‘Apples Never Fall’ Review: Another Middling Mystery Melodrama

'Apples Never Fall' proves that if you've seen one recent show about a dysfunctional family upended by tragedy, you've seen them all.

Sam Neill as Stan and Annette Bening as Joy in Apples Never Fall. Jasin Boland/PEACOCK

Just about halfway through Apples Never Fall the dysfunctional family at the center of the series gets described quite succinctly by a supporting character: “Cheater, bootlicker, rich prick, hot mess, missing and probably dead, murderer.” While there’s certainly more to each family member’s story, that one line sums things up so well that it almost makes the seven episodes feel superfluous.

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Really, just about all of Apples Never Fall feels superfluous—in a TV and streaming landscape awash in family mysteries it registers as a weak stab at prestige television. Touting a few flashy names and a potentially twist-ridden premise, it’s another show fruitlessly chasing the highs of Big Little Lies (it’s even based on a book by Liane Moriarty). There are good moments, fine performances, and some genuine intrigue, but it amounts to little more than an unexciting copy.

The plot is fairly straightforward: one afternoon, beloved wife and mother Joy Delaney (Annette Bening) goes missing, with the only trace left of her a blood-spattered bike. Her four adult kids Troy (Jake Lacy), Amy (Alison Brie), Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner) and Brooke (Essie Randles) begin to worry almost instantly, and their father Stan (Sam Neill) is of little help. According to Stan, Joy is a bit under the weather, or out shopping, or any other flimsy excuse as to why she can’t pick up the phone. As the news breaks and detectives get involved, suspicion volleys back and forth between Stan and a mysterious woman named Savannah (Georgia Flood), a drifter who lived with the Delaneys some months ago.

Jake Lacy as Troy, Essie Randles as Brooke, Alison Brie as Amy and Conor Merrigan-Turner as Logan in Apples Never Fall. Vince Valitutti/PEACOCK

Each episode ostensibly focuses on a different member of the family as this mystery unfolds, touching on the children’s messy adult lives and the lasting trauma that they all face from Stan’s exacting nature. See, he and Joy are recent retirees, having owned one of Florida’s most prestigious tennis academies; they even helped coach an eventual Grand Slam winner, but that’s a touchy subject. Stan is hard, not only on his former pupils but on his children, and he’s still yet to realize that coaching isn’t the same as parenting.

The family tension is the richest part of the series, with the siblings all having very different views of their parents. Logan and Brooke are happy to idolize their father and not think too deeply about how they grew up. Meanwhile, Troy all but refuses to speak with him. Amy is more forgiving, but she’s long past looking at her childhood with rose colored glasses. As suspicion starts to fall on Stan, it’s interesting and emotionally compelling to see when and how each Delaney kid gets on board with the idea that their dad may have something to do with the disappearance of their mom. In these moments, when the siblings fight against their own memories and judgments, the show gets good.

However, these moments are few and far between, especially as Apples Never Fall fully commits itself to being a mystery. An unnecessary “then” and “now” chyron flashes on screen throughout the series to peel back the layers of how the Delaneys became such a mess, and it becomes annoying to have every development in the present immediately answered with a full flashback. The series gets unforgivably Lifetime, complete with clunky affairs, secret identities and all-too-conveniently timed revelations—the last episode is more likely to make you roll your eyes than gasp in surprise.

Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t get enough opportunity to show their talents. Bening’s a non-factor for much of the series, her role reserved to flashbacks where she’s a woman struggling to find her footing in retired life. Neill does the best work of the bunch, his controlling patriarch concealing a bevy of insecurities and uncertainties. The kids are more of a mixed bag: Lacy adds plenty of depth to what could’ve been a clone of his The White Lotus character, newcomers Randles and Merrigan Turner bring a lived-in, naturalistic feel to the younger Delaney siblings, and Brie, while certainly not bad, feels miscast as the hippie-dippie Amy.

The production value and big-name cast tells you that plenty of care and attention went into Apples Never Fall. But does little to distinguish itself from all the other melodramatic family mysteries out there. It blurs together with shows like Expats, The Undoing and Little Fires Everywhere. At some point, when you’ve seen one of these shows, you’ve seen them all.

‘Apples Never Fall’ is streaming on Peacock now

‘Apples Never Fall’ Review: Another Middling Mystery Melodrama