New Apple TV+ series Dear Edward takes our hero to school this week. The show — about a boy who survives a plane crash and the relatives of people who weren’t so lucky — doubles down on all of its intricate absurdities in the episode, entitled “Chrysalis.”
Dee Dee learns more about her dead husband than she ever wanted to know. Edward receives fan mail. Audrey and Kojo keep getting closer. And multiple funerals loom. It’s another impressively confused episode of the grief-based drama.
Dear Edward recap: ‘Chrysalis’
Season 1, episode 4: Edward (played by Colin O’Brien) is finally back in public school after a few years of homeschooling and the death of his whole family, parents (Brian d’Arcy James and Robin Tunney) and brother Jordan (Maxwell Jenkins). His new neighborhood bestie Shay (Eva Ariel Binder) has elected herself Edward’s protector. And that’s handy, because bullies already have a name for him: “Miracle Boy.”
Yeah, for sure. Kids love razzing each other about the violent deaths of their whole families. This isn’t an absurd TV writers’ construction. No, sir. Shay even admonishes one bully with the words: “Leave him alone, Slutsky!”
Like … come on man. Is this a thrown-out third draft of a John Hughes movie? Everyone stares at Edward like he committed a hate crime, not like he was the victim of a horrible accident that killed everyone he knew and loved. This show….
Edward’s not the only one trying to cope. Socialite widow Dee Dee (Connie Britton) is having a hard time canceling her husband’s credit cards and phone bills and stuff. She has also developed a Long Island accent since episode three, so that’s good directing. As she’s shrieking at a Verizon rep, a kid named T (Ash Spencer) lets themself into the house. If you forgot, Dee Dee’s husband Charlie (Ted Koch), who was killed in the plane crash that killed Edward’s parents, was a secret LGBT philanthropist whose secret LA homestead served as a halfway house for the neighborhood queer kids. If you don’t believe that, back o’ the line — I got here first.
An unlikely halfway house
Charlie’s LA activist friends Noelle (Hannah Jane McMurray) and her husband Ryan (Jeremy Gram Weaver) sent a message to the kids he counseled and said they should come back and get all their stuff out of Charlie’s house. Charlie had been letting the local LGBTQ youths stay in his house before he died, and a lot of them left their possessions there.
Dee Dee asks T if Charlie was gay, but T doesn’t know. Dee Dee goes to Noelle’s office and demands answers about Charlie’s sexuality, but the best she can get out of the social worker is that Charlie appeared to be exploring his sexual identity with a man named Evan (Christian Conn).
She meets with Evan a few days later at the gallery he curates. Turns out Charlie lost all his money in a bad deal. (That’s something millionaires routinely do; that’s why they all stay millionaires. Solid judgment.) The two men comforted each other with sex. She finally thaws a little and gives T one of Charlie’s expensive watches so they can pawn it and live on the proceeds.
Picking up the pieces
Meanwhile, Edward’s aunt and uncle/new foster parents (Taylor Schilling and Carter Hudson) are concerned about all the mail he’s been getting. They don’t want to open them because it’s a crime to tamper with the mail (though they have already, so … good writing). But they also don’t want to give Charlie all this mail from crazy people writing to him just because he survived a plane crash. Of course, that means he won’t get the letter the creepy girl (Jenna Qureshi) left him with some kind of clue about something. She’s been shadowing him for weeks and no one knows why because she never hangs around long enough to explain herself.
Elsewhere, Adriana (Anna Uzele) is still sheltering Kojo (Idris Debrand) and his niece, Becks (Khloe Bruno), after her mother was killed in the plane crash, even though the dictates of politesse have been exceeded. Clearly, Adriana and Kojo kind of have feelings for each other. They will just be hanging around each other, even though Kojo wants to go back to his native Ghana ASAP.
The funeral is coming up, and Kojo has to broach the subject of what to do with Becks’ mother’s casket. He tells Becks to think about it, because she’s the only one whose opinion matters on the subject anymore. This remains the only tolerable thread on Dear Edward. She also has a thing for a local priest (Joshua Echebiri), which complicates her affection for Kojo. They’ve got real chemistry, those two, so it’s little wonder she’s a little squirrely about it.
Trying to get back to normal
Edward’s still seeing Jordan’s ghost whenever he’s alone, which is as often as he can be. As he explains to his aunt Lacey, when he looks at her, he sees his dead mother. Jordan says he’s gotta present way cooler at school if he wants to survive. And hey, wouldn’t you know it, he shows up the next day in an orange coat and the horrified stares stop, replaced instead with curious smiles. It’s just that easy, as I’m sure hundreds of bullied kids (like oh … all those kids Charlie was secretly counseling) could attest.
About a day later, the coat Edward wore to effect coolness is causing him to have heatstroke in class. He looks like he’s about to die and become a zombie. So he flees from class. (BTW, why is everyone in his class two years older than him at least?) Later, Lacey gives him a pep talk to give him permission to feel his feelings, reminding him that they both lost someone important in their lives. He finally spines up and goes to Shay’s bedroom (her mom’s pretty lenient about their sleepovers) and gives her Jordan’s jacket rather than continuing to wear it.
We also get to know Amanda (Brittany S. Hall) for the first time. She lost her husband Brent (James Chen) in the crash. Brent had a bad relationship with his family, represented here by his brother, Steve (Ivan Shaw). Amanda and Steve argue, but he insists on the two of them making peace. Finally, she agrees not to run him out of their therapy group anymore, admitting that they can grieve at the same time, if not exactly together.
The shock of it, the loneliness of it
Well, we’re four episodes into Dear Edward and the makeup department is still doing up Taylor Schilling like she’s been sleeping in a dumpster with a black tar heroin habit. I gotta say, I’m not sure about that one, my friends. Her problems seem to be that she’s sad, which is true of everyone on this show, so I’m not sure why she’s the one who looks like a fall-down drunk with insomnia. If only that were the least of the show’s troubles.
The writing continues to be outrageous and psychologically absurd, predicated on specificities and tropes whose marriage is going as well as any of Elizabeth Taylor’s did. The Charlie storyline makes zero sense. And I’m not really sure what the point of Lacey’s character is, because she’s doing fine and just being a normal, loving person, while Edward’s problems are all invented anew every week. If the point of the show is “grief is hard,” that’s been made. What else ya got for me?
The writers are also not remotely confident in the Dee Dee arc. Every time she feels anything, they play something by Bruce Springsteen over the soundtrack. Can’t not feel something when the Boss is playing, right?! RIGHT?!??! Cowardice is the word for that.
And not to nitpick (but hey, why else am I here?) but some simple stuff keeps getting away from the show’s creative team. Evan says of Charlie that he met a billionaire who “had the inside track on this business deal that was too good to be true … and it was.” Shouldn’t he have said, “Seemed too good to be true?” or “Because it was”? I wouldn’t be thinking about this if I wanted to think about anything else the show was doing well, and so far all I’ve got is the Audrey love triangle.
Straighten up and fly right, Dear Edward.
Watch Dear Edward on Apple TV+
The first three episodes of Dear Edward arrive this Friday on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.