Heading into the season finale of Apple TV+’s mystery-thriller Surface, so many questions remain: Who is Sophie, really? Why did she jump off of that boat? What are her true motivations? Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait until a potential Season 2 before we get closer to anything concrete.
But here’s what we do know following the finale (which is now available to stream). James didn’t have anything to do with Baden’s death. That horrific honor goes to the slimy Harrison, who didn’t want Baden’s work to undermine or destroy their beloved firm. After Sophie triggers another set of repressed memories, she says some goodbyes, packs a bag and sets off for a run down the Golden Gate Bridge. When she fails to come home, the bag is found, but she’s nowhere to be seen.
Caroline tells James that his debt to her has been paid, which leads him to discover that Tess Caldwell’s bank account has, of course, been closed out. A trail of clues leads him to a video Sophie left on her iPad, in which she tells him that Baden’s death is on them and they can never go back to what they were. As her voiceover continues, we see Sophie unlock a storage locker with a key that was sewn into her clothing the day of the jump. Inside is a getaway bag chock-full of cash and Tess Caldwell’s passport. James, deducing that she’s London-bound, leaves a message on her burner phone saying he’ll never stop looking for her, and that he can protect her from whatever awaits her across the pond.
We part ways with Sophie as she’s spying on someone in a pub. The mystery woman runs outside after her yelling, “Tess! What are you doing here?”
Will we ever find out who this Eliza woman is? (That’s now in the hands of Apple TV+.) In our season-ending conversation with star Gugu Mbatha-Raw, we had to ask, but of course there’s a reason why they call it a “cliffhanger.”
“I couldn’t possibly divulge!” she responds with a laugh.
But the actress did reveal plenty. Below, she talks to RustWire about the finale’s many twists and turns, whether we can (or should) trust James and whether or not there’s any hope for the couple moving forward.
TVLINE | Was it difficult to craft a character who is pretty much a blank slate?
GUGU MBATHA-RAW | That was part of the challenge, in a way, knowing that Sophie was putting the pieces of her life and her memory back together, and figuring out who she could trust. For me, I had an arc of what the show was going to become, and being a part of it from such an early stage, I did know where it was going. I like to know the ending as an actor because you can then chart your journey, make the most unexpected choices and give yourself somewhere to go. So really, there is no bigger arc than not having any memories at all, her starting this quest to search for answers. I think it also gave us an opportunity to give the feel of the show a much more sensory, visceral nature, in terms of the flashbacks, the cinematography and playing with her consciousness as we go through the show.
TVLINE | You and Oliver Jackson-Cohen have such a compelling chemistry together. How did you two nail this rollercoaster of emotions that your characters endure over these eight episodes?
All credit obviously to Oliver. He’s an incredible actor and has such incredible emotional access and intensity. He’s really able to encapsulate the charm and the charisma of James, but also the danger of him as well. Also, Veronica West, our showrunner, really wrote the dynamic of this relationship. It was so well written in terms of what each character knows and doesn’t know at different points, so there was a lot for us to draw on in the writing. Then, Sam Miller, our producing director who directed four episodes of the show, was always trying to pull out the tension and the strangeness (especially in the house) of what is between the words, which is much more powerful and compelling. For me, what was really fun for us was getting to Episode 6 and seeing the romantic side of these two from the beginning, before things got so murky. We get to almost have our Before Sunrise kind of episode where they’re really just discovering each other in an authentic way.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about Episode 6 a bit before we dive into this finale. How would you describe Sophie in those flashback scenes, and did it feel like you were playing a completely different character?
It was really fun, I’m not going to lie. We had a great time playing with the different looks, playing with the hair style, the fringe, the bangs, the sort of waitress look, and really understanding how someone from that background might meet someone like James and how they might genuinely connect through ambition. There are elements where the intensity of their ambition reminds me of the Macbeths or something, [Laughs] in terms of what they sacrifice for their quest to overthrow the establishment.
It was fun to have things like the record player scene in Episode 6. We chose our own playlist. We did a 45-minute take with two cameras just following us around, dancing to random songs that we put together. Just moments like that, again, between the words where you get to express the chemistry and the joy of that connection of falling in love. And the bittersweetness of knowing, “How did they get from all of that to all of this?” and bouncing back and forth from James’ point of view, which I think is a great thing as well, when you get to that point in the season. You’re starting to turn a little bit in your sympathies for James and seeing things from his perspective a bit. It was such a beautifully written, self-contained episode. It could’ve almost been like a movie, in itself. A romantic drama of them getting together. We had a lot of fun with that, and how somebody like Sophie became a chameleon in order to survive in the world that she was in.
TVLINE | Hopping over to the finale, how does Sophie deal with her role in Baden’s death?
As she says in the letter [she writes to James], it’s something that is very hard and maybe impossible to come back from. In terms of how she’s dealing with it, it was a devastating shock for her, but she’s not dealt with it, to be honest with you. I think she’s very much pressed it down in order to survive. Time will tell how she actually deals with it, but it’s definitely something that is almost an unhealable rift between Sophie and James, but equally something that will forever connect them in a way. It’s this double-edged event that is a difficult one to process, but something that will connect you in terms of its pain and its consequences.
TVLINE | Now that we’ve seen all eight episodes, can viewers trust James? Should they? His voicemail to Sophie seemed genuine, but I feel like it’s impossible to trust anyone on this series!
Well listen, I don’t think we tie anything up in a bow, which is what I love about the show in general. It really does keep you guessing. It keeps things in the gray area. I feel like that’s life. I don’t really want to give a simple answer, because I think these people are complex, so I’m not going to answer that one! [Laughs] I’m going to leave it open, because part of what I love about the show is we don’t ever just label anybody good, bad… it’s more multifaceted than that, so to give kind of a yes or no answer to “Can you trust James?” feels like that’s not really what the show’s about, you know?
TVLINE | I get that. Do you hold any hope for this couple going forward?
I definitely think there’s hope. I think that’s part of the joy of seeing Episode 6 and the whole show. Although there’s something deeply broken in the experiences they’ve gone through together, at the heart of their relationship is a deep, intense love. I think that’s what’s interesting about it. Even though Sophie has lost her memory, even though James and both of them have done morally ambiguous things, the connection there is love. The romantic in me is like, “Of course there has to be hope for them.” A lot of dark murky things have happened, but I like to feel like there’s some hope, and I hope the audience will be left with a glimmer of hope, especially seeing where their connection began.
TVLINE | In terms of a possible Season 2, what can you spill? Any talks about what might potentially happen?
There’s been talks. That’s all I can say at the moment!
TVLINE | What do you hope to see? No chance in hell you’ll tell me who Eliza is, right?
I couldn’t possibly divulge! We’re in the midst of it as I speak, but where she ends up after she gets on that plane is fun new territory. Wherever it goes, it’s going to be a whole new world. They’re not going to be in San Francisco anymore, that’s for sure. It gives the potential for the show to grow on a global level.
What did you think about Surface‘s Season 1 ending? Grade the finale and season below, then light up the comments.