Apple TV+ series Dear Edward brings its tedious first season to a close this week. Edward winds up lost in the big city, sending his adoptive mom Lacey into hysterics. Plus, Dee Dee’s feeling very unappreciated, Shay and Edward get a second chance, Steve and Amanda have a choice to make, and there’s a party on the horizon.
The Dear Edward season finale, entitled “Shelter,” is a whiff of an ending to a whiff of a season. This show, supposedly about grief in the wake of a catastrophic plane crash, turns out to be largely about nothing at all.
Dear Edward recap: ‘Shelter’
Season 1, episode 10: Edward (played by Colin O’Brien) went AWOL after finding the letters hundreds of people wrote to him after he was the lone miraculous survivor of the plane crash. His foster parents, Lacey and John (Taylor Schilling and Carter Hudson), who are also his aunt and uncle, hid the letters from the boy to avoid freaking him out. But now they’ve got a bigger problem on their hand: They don’t know where Edward is.
When they ask Edward’s neighborhood friend Shay (Eva Ariel Binder) for help, she suggests looking at the Manhattan museum where he first met his dead brother Jordan’s (Maxwell Jenkins) girlfriend, Mahira (Jenna Qureshi). Lacey goes to Mahira, who sends her to the museum in question.
Edward leaves the museum at that exact moment and gets lost, so Jordan’s ghost gives him directions. They get into a fight and a Rufus Wainwright song does some emotional heavy lifting, because none of the Dear Edward writers ever exhibits confidence in their writing. (To be clear: They should not, in this case. But it’s still a cheap ploy for pathos.)
Ghosts of Manhattan
Anyway, Edward breaks into his old apartment to have a flashback about his dead parents (Brian d’Arcy James and Robin Tunney). Then he just helps himself to the electric piano in the corner of the living room. The family that lives there now is quite understandably shaken by Edward’s appearance in their apartment, but he entertains them with his piano prodigy skills — so no harm, no foul, I guess. They keep trying to take him home, and he keeps saying “no.” (Like, hey little man … this is not where you live.)
Lacey finally shows up, and she and Edward say a meaningful goodbye to the city together. Just like that, Jordan’s ghost vanishes.
Meanwhile, Amanda (Brittany S. Hall), still grieving her dead husband Brent (James Chen), is weighing a relationship with his brother, Steve (Ivan Shaw), who is engaged. She recognizes that it’s not healthy for them to be doing this — to say nothing of the whole moral angle. And when Steve threatens to break off his engagement, she breaks up with him. These two can’t make up their minds. Last week, she pursued him. Now she’s done.
When the party’s over (or hasn’t yet begun)
Dee Dee (Connie Britton) planned a farewell party for the rest of the support group, and she is severely bummed when nobody shows up. Everyone’s got their reasons for being there, of course, but she’s still mad.
What’s making them all late? Adriana (Anna Uzele) is at her office watching election results roll in. Linda (Amy Forsyth) is in the hospital recovering after the premature birth of her child. Sam (Dario Ladani Sanchez) is having a fight with his wife because she found out he’s bisexual. Kojo (Idris Debrand) and his niece, Becks (Khloe Bruno), got on a plane to Ghana. And after her fight with Zoe (Audrey Corsa), Dee Dee’s feeling especially alone.
Of course, everyone eventually shows up and proves that Dee Dee’s wrong — everyone loves her and needs her. Lacey even brings Edward. Dee Dee tells a series of extremely unfunny jokes (the show’s writers owe Connie Britton a bonus for putting her through this). And finally, everyone dances and sings and gossips and eats. Dee Dee and Zoe have a heart-to-heart talk and finally come clean about their feelings. That ends on a good note about the future.
Now, about those letters …
Afterward, Edward and Lacey go back home. He gives Shay another meaningful gift (having learned nothing) — a box of all the trinkets he kept from his life, all stuff that reminds him of his family. He tells Shay that he’s decided she’s the reason he survived the crash, because meeting her was the first time he felt anything after the crash. She’s not put off by that.
Then they decide the thing to do is respond to all the letters that people have written to Edward over the last few weeks, so there’s your Dear Edward season two concept if we get punished with more of this show. The first letter they open reveals that Edward has a long-lost uncle.
Then, to wrap things up, Steve and Daphne get married. Zoe and Dee Dee find a new apartment. Adriana does her job at Congress. Linda and her baby move in with Lacey and Edward. Neil Young plays on the soundtrack. The end.
What is Dear Edward about?
I don’t quite understand a show like this. The concept is nothing more than an excuse to get us into the nitty gritty of surviving grief and working through trauma, but the writers didn’t seem to actually enjoy getting into any of it in a way that plays honestly.
This is all stuff we’ve seen before, and it’s all done in a very recognizable, unimaginative style. It’s just people going through life, but Dear Edward can’t — or won’t — make their grief anything other than a garden-variety alienation device. This can’t be that rewarding. It’s just a family drama in the This Is Us or A Million Little Things vein, except on Apple TV+ the characters can swear.
There needs to be a reason to do this again, and I never divined what that reason is over the entire course of Dear Edward’s first season. The show went through the motions, and now it’s done. I feel nothing but mild relief that I don’t have to be trapped with the show’s worst characters anymore.
Dear Edward is a missed opportunity. And the fact that Connie Britton seems to be ad-libbing her way through most of it speaks to the fact that everyone figured out there’s nothing special going on here. They’re just hanging on until someone calls “cut.”
Watch Dear Edward on Apple TV+
New episodes of Dear Edward arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.