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[The following story contains spoilers from the first season of Apple TV+’s Surface, including the season one finale, “See You on the Other Side.”]
The first season of Apple TV+’s Surface ends on a cliffhanger, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s main character, Sophie, embracing her past identity as Tess Caldwell and going back to the U.K. in search of Millie Brady’s Eliza, whose bloody face has been haunting Sophie.
While Apple has yet to renew the psychological thriller, showrunner Veronica West says as she was thinking of an ending for season one, she wanted to find a way for the show to move forward.
“There needed to be at least one more chapter to Sophie’s past, and that’s why at the end of the pilot you hear the name Tess for the first time and these memories of Millie Brady’s character continue to surface up, and the reason they do is because that was one of the most traumatic things that happened to Sophie,” West tells The Hollywood Reporter. “In the real-life science of how this stuff works, those memories that are the most traumatic can kind of bubble up to the surface first, even if they’re older. They have this analogy that a sled cuts grooves in the snow the more times it goes over and over again, the deeper these grooves get, and if someone had thought about this traumatic moment or something seminal in their life many, many times before the injury happened, those grooves would be the deepest and those memories would kind of come back more quickly. So having this idea of this subtext and Sophie’s past haunting her through these memories of this woman, we knew we had to embed that in the DNA of the show from the beginning to make it feel like an organic next chapter, if we were going to be lucky enough to make one, of where this show would go next.”
She adds, “For me what’s most interesting is what made Sophie into this person. If season one is all about who she really was, what she really had done, that she kind of was the bad guy in a lot of senses, what was she running from across that ocean? Why did she restart her life? What are these memories that are surfacing of her deeper past and her childhood, and how did she become the person that we came to know over the course of season one?”
West isn’t the only one planning for a potential season two. Speaking to THR at Surface‘s premiere in New York earlier this summer, Brady said she knows more of Eliza than what viewers have seen.
“A lot of the stuff we find out about Eliza comes later on, hopefully, if we do a season two,” she said. “There was enough for me to have the foundation of the character. But what I quite enjoyed was the fact that there’s a big part of Eliza’s character that’s a mystery to myself as well.”
To get back to her life as Tess in the U.K., Sophie appears to fake her own death, going for a run across the Golden Gate Bridge before disappearing and leaving her belongings behind. While Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s James is initially in denial that his wife is truly gone for good, he discovers that the Tess Caldwell bank account has been cleaned out and finds a video indicating she’s still alive.
As for when and what motivated Sophie to leave her life in San Francisco, as Sophie and James are still wrestling with Baden’s (Stephan James’) death but also trying to embark on a fresh start while Sophie wants to examine her own secrets, West indicates that James’ actions drive a lot of it.
“Baden’s death and believing James is responsible for that [plays a part in what Sophie does,]” West says. “But also realizing through episode six, the flashback episode, that he had really created this false reality for her, and if he had not done that, if he had told her the truth when she woke up that day, none of this would have probably happened. Baden probably would still be alive. Like she wouldn’t have been searching for answers and felt as unmoored as she had, and the story would have gone in a totally different direction. So it’s Machiavellian in a sense, but what she does to James I think has a real emotional purpose to her in terms of holding up a mirror to him and [asking him] how it feels.”
Who was ultimately responsible for Baden’s death remains somewhat unclear, but James strongly implicates Harrison (François Arnaud) during an explosive argument.
And Arnaud previously told THR at the Surface premiere that he was intrigued by his character’s journey.
“It’s interesting to explore how far good people get into bad territory,” Arnaud said of his character, who he called “deeply superficial” and is “committed” to avoiding “self-examination and -exploration and is willing to go to great lengths to protect his friendship to James but is also just an action guy who should reflect more before acting but won’t.”
Though many of the characters from season one seem isolated by the end of the final episode, West says they could still return in a potential season two.
“[Sophie] certainly leaves a tsunami in the wake of her actions, so people are not going to let sleeping dogs lie,” she says. “Even if Sophie has other plans, I think there’s definitely a possibility that some of the people we love from season one would come back.”
While Sophie seems resolved by the end of season one that she jumped off the ferry, and video footage appears to confirm that, West says Sophie’s mentality when she left the boat will remain a mystery.
“There was a crossroads reached in terms of what happened on the ferry that day. I always believed that she’ll never remember what she was thinking when she jumped,” she says. “She’ll never remember what she was feeling and we get as much information as we can ever get about that moment — we see video footage of it, we hear eyewitness testimony, but you’ll never know exactly what her intent was. Was she jumping to end her life or start a new one? In a sense I always felt like it doesn’t really matter because what matters now is what she’s choosing to do in the present, and even if she got the idea from that past scenario, her choice to do this thing in the present really doubles down on the premise of the show and shows how much she’s grown as a character and what she might be capable of in the future.”
After Surface began with an apparent suicide attempt, Sophie found herself in season one facing questions of whether she had a history of mental illness, and West says the show will continue to explore her psyche.
“At the end of the day, the show is really a psychological thriller. And in that genre, we can’t really shy away from exploring the really dark recesses of people’s minds,” she says. “Sophie’s story is always about who she really is and what she really felt herself and about the people around her. Those are the mysteries that the show unpacks, so I think holding up that mirror to her and allowing her to ask these really tough questions about herself and ask tough questions about her DNA, her family history, these are things that are going to continue to plague her in her story and drive her to find more answers.”
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