Alison Brie and Jake Lacy Anchor Twisty Thriller Apples Never Fall (2024)

Alison Brie and Jake Lacy Anchor Twisty Thriller Apples Never Fall (1)

Jake Lacy, Essie Randles, Alison Brie, and Conor Merrigan-Turner in Apples Never Fall (Photo: Vince Valitutti/Peaco*ck)

There's nothing subtle about the cold open that kicks off Apples Never Fall, Peaco*ck's adaptation of Liane Moriarty's bestselling novel. As the chorus of "Unsecret" by Buried rings out, warning listeners of "secrets buried in the backyard," Joy Delaney (Annette Bening) rides her bicycle to the grocery store, where she grabs a bright, red apple and softly tosses it in the air like a tennis ball. Seconds later, Joy's bike lies in the middle of the street, blood dripping from the frame. Joy is nowhere to be seen, but her purchases — apparently, she filled her basket with a dozen loose apples and nothing else — are strewn about the road, forming a makeshift halo around the bloodied bike.

The scene effectively introduces the mystery at the center of Apples Never Fall — what happened to Joy Delaney? — but it's clumsy enough to plant a seed of doubt about showrunner Melanie Marnich's ability to translate Moriarty's book to the screen. Happily, though, this first impression isn't representative of the show as a whole. Like the seemingly picture-perfect Delaney family, there's more to this story than meets the eye: While its many twists are likely to keep viewers hooked for seven episodes, the drama's greatest strength lies its realistic depiction of familial dysfunction, particularly the complex, teasing dynamic between Joy's adult children, played by Alison Brie, Jake Lacy, Conor Merrigan-Turner, and Essie Randles.

The Delaney children each take on a distinct role that reflects their respective relationships with their parents, Joy and Stan (Sam Neill), who recently retired after a celebrated career as tennis coaches. The oldest of the bunch, Amy (Brie), is still looking for her purpose, but despite being mocked for her embrace of spirituality and alternative healing, she's the only one willing to wear her heart on her sleeve. Successful venture capitalist Troy (Lacy) has taken the opposite approach: After a lifetime spent fighting with Stan on and off the court, he prefers to keep his family at a distance, although he's made a habit of stepping in to help them financially when needed. Meanwhile, younger siblings Logan (Merrigan-Turner) and Brooke (Randles) have done everything possible to win Stan's affection; even as adults, they structure their lives around appeasing their father, sacrificing their own dreams so as not to disappoint him.

Even if the Delaneys aren't quite happy, they're sufficiently stable to project an outward image of harmony — until Joy suddenly disappears. The circ*mstances surrounding her disappearance are immediately suspicious. Beyond the abandoned bike introduced in the opening minute, Joy left her cell phone at home, and Stan, now with a deep cut across his cheek, has spent days lying to his children and curious neighbors about her absence. As the Delaney children begin looking into the case (and Jeanine Serralles and Dylan Thuraisingham's local detectives do the same) they uncover dark secrets about Joy and Stan's marriage that force them to reevaluate everything they knew about their relationship to each other and their parents.

As with Moriarty's previous work (Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers), those reveals come fast and furious until the limited series's final moments. It's difficult to discuss the season's trajectory without getting into spoilers, but the Delaneys' secrets, which range from the romantic to the professional variety, emerge naturally over time; they never feel forced or doled out with the intention of misleading viewers, as many streaming thrillers are wont to do. Past tensions, including the cause of the rift between Troy and Stan, also come full circle, creating a sense of cohesion across the show's multiple timelines.

Apples Never Fall's unexpected turns make for compelling television on their own, but they're particularly powerful because Marnich and directors Chris Sweeney and Dawn Shadforth have such a firm grasp on these characters. With their differing skin tones and distinct features, Brie, Lacy, Merrigan-Turner, and Randles hardly look like siblings, but their constant needling and good-natured jabs instantly scan as genuine. Even when the playfulness fades and the siblings turn on each other, it comes from a place of deep familiarity — from decades of perceived slights and petty rivalries stoked by their hyper-competitive father.

Lacy and Brie, both playing somewhat to type as high-strung people looking for external validation (although Amy is more woo-woo than Brie's usual roles), are excellent in these emotional scenes, while Neill, as the gruff and uncompromising Stan, conveys the unique harm those closest to us are capable of causing. That becomes particularly apparent in his scenes with Bening (also an executive producer), who never mistakes Joy's kindness for weakness. Her resentment is palpable as Joy is iced out by her husband and children, so much so that when she invites an abused woman named Savannah (Georgia Flood) to stay with them, it plays as a believable, if ill-advised, attempt to fill the void with someone who actually appreciates her sacrifices.

Across seven episodes, the limited series alternates between the present-day search for Joy and Savannah's brief but memorable stint with the Delaneys seven months prior. But while the mysterious houseguest proves instrumental to the show's central mystery, Savannah, and Flood's stiff performance, are its weakest links. Details about her backstory and motivations are intentionally withheld until the finale, but up to that point, she's a blank slate; Savannah's only defining characteristic is her shiftiness and the general cloud of suspicion that follows her. Considering how much effort has been paid to developing the characters around her, Savannah's lack of depth proves disappointing, and her overall blandness blunts the impact of the story's final twist.

Apples Never Fall's climax — and its last-minute return to the land of obtuseness — may leave some viewers dissatisfied, but the limited series is more about the journey than the destination. Anchored by rich performances from its ensemble cast, the efficient, handsomely made adaptation serves up family drama and high-stakes thrills in equal measure. That makes for a winning combination, no matter how much apple imagery Marnich jams into the cold open.

All seven episodes of Apples Never Fall premiere March 14 on Peaco*ck. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

Alison Brie and Jake Lacy Anchor Twisty Thriller Apples Never Fall (2024)
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