‘Surface’ Season 1 Finale: Biggest Unanswered Questions

Surface Season 1 Finale Spoilers Ahead

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Surface Season 1 Finale
©Apple TV+

Surface starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Oliver Jackson-Cohen, is one of the most frustrating thrillers that have aired this year because, despite knowing where it’s likely headed, you can’t seem to turn it off. It grips you from the first episode by making you care and empathize with Mbatha-Raw’s Sophie, and it takes you through a series of events that don’t make anything clear by the end.

For a show that could’ve benefited as a limited series, we’re now thrust towards wanting to know what’ll happen in Season 2 because the finale leaves us with more unanswered questions than clear explanations. If, like me, you stayed up all night after the finale, then maybe the writers did something right, ensuring that we’d try to nitpick at every little detail until we had something tangible or found ourselves in a more convoluted bubble. (I’m in the latter.) In general, Apple TV’s Surface is full of exceptional performances, forcing you to doubt everything and everyone because despite having some clues, we’re relying heavily on the acting for the show and within the show to do the talking.

Can we trust Sophie?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Sophie/Tess in Surface
©Apple TV+

“Can we trust Sophie” isn’t a question I wanted to ask myself, but the Surface Season 1 finale doesn’t leave us with any other choice. Who is Tess? Who is Sophie? If Sophie is the one James was covering up for all along, then how much of what we see is the truth behind her character? Sophie’s past is undoubtedly darker than any of us thought possible in pre or post-memory loss events, which makes her character complexities much richer. 

Further, there’s something about the way Mbatha-Raw touches on Sophie’s emotions during Episode 6 when James recollects what’s happened. The emotions feel genuine enough to believe she once loved him. Despite how little we know and no matter her plans when walking into his life, Sophie certainly began to care for James beyond what she thought was possible. However, though the relationship leads to affairs and losing herself in a lifestyle she didn’t quite want, Mbatha-Raw’s performances solidify that there was honest compassion, even if she didn’t intend for that. This very compassion makes me question whether she even trusts her own doubts and where searching for answers will lead her. What did Sophie (or Tess?) get mixed up that led her to such darkness? How much of what we see is who she wants to be versus who she’s forced to be? In short, I want to trust her more than anything, but that will require getting to know her far more.


Will there be justice for Baden?

Stephan James as Baden in Surface
©Apple TV+

While Baden (Stephan James) lied about being initially hired to spy on Sophie before falling in love with her, there isn’t viable evidence to believe that he was guilty of anything malicious. Sure, perhaps his feelings egged him on to think that James was a bad guy, but outside of that, most of his behavior isn’t remotely anything horrific that deserves the result we see.

The real villain appears to be Harrison (François Arnaud), whose need to look out for his best friend goes to highly questionable lengths. While we could all understand wanting the best for those we care for, being this mistrusting of others, no matter how shady, is one line too far. Who gets someone killed in a decision to look out for their friend? And yes, this is a thriller, but still. 

On the one hand, I initially assumed Harrison had feelings for James but couldn’t disclose it for whatever reason. On the other hand, if this were the case, I would presume he’d be glad that Sophie was having an affair, wanting to expose it, then landing him back in James’ good graces. But perhaps, neither of those things are true, and Harrison is merely that loyal to an unhealthy degree. Frankly, I’m landing on he’s the villain in all this because really, why on earth was he so against Sophie from the beginning? His reasonings here matter, and the fact that we won’t get many answers from Baden is frankly disappointing.

How authentic are James’ feelings and his persistence? 

Oliver Jackson-Cohen as James Ellis in Surface Season 1 finale
©Apple TV+

I want to trust James solely because Oliver Jackson-Cohen is that good at playing a heartthrob. And for the most part, he seems genuine in his feelings, especially with his inability to give up on Sophie despite the odds against him. Nevertheless, there are ways to go for James to truly grow and much of it requires looking into his actions from earlier episodes to decipher his need to control certain aspects of their relationship. While it might not seem like he has ill intentions, the fact of the matter is that such behavior in relationships borders on unhealthy obsessions.

And ultimately, how far characters are willing to go to protect (or find) people who don’t want to be saved seems to be a running theme throughout the series. How far are they willing to go to rob someone from their agency just because it’s what they want? I do believe that James’ feelings for Sophie are sincere, and given how much he was willing to cover up for her, it’s also easy to think that he has her best interest at heart, but like with Harrison, there are faulty angles in him too, and where that’ll lead in Season 2 will be interesting to interpret. The company we keep says a lot about us, and it’ll be riveting to dig further into their the depths of the company James keeps.


Who is Eliza?

When we last see Sophie (or rather, Tess) at the bar, Eliza (Millie Brady) states to her friends that they should plan a trip to the country house again, noting it’s been too long since the last time they did so. The burning question of what happened at the country house aligns with who Eliza is. While it seems as though the girls at the bar with her don’t recognize Tess, I can’t help but wonder if the country house is the place where Sophie had a memory stirred. In a thriller like this, any mention of a location matters to a degree. Thereby, I can’t help but cling to the country house and think about what secrets could be buried within.

There’s also much to be said about how terrified Eliza looks when questioning what Tess is doing in London. Did the women agree to go their separate ways due to what happened when they were last together? Did Eliza metaphorically push Tess away, never expecting to see her again? Why was she on Sophie’s call log before the accident? Does she have anything to do with Sophie’s family? There are a hundred questions surrounding Eliza’s character alone, which might be why the finale forces you to stay up late questioning everything.

Surface Season 1 finale is so far from where we began that it’s partly exhausting dealing with the ramifications of having next to nothing from the questions we were asking at the start. The only answer we know for sure is that Sophie jumped off the boat. We also know that, as her husband, James genuinely cares for her, and he could be one of the few people to trust. But the frustrating part about a thriller so often lies in where we begin being so far from where we end up when there are multiple arcs. And sometimes, even when we think we have answers, there’s a chance of expectations being subverted merely to throw the audience off course. (I’m hoping that’s not the case here.)

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Now streaming on Apple TV+: What are your thoughts on the Surface Season 1 finale? Let us know in the comments below.

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