What looks like prestige TV, sounds like prestige TV, and acts like prestige TV, but is in fact just a melodramatic copycat pretending to have serious thoughts in its head? That would be Suspicion, Apple TV+’s new eight-part English-language adaptation of Israel’s False Flag series, which alternates between being wholly preposterous and egregiously preachy. Were that not enough, though, this U.K. production headlined by Uma Thurman and Noah Emmerich is also interminably dull, dispensing red-herring clues regarding its central mystery with all the grace of a jackhammer and the intrigue of a TED Talk.

Suspicion (Feb. 4) concerns the abduction of Leo Newman (Gerran Howell), heir to the throne of his mom Katherine’s (Thurman) Cooper Union PR firm. This kidnapping takes place in Manhattan’s Park Madison Hotel by a group of criminals who wear British royal family masks and stuff poor Leo into a suitcase to spirit him past security. Since Katherine is presently in the public eye due to her impending appointment as America’s ambassador to the U.K., Leo’s disappearance becomes instant international news. Tasked with finding him and his assailants, senior National Crime Agency agent Vanessa Okoye (Angel Coulby) swiftly sets about investigating a group of suspects alongside FBI agent Scott Anderson (Emmerich), who constantly bristles at Vanessa’s handling of the case.

Noah Emmerich and Uma Thurman in Suspicion

Apple TV+

Given that we know nothing about Leo, it’s impossible to have any active concern about his well-being; he’s merely a narrative pawn in Suspicion’s elaborate game. The same can be said about Katherine, whom Thurman embodies with rote regal authority during her scant screen time during the series’ maiden few episodes. With Katherine largely confined to the periphery—thereby negating our engagement with her maternal distress—showrunner Rob Williams fixates his attention on a foursome that Vanessa and Scott think might be responsible for this calamity: Aadesh (The Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar), a wannabe tech security analyst living unhappily with his wife’s carpet-salesmen clan; Tara (Elizabeth Henstridge), an Oxford University teacher trying to maintain a relationship with her young daughter; Natalie (Georgina Campbell), a bride-to-be who’s close with her sister Monique (Lydia West); and Sean (Elyes Gabel), some sort of shadowy mercenary with a fondness for wigs and an aptitude for violence.

All four of these British strangers were at the Park Madison Hotel on the day that Leo was snatched. Moreover, each one has a link to Katherine: Aadesh was trying to get a job with Cooper Union (whom he’d hacked, to prove his cybersecurity prowess); Tara was accepting a donation on behalf of Oxford from Cooper Union, even though she had previously made waves by accusing the university of taking a bribe from Katherine in exchange for Leo’s admission to the school; and Natalie is involved in an absurdly incoherent money laundering scheme that also has ties to Katherine’s firm. And as for Sean, well, he’s a murderous man of mystery whose motives are opaque. Thus, Suspicion casts all of its protagonists as potentially guilty from the get-go, and then sets about sowing additional and incessant seeds of doubt—none of which come to fruition, because its characters’ every distrustful glare and shady action are transparent misdirection.

To maintain guessing-game suspense, Williams keeps crucial details about Aadesh, Tara, Natalie and Sean hidden from view, and the effect of that strategy is to render them two-dimensional ciphers who’ve been designed solely as narrative devices. Suspicion endlessly flip-flops between presenting its characters as innocent and tormented common folk, and covert conspiratorial villains. Yet either way, they don’t for a second come across as authentic people. Efforts to drum up tension from their perilous plight consequently fall flat, as do any wan attempts to create romantic heat between Sean and Tara.

More troublesome still is the fact that Suspicion’s central scandal never resounds as especially important or gripping, this despite the show’s portrait of Katherine as a headline-making celebrity. The notion that a PR firm would have this type of massive global recognition rings false, as do the eventual protests that sweep London and New York once the kidnapper-hackers begin broadcasting ransom videos in which they demand that Katherine “Tell the Truth.” Then again, implausibility is endemic to this tale, whether it’s Natalie stealing information from her employer’s computer thanks to her colleague’s laughable idiocy, Sean murdering an adversary by impaling his head on elevated bridge spikes, or Monique choosing to communicate and meet with her sister’s anonymous underworld contact.

The notion that a PR firm would have this type of massive global recognition rings false, as do the eventual protests that sweep London and New York once the kidnapper-hackers begin broadcasting ransom videos in which they demand that Katherine “Tell the Truth.”

Suspicion’s general clunkiness extends to exposition-heavy dialogue in which everyone summarizes their obvious feelings, circumstances and fears, and performances that deliberately remain on the surface in order to conceal true motivations and attitudes. Midway through their sleuthing, Vanessa and Scott discover another suspect in Eddie Walker (Tom Rhys Harries), a cocky Oxford student who was near the Park Madison Hotel on the night of Leo’s disappearance, and who has no reliable alibi. Eddie’s introduction, however, only further exacerbates the material’s habit of making characters behave dubiously one second, and then appear clueless and helpless the next. Showrunner Williams indulges in an endless array of threadbare manipulations, and after a while, it all begins to feel a bit like a parody—or, at least, like a pantomime of superior thriller predecessors.

Were it capable of generating a modicum of breakneck menace, or a sense of momentous stakes, such sluggish whodunit plotting might have been more tolerable. Unfortunately, despite a raft of shootouts, chases, disguises and sting operations—much of them filtered through CCTV surveillance footage used by law enforcement to track their prey—Suspicion plods along with a dearth of urgency. Worse, its eventual revelations are of a sermonizing variety having to do with random hot-button topics. Hinging on familial connections, political activism and dastardly corporate conduct, Suspicion’s bombshells appear to have been pulled out of a hat, especially considering how unrelated they are to most of its prime players. No matter the wiggle room the series leaves itself for a possible second season, my own suspicion is that most will wonder why this initial one got off the ground in the first place.

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