us. Wild. And don’t tell me you didn’t know. You knew. Whatever way you found yourself to Apple TV+’s Dear Edward, you had to have known there was a 99.9 percent chance you’d be sobbing at some point. If, perhaps, you arrived at the drama series because you were a fan of the 2020 best-selling novel by Ann Napolitano from which this series is adapted, then you chose, of your own volition, to be gutted in two different mediums. And to that, I say, you might be unhinged, and also, I get that.
Maybe you didn’t read the novel. Maybe you decided to tune into Dear Edward solely because you heard it would be a Friday Night Lights reunion of sorts between Connie Britton and executive producer–writer Jason Katims. If that’s the case, then you definitely knew what you were getting into. Not only was FNL known to squeeze out a few tears, but Katims’s Parenthood was basically predicated on getting its audience to cry. So you knew. Even the logline for the series — a 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a commercial airplane crash — is full to the brim with devastation. What I’m saying is: When you get to the end of this first episode of Dear Edward, and you are sobbing on your couch, yelling out “What the hell!” and “Whyyyyyy?” to no one in particular, you only have yourself to blame. But never fear: We’re all in this together.
Dear Edward starts with an emotional whopper that also functions to separate itself from the novel. If you’ve read it, you were probably surprised to see the entire doomed flight play out in just one episode. Napolitano’s novel has a dual timeline structure: It flips between telling the story of the entire flight, from take-off in New York to its crash landing outside of Denver, and Edward’s life following the crash. By giving us the entire flight in the first episode, it seems clear the series will focus on the aftermath of the tragedy, through both Edward’s eyes and through others who have lost loved ones (it also seems like aside from Edward’s family, we’re getting a whole different crop of characters). And while that feels like a departure of sorts, it’s in line with the novel’s overall message. Dear Edward, yes, is very much about grief and trauma and deep loss, but it is also a story about hope. It’s about finding ways to move forward, even if they’re baby steps. By making the bulk of the story the aftermath, the series seems to be making that its main message too. And honestly, even after knowing the people on the flight for just one hour, I was devastated to lose them — so I don’t even want to think about what it would’ve been like to know them for an entire season before watching them all die. There are not enough tissues in the world.
While this change from novel to TV series makes sense, it also gives Katims, who wrote the episode, and Fisher Stevens, who directed it, a tall order: They have an hour to get us to emotionally attach ourselves to a whole swathe of characters, more than half of whom are going to die by the end of it. We need to understand, at least a little bit, who these people are to understand what it means to lose them. And you know what? Those sons of bitches pull it off! We’re plopped down in the middle of so many stories, which is a tactic that surely could be a real mess, but here it just makes these characters immediately feel lived-in. We get flashbacks mixed in with the flight, and together it’s enough to give us these specific histories. Anyway, never doubt Jason Katims’s ability to reduce you to tears in even the shortest amount of time.
Not surprisingly, we spend the most time with Edward’s family, the Adlers. He’s Eddie to them, and tensions are already high as they arrive at the airport for their cross-country flight to Los Angeles, where the family is moving for mom Jane’s TV-writing job. Eddie is not handling the change well, and his parents are worried about him. They always seem to be worried about him. We learn, through flashbacks, that Eddie, a wildly smart piano prodigy, was bullied badly in second grade, and they pulled both him and his older brother, Jordan, out to be homeschooled by their dad, Bruce. Even before the crash, we’re led to believe that Eddie is fragile, a ball of anxiety. When he and Jordan — who do everything together — go to their favorite falafel truck in the city for the last time before the move and the guy doesn’t have their typical soda available, Eddie almost has a meltdown. When, on the plane, Jordan tells his brother that he’s decided to enroll in public school once they get to L.A., and that he wants some independence, well, then Eddie does have a meltdown. He races up to first class, where his mom is seated (TV writers, am I right?), and when he realizes she already knows, he screams at her, blaming her for all of this change. He tells her he hates her. Since we know what we know, all you want to do is shake this kid until he apologizes. Tell your mom you love her, Edward!!
It’s the same feeling of dread you get at the beginning of the flight when Eddie and Jordan race to their row and Eddie takes the window seat. Jordan claims it’s his, the two bicker, and then decide to play Rock Paper Scissors for it. Eddie wins. It was by chance that Eddie got the seat that wound up saving his life. There’s survivor’s guilt, and then there will be Eddie’s survivor’s guilt.
We meet other people on and off the flight, too. There’s Congresswoman Washington and her granddaughter and political aide, Adriana. The Congresswoman, who hails from Harlem, is a feminist icon. In a flashback, we learn that she wants Adriana to run for her seat in 2026, after she retires. As Adriana helps her grandmother get to her flight, she informs her that she’s resigning as her aide, and after a disheartening experience with a constituent she was trying to help who ends up killing themself, she wants out of politics altogether. Her grandmother accepts it but reminds Adriana that she needs to believe in herself: “You have to stop telling yourself that you can’t,” she says before heading off to the airport.
