Add “The Last Thing He Told Me” to the list of what once would have been Lifetime movies expanded (or simply stretched) to become limited series. The main selling point here is Jennifer Garner as the wife who, “Dateline”-like, discovers her husband is not what he seems, in an efficient adaptation of Laura Dave’s novel that doesn’t rise much above that description.
Garner stars as Hannah, whose picture-perfect marriage to Owen (“Game of Thrones’” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is suddenly undone by a doozy of a secret, as her hubby suddenly chooses to disappear when his company comes under investigation.
“Protect her” is all that he says in a cryptic note, “her” referring to his 16-year-old daughter Bailey (“Mare of Easttown’s” Angourie Rice), who until then has tended to treat Hannah like the proverbial wicked stepmother.
Hannah can’t wrap her mind around why Owen would go on the run, and her interactions with law enforcement suggest there might be something more than corporate shenanigans at work, but rather a deeper mystery buried within his past. Hannah thus shifts into what amounts to detective mode with the help of her friend (Aisha Tyler) and a well-connected ex (Geoff Stults), piecing together the elaborate trail of breadcrumbs.
Dave worked on adapting the book with Josh Singer (an Oscar winner for “Spotlight”), with Garner and Reese Witherspoon’s company the other producers. Running seven episodes, the show doesn’t overstay its welcome, exactly, but nor do its revelations feel particularly distinctive once they finally arrive, given the popularity of the “But do you really know your husband?” genre.
What that leaves, then, is enjoying Garner’s return to thriller territory (following her recent stint in “Party Down”), and the bond that Hannah begins to build with Bailey, which, again, would have more impact if this wasn’t such a well-worn formula.
“The Last Thing He Told Me” does receive a late boost from David Morse, who guest stars in a key role in the final episodes; and Victor Garber, who played Garner’s spy daddy in “Alias.” By then, though, the series has established itself as at best middle-of-the-road fare, delivering yet another reminder that in TV drama as well as newsmagazines, the first order of business is asking a whole lot of questions before saying “I do.”
“The Last Thing He Told Me” premieres April 14 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: Lowry’s wife works for a division of Apple.)