DEAR EDWARD (2023)
Season One [Premiere]
Aired On: Apple TV+
Release Date: 02/03/23
"A 12-year-old boy becomes the lone survivor of a plane crash. As he and others affected by the tragedy try to make sense of what happened, unexpected friendships, romances, and communities are formed."
Dear Edward, the newly released Apple TV+ series, is the highly anticipated adaptation of the New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, penned by Ann Napolitano. It was quick to pick up to series, and reasonably so, as it tugs all the heartstrings of the viewer and it’s easy to appeal to a broad audience. However, Dear Edward includes too many flaws that are too difficult to overlook, and make for an incredibly uncomfortable watch.
Similar to the release of Jaws in 1975 that caused a mass panic around the existence of sharks, Dear Edward’s entire narrative hinges on an incredibly unrealistic and harmful plot device that involves a plane crash, when in reality, plane crashes are incredibly uncommon. According to a study done by Harvard University, the odds of a plane crash are 1 in 1.2 million, and the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11 million. This is substantially safer than the odds of dying in a car crash, at 1 in 5000. Additionally the cause of the crash in the show is due to turbulence from a thunderstorm that the plane is trying to fly through, both of which are incredibly false in real life flying. Planes intentionally do not fly into thunderstorms because of the effects the different pressure systems can have on the plane, and intentionally fly around them to avoid any type of accident. As far as turbulence, although it’s scary and upsetting while experiencing it, it needs to be incredibly severe in order to cause an accident, the likes of which almost never happen. In fact, turbulence is much more similar to being stuck in Jell-O than it is to being thrown out of the sky, and it’s an experiment you can replicate at home. Dear Edward uses these story tropes to intentionally try to evoke a strong emotional reaction from its audience, using manipulative tactics by presenting itself as realism when it fact the entire idea is nearly a fantasy. It perpetuates an unfounded fear that flying is unsafe, when in actuality, you’re more likely to be harmed everyday when you drive your car.
Apart from the absurdity that the story is based on, the characters aren’t strong enough to support what little is left after you strip back the fantasy and emotional manipulation tactics. The first episode focuses too much on many of the characters that only end up perishing at the end of the episode due to being on the plane, and not enough on their surviving family members who are left behind. Connie Britton, one of the two large names that’s included in this cast, has an interesting enough story, but she seems to be the only one out of the ensemble. Taylor Schilling (from her Orange is the New Black fame) plays a completely unlikeable and nearly unbearable character, making it difficult to even want to stick around to try to see what happens to these people next.
Finally, there’s the titular character that is the center of this show, Edward, played by Colin O’Brien. When dealing with child actors, it’s incredibly important to find not only the perfect person to play the part, but also to make sure that there’s enough emotional bandwidth to cover the intensity required of said character. It’s incredibly difficult to find this as it already is with most children in media, and it’s only further difficult to find a child actor who has all of these requirements when the entire show relies on their portrayal. Of course, not all child actors are going to be perfect on the first try, and that’s the point. There needs to be a strong yet graceful hand to guide them to the place their character needs to be in, in order to captivate a believable performance at best. Unfortunately, I believe the creative team of Dear Edward thought they would be able to rely much more on the emotional aspects of the show, and the heart tugging of an orphaned child too much, and overlooked the performance aspect that is desperately needed. It’s a large burden to carry for a child of any age to be the sole representative of their show, and Colin O’Brien was severely let down by the behind the scenes team that was surrounding them, and allowed a difficult to watch and completely amateur performance. Especially as a brand new actor, my hope is that this debut won’t affect the rest of his career, and casting directors will notice that he is not at fault for the shallow performance that is given.
If you want a sob story that you can turn on for a cathartic cry, similar to This Is Us but with significantly less depth, Dear Edward might be just the perfect piece for you. It’s mindless viewing for a broad audience that is looking for something to watch after a long day at work, and for those who are more susceptible to its emotional manipulation tactics. However, for those looking for a nuanced family drama with a compelling and intertwining narrative and strong performances, Dear Edward completely lacks on all fronts.