There’s Lacey, Jane Adler’s younger sister, and her husband, John. They live outside the city and are having some marital problems after three devastating miscarriages. Lacey wants to keep trying, but John worries about what another pregnancy will do to her, physically and mentally. He wants to look into adoption, but she won’t even entertain the idea. She has what she calls “a complicated relationship” with Jane and can’t believe John would call Jane behind her back to tell her about everything that’s been going on. A lot of sad and awful things happen in this episode, but that shot of Taylor Schilling weeping alone on the floor of their empty nursery? Oof, buddy, that one stings.
There’s Akua, an aspiring actress with a young daughter named Becks and a brother, Kojo, who is, apparently, the king of Porta Potties in Ghana. Akua is an aspiring actress (though Kojo wishes she and Becks would move back home) who gets a last-minute audition in Los Angeles. Becks has to stay back with friends, but before Akua leaves, she promises that it’ll be “just one sleep” before they’re back together again. She doesn’t just promise. She pinkie promises. I don’t know, folks, that pinky promise is probably the part that finally broke me. I have not recovered from the pinkie promise. Do I hate this show or do I love it? We may never know!
And then there’s Dee Dee. Oh, Dee Dee. Is Connie Britton having the time of her life playing this spoiled, flighty rich woman? Because she sure looks like it — at least, like, before the devastating news that her husband has died in a fiery plane crash, you know? It’s Dee Dee and her college-age daughter Zoe’s birthday, and as is tradition, the ladies lunch at Michelin-starred Daniel and order caviar and foie gras (“Sorry, ducks,” says Dee Dee). Since Dee Dee’s husband couldn’t be there, he set them up with an appointment at Valentino to try on dresses and buy themselves something nice. Zoe admits she’s a little worried about her parents’ relationship since her dad’s been gone so much recently, but Dee Dee assures her that he’s just being a good provider. The plan has always been for him to work hard and then retire so they can see the world.
Just as we meet these people, their entire world changes. The final act of this episode is, honestly, hard to watch. The plane runs right into a terrible storm. What first seems like bad turbulence (like the worst turbulence) quickly becomes something much more dangerous. There’s engine failure, and the pilot wants to divert the flight, but it’s all too late. They need to prepare for an emergency landing. It’s chaos as we jump between characters who are terrified. Jane texts Lacey that she loves her — Lacey responds the same but finds it odd. In the middle of mani-pedis, Dee Dee gets a text from her husband that she and Zoe brush off as dad having one too many cocktails. On the plane, we get glimpses of what people are thinking about in their final moments. Akua sees Becks on the swings. Jane remembers the moment she became a mother. Jordan thinks about meeting Eddie for the first time. Eddie imagines himself and Jordan on the beach in L.A.
And then it’s all over. When the search-and-rescue team gets out to the crash site, the plane is just debris. There’s almost nothing left. As the team — including one extremely high guy who gets a little backstory, too, so you have to assume we’ll see him again — sifts through the wreckage, there’s a little montage of loved ones hearing the news. That shot of Connie Britton standing in the middle of Grand Central Station trying to figure out her train back home before seeing the news of the crash on her phone? That’s a shot that’ll stick with you. What does one even do with themselves? It’s unfathomable.
Almost as unfathomable as anyone surviving that crash. But then our high rescue-team member sees a piece of the plane a little bit further out than the rest and runs over to it. And there he is, Edward. “I’m right here. I’m here,” he says to the man, who promises that everything will be okay. And that, friends, is where this story begins.
• There are a few more characters we get glimpses of in this episode: One couple seems very in love — he gets on the plane, and she reminds him that she’ll be there with him soon. Then there’s a couple who are … let’s call it going through a rough patch? We see them arguing in front of the airport. The guy looks strung out as he calls after Amanda, who is angrily walking away. On the flight, he orders a drink and looks forlornly at what must be an engagement ring in his hand.
• The text Dee Dee gets is: “You will always be my princess and Zoe my angel. Love you both dearly. I’m so sorry. Love, your lonely pilgrim.” Is that “I’m so sorry” because he is about to die, or is it about something else? Very curious!
• Is Zoe actually more entitled than her mother? Who the hell rolls up to Daniel in their Barnard sweatshirt and jeans? Get out of here!
• When Jane informs her family that they won’t be sitting together because the studio bought her a first-class ticket, Edward responds, “You’re in first class? You’re just the writer.” Edward is savage